It’s no secret that I’ve been having a bit of hard time in my second postdoc. One beneficial outcome of blogging openly about my work-related existential crisis is that I’ve had lots of help and support from colleagues. But this isn’t why I blog.
I started blogging back in 2012 on my old science-focused blog honeybeesandhelium. This site contained mostly discipline-specific posts, and some summaries of new science stories that piqued my interest, particularly on honeybees and helium.
In late 2011, I moved on from my PhD and started a new job researching recent Australian climate extremes. I rapidly became very interested in my work, both scientifically and conceptually. I was excited about applying new methods to new contexts, and producing new, highly policy-relevant information. Equally, I had some hesitations about our methodologies that I thought should be discussed openly and broadly, without necessarily detracting from the usefulness of our results.
I remember one evening in the early days of my new job flicking through a sociology textbook my girlfriend had discarded on the coffee table after a long day of her own PhD-ing. I was incredulous! The introduction was littered with personal anecdotes, experiences, and thoughts and more than that, the author had deployed a small army of exclamation marks in her quest to communicate. What I would have given to be able to use even a single exclamation mark in my professional undertakings!
As my long-running frustrations at being unable to communicate precisely simmered away, I eventually discovered blogging. I found that blogging had the capacity to engage me. More so, it was also a rare chance to reflect on my own values that inevitably infuse my work. It was an expressive medium — I could be frustrated, I could be thrilled, I could be doubtful. Blogging gave me my long craved for exclamation marks.
For me, blogging wasn’t simply just about shifting conversations from the conference or university tearoom to social media. It wasn’t simply just a new venue for new contributors. Blogging represented a fundamental change in the way I practiced science.
Eventually my interest in discipline-specific content waned and I moved over to this site to focus on the higher education and research sector more broadly and particularly the experience of being an early career researcher (ECR).
For many early career researchers, a voice is hard fought. We often like to think otherwise, but academia is hierarchical; with promotion comes authority. ECRs simply do not have the same capacity to influence as our supervisors. An ECR rarely sparks a conversation in a discipline with a perspective or commentary in Nature Climate Change.
By necessity, our thoughts have different venues – journal clubs, conference icebreakers, twitter, ECR-specific workshops and blogs. For me, blogging represented a rare opportunity to feel that I was empowered to make a contribution to academia.
It represents an opportunity to participate actively in the academy. And so blogging isn’t an attempt at catharsis. It is about acknowledging problems and posing solutions.