Why Students Should Read Blogs

This post was originally published on BioDiverse Perspectives – a research blog aimed at fostering communication about biodiversity.

Last week, I subtly pointed out that perhaps more academics should be writing blogs. I struggled a bit with this statement, since the majority of scientists that I know don’t even read science blogs, let alone contribute to them.  Luckily for me, Jeremy Fox has a great post on why an academic should read blogs, and it looks like it’s already changing some opinions around me.

Well, this morning, Jon Lefcheck, a regular contributor here at BioDiverse Perspectives wrote a response to Jeremy’s post in which he suggested why students in particular should read blogs.

Now, presumably, if you’re a student reading this post, then you are already aware of some good reasons to read science blogs. Even so, I think Jon’s argument that reading and commenting on blogs is a novel way to make meaningful connections is worth thinking about, and I encourage you to check out his post and comment on it with your thoughts.

I also thought that I’d put in my two cents as to why students should read blogs. For me, there are two key reasons that I read blogs: (1) Exposure and (2) Engagement.

  1. Exposure.  I try to read a wide range of literature in my field. I really do. But realistically, I tend to only read a very small subset of articles that directly relate to my research interests. By subscribing to blogs that are written by other researchers in my field, I am exposed on a daily basis to new research that I might otherwise miss.  Furthermore, that research comes with commentary. And that commentary often comes from researchers that I hold in high regard. Reading blogs, then, is a way for me to gain exposure to the opinions of researchers that might otherwise only be available at a major conference.
  2. Engagement. I am afforded amazing opportunities to interact with brilliant graduate students and faculty at my university. Additionally, we have a weekly seminar series that allows me to interact with faculty members from other universities. However, this opportunity isn’t universal. In addition to providing exposure, blogs provide an opportunity for graduate students to engage with one another and with faculty members. Yes, as Jon points out, this can often lead to long-term and meaningful connections. But even in the absence of meaningful connections, it provides students with an opportunity to engage with researchers beyond their own sphere, and could lead to exposure to even more new ideas.

7 Replies to “Why Students Should Read Blogs”

  1. Thanks for the post. As a graduate student and relative newbie to science blogs, I have found them to be invaluable for exposure and engagement. Perhaps an additional benefit is for blog authors – writing a post can be a good way to get feedback on ideas from a diverse audience.


  2. The “Engagement” part really resonates with me. I started out blogging just recently and it has already helped me get in contact with a lot of professors whose articles I had just read. Reading journals and stuff is fine and obviously necessary for a student, like myself, but blogging has really opened a world where I can communicate and learn more about the authors. Thanks for the post!


  3. I think scientific blogging within the research community itself will prove increasingly important. It broadens our views to who and what is out there, allows us to discuss ideas in real time, and will allow “regular citizens” a glimpse into “the world of science” if they are so inclined to venture here.

    However, I do wonder how much “niche creating” by (mostly grad students) starting ever more blogs will actually start hindering the discussions. Would it be more or less helpful to have 100+ blogs that each discuss different aspects of ecology, or should we try to link 10 blogs together under some internet umbrella? I guess I’m thinking of a more standard online discussion forum, where maybe not everyone contributes the main posts, but blog mods and commenters each have a user name to post with, where users can search posts from other users specifically, and where discussions aren’t just spread out all over the internet.

    I think we grad students should totally concentrate on making our own online presence, whether it be more research-oriented discussions like on this site or target general audiences for scientific outreach. But if everyone just starts their own blog (which I guess “looks better” on a CV), we’ll just end up with 100+ separate blogs discussing how to do X sort of analysis in R, or linking to the same paper, etc…and then each post only gets 0-2 comments. Throw all that into one concentrated place, and you’ll get more comments, presumably.


    1. I totally agree that in order for the “engagement” part of the circle to work, graduate students would benefit by reading and commenting on others’ blogs, rather than simply writing posts of their own.

      Personally, I use Google Reader (for now, and will probably use Feedly in the future) to aggregate the blogs that I want to read and theoretically, comment on. I suppose that creating some sort of graduate-student blogging consortium could be a useful alternative to that, and in a way that’s the model that we’re striving for with this site.

      In the end, I get the feeling that the problem isn’t that there’s too much content on the web for people to comment on, or really the fact that graduate students would rather write their own blogs than comment on others’. I think the problem lies more in the fact that not enough graduate students choose to engage with one another online. As the wave grows, it’s more likely that those adopting blogging will tend to be writers rather than readers or commenters, but hopefully, if enough people get into it, that won’t be a problem anymore.

      In the meantime, check out this new stack exchange that has been suggested as an alternative to Ecolog, and which might prove to be just the discussion forum you’re after!


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