Proper publication or a basic blog?

As we end the Grad5104 course I’ve been thinking about the usefulness of this blog. In general, I like the blog, but so far the only people reading it are those that are reading it for class and some spambots. There has been a lot of discussion about using social media to spread knowledge and break down the barriers between higher ed and the general public. The idea is good, but the execution is easier said than done.

I can blog all I want about higher ed, or even my research and expertise, but that doesn’t make it useful or impactful to anyone. To my knowledge, there aren’t any easy (and free) methods to promote yourself and to gather a broader audience. At best I expect this blog to be seen by a few more students at Virginia Tech. I can put it on my business cards and have recruiters look at it, but again, that doesn’t spread a message to the general public.

So while the blogging idea is great it feels like it could easily be a waste of time. I can spend a half hour a day writing a blog post, or I could spend that time working up data for my research. That would get published and people could actually learn from and cite it. It’s not as accessible to the public, but at least it gets seen by someone. Journals have the “machinery” to distribute their materials and to attract attention. Blogs are a lot more limited, especially since they tend to be just one person who can’t afford nearly as much advertising and such. Open access is a fair compromise I suppose, but even then the general public is likely to see a journal article as far less readable than a blog post. Does that matter if they’d never see the blog post?

Furthermore, the article protects my research interests a lot more than a blog post does. I can’t really put individual blog posts on a CV, but a proper publication looks great! As someone who wants to make education accessible, the blog feels better to me, but I can’t continue science if I can’t get a job, or if I get kicked out of my lab for distributing data that isn’t published in a journal yet.

I hope I can continue to find things to blog about, but the truth is I’ll always feel a little guilty that I could be doing something more “useful” with my time. Even if I make the argument that it’s stress-reducing, a hike or a drink with friends would take the same amount of time and be far more stress-reducing.

4 Replies to “Proper publication or a basic blog?”

  1. Interesting points! Thanks for your blog post. I kind of feel the same way…blogging seems like it would be useful, but in all actuality not very many people will read it. I tend to put a lot of time into my blog posts to make sure that I’m including accurate information, but this may be more of a waste of time than it is useful to anyone. I know there has been a rise in science communication through social media, which I feel is more useful and more easily accessed by the public than a VT blog. That may be something to consider if you would like to increase outreach!

  2. I think you raise a lot of good points, and perhaps blogging isn’t the best use of your time — you’d certainly know that better than anyone else.

    On the other hand, I think it might be more productive to view blogging as a community activity. In this coursework, the community interaction is more or less built in, but “in the real world,” I would imagine folks would be much more inclined to read your blog if you’re actively engaging with theirs. It’s hard to promote a blog of such specific research interests to the general public, but if you are engaging with scholars and professional organizations through blogs and social media yourself, those in your field would be more likely to find you. Plus, that way you are staying current with others in your field.

  3. I share a lot of your sentiments! However, I think that I will link my blogs to my teaching portfolio somehow, if only to give potential hiring managers the opportunity to hear my voice about honest topics regarding education. Another thing some of us could try–and honestly I know that it will not work for many students’ fields–is to take the blogs and turn it into a professional presentation to colleagues. For example, maybe I could take some of my additional blogging ideas and put them to use in a presentation at a professional development conference, such as AATF (the American Association for Teachers of French).

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. Although I am a writer, I also found it difficult to make time for the blog because of fear that I should be doing “scholarly” work like academic writing, reading, and revising articles for publication. I wonder if this is in fact an indication of the immense stress we are under as we proceed through graduate school — wherein even writing of this form, for our own professional development, seems “superfluous.”

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