Beyond the catchy title:The rewards and challenges  of geoscience blogging             Jessica L. Ball       AGU Fall Meet...
What’s a geoblog – and why write one?• A regularly published website about  geoscience topics• A place to…  – Communicate ...
Magma Cum Laude                  3
Growth of the geoblogosphere                            300                                      • 250+ blogs             ...
Communicating geoscience• Outreach!                    • Explore broader impacts• Engage readers in geoscience • Correct m...
Who reads geoblogs?                          Not a scientist                                35.6%                     Geos...
Who reads geoblogs?                          Not a scientist                                      35.6%    Ive never taken...
Who reads geoblogs?21 or under            3.4% a scientist                           Not                                  ...
Geoblogging as a tool• Collaboration & discussion  – Find topics of mutual interest  – Make connections between your work ...
The geoblogging community“Virtual networks offer opportunities to provide support and reduce the professional isolation th...
The geoblogging community• Geobloggers are active in other forms of social media• Geoblogs can be used to support geoscien...
Fun!“AccretionaryWedge” BlogCarnival                12
Fun!Where onGoogle Earth(WoGE)               13
Rocky terrain• Interpersonal, employer  relationships• Intellectual  rights, unpublished  research• Controversial issues a...
Pseudonymity or not?                • Pseudonymity ≠                  anonymity                • Are you in a             ...
Coming up with content• Where can you  get ideas?  – Current events  – Research projects  – Class assignments    and discu...
Final thoughts…• Blogging is a valuable support tool when used  thoughtfully and with planning• Increases the visibility o...
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Beyond the catchy title: The rewards and challenges of geoscience blogging

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Social media have become increasingly important tools for communication, and no less so in the world of the Earth sciences. The “geoblogosphere”, a collection of blogs written by geoscientists, began to grow quickly about four years ago and now encompasses more than three hundred blogs in multiple languages. The blog Magma Cum Laude
(http://blogs.agu.org/magmacumlaude) was first published in 2007 among some of the earliest geoblogs, and is now part of the AGU Blogosphere, a widely read and lively blogging network. Originally intended as a chronicle of the author’s time in graduate school and interest in volcanology, Magma Cum Laude’s content has expanded to include science outreach, philanthropic ventures and interdisciplinary communication. In the process, the author has learned a great deal about how to develop and maintain a science blog, and how to integrate blogging with the demands of being a student and geoscientist.

Geoblogging can be rewarding and fun, but it should also be approached with concrete goals and a clear understanding of potential drawbacks and difficulties. Geoscientists using social media have created new pathways for collaboration, peer review, science communication, and commentary on current events, making geoblogs a powerful supplement to ‘traditional’ research processes. In addition, geoblogging breaks down barriers between scientists and the public, demystifying research and giving the scientific community an opportunity to prove why its work is important. Geoblogs also have a lighter side - at any given time, there are a number of lively competitions,
memes and conversations going on in the geoblogosphere. But like any social media outlet, blogging can present challenges, such as maintaining a good flow of content, integrating posting into a busy schedule, and dealing with interpersonal, employer and public responses. It is important to understand what these challenges entail, and how to deal with them, in order to utilize geoblogging to its considerable full potential.

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  • To start off: What’s a geoblog?A blog in general is a personal publishing platform, so a geoblog is a regularly published website about geological topicsBut blogs are also a way to teach people about geology, discuss geologic research and teaching methods, share field experiences, practice your writing skills, collaborate with other geoscientists, and even have a little fun.
  • I was invited to give this talk because I’ve been blogging for several years now – first as a private blogger and for a year as part of AGU’s Blogosphere. My blog is called Magma Cum Laude – hence the bit about the “catchy title” – and I write mostly about volcanology and life as a graduate student in the geosciences. But I’d like to give you a more general overview of what we call the “geoblogosphere”
  • This is the only graph I’m going to put up, and it shows you a pretty impressive record of the growth of a large group of people who write geoblogs. Currently, there are more than 250 blogs in 14 different languages; some have been around as long as a decade, while many – my own included – were started during a bit of a boom late 2007 and early 2008. Many of the geologists writing these blogs are faculty or students at universities, although there are some who work in private industry, government or non-profit positions. Blogs span a diverse field of topics, from volcanology to invertebrate paleontology to soil science to geologic mapping. Many are now part of blogging networks – websites hosting groups of science bloggers – and the majority of geobloggers engage with other geoblogs through commenting or other social media.
  • First, the reason that most bloggers will give for why they started blogging is that they’re passionate about something, and wanted to share it with other people. Geoblogging is an excellent way to share your interests, and a great opportunity to teach people about geology along the way. A geoblog is a great avenue for public outreach – it’s a chance for you to explain what your research is and why it’s important, and it’s also a setting where you control the content and you don’t have to be worried about it filtering through someone else’s pen or keyboard. As we see a lot in today’s media coverage of science, it’s easy for misinformation to get through to people and hard to correct it – geoblogs are one of those ways.The general public is more likely to find and read a blog than a grant application, and if the research is explained in terms for a general audience, they’re more likely to understand the point of the work.Blogging is also a great way to practice writing quickly and concisely – because it’s a regularly updated website, you need to constantly be thinking about writing topics, and you can’t spend a long time developing a post or you’ll lose your audience
  • 66% have some science affiliation, 50% in geosciences, 34% no science affiliation22% are geoscience students, 5% are students in other disciplines34% are under 3519% have never taken a geoscience classN=118
  • 66% have some science affiliation, 50% in geosciences, 34% no science affiliation22% are geoscience students, 5% are students in other disciplines34% are under 3519% have never taken a geoscience classN=118
  • 66% have some science affiliation, 50% in geosciences, 34% no science affiliation22% are geoscience students, 5% are students in other disciplines34% are under 3519% have never taken a geoscience classN=118
  • Bloggers cover a wide range of fields in geoscience – opens up a community of geology with instant communication, wide range of interests and expertise. Blogs allow you to collaborate and discuss geoscience with people you might otherwise never have met. (Two examples of collaborations that resulted from geoblogging will be in the next slide where I discuss blogging as a support network). Geoblogging is also a gateway to social media-using geoscientists of all kinds – to the point where you can go online with a question about something you’re unfamiliar with and have it answered (and debated) almost instantly.Blogging is also a great learning opportunity. Often when I’m writing a post, I find that I don’t know as much as I’d like about a particular topic – so it spurs me to learn more about it so I can discuss it properly.
  • This leads directly into the value of geobloggers as a community and support network. Two female geobloggers – Anne Jefferson and Kim Hannula – recently did a study of how women in geoscience use geoblogs and other social media, and they found that “Blogs and other social media may provide a source of community and role models for women geoscientists and help in the recruitment and retention of women from undergraduate education to faculty or industry careers.“ Blogs and other virtual networks can also help support any group that feels isolated because of their gender, race, ethnicity, or other factors – because there’s almost certainly at least one blog out there that you can relate to in some way.
  • Bloggers are also very active in other forms of social media, including podcasting, photo and video sharing and production, and communication over networking sites like Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook and LinkedInWith these venues, you get pretty much instant discussion of current events, newly published research, disasters as they are happening (Virginia earthquake)…and they’re a way for the public to make initial contact with a geoblogger (which may lead the person to the geoblog for more)
  • Be careful who you talk aboutEmployer may not want to be associated with blog – disclaimers are key!Do you have permission to be blogging about it? Most people won’t blog unpublished research because it hasn’t gone through the peer review process, because they’re competing with other geoscientists, etc. We may discuss what we are researching, or ask for input on a particular facet of it, but you rarely see anyone talking about their research as a whole until the publication comes out. (Then it’s fair game!)Is it sensitive material?People respond quickly, strongly and sometimes offensively to popularly debated topicsClimate change, evolution/creationism, fossil fuelsThere are a lot of crazy people out there – you will have to deal with some of them eventually (can be stressful, depending on how much you engage with them)This depends on your…AimsAudienceAbilityWhat will you get out of it?Outreach associated with research?Professional development?
  • Anonymity – or pseudonymity, writing under a pseudonym while releasing some information about yourself (area of research interest, basic job description, etc.) can be a way to write about topics that you might otherwise shy away from. It can also be a way to speak candidly about your work without offending colleagues or employers – but only if you’re very careful not to let enough slip to identify yourself. I started out blogging under a pseudonym because I wasn’t sure if the non-profit I was working for would think it was appropriate…eventually I dropped the pseudonym on my personal blog and now blog openly as myself on the AGU network (but with disclaimers that my opinions are not associated with AGU, my university or anyone else).
  • Coming up with content is something that all geobloggers struggle with at one time or another. I tend to draw my ideas from any one of the following sources
  • Beyond the catchy title: The rewards and challenges of geoscience blogging

    1. 1. Beyond the catchy title:The rewards and challenges of geoscience blogging Jessica L. Ball AGU Fall Meeting December 2011
    2. 2. What’s a geoblog – and why write one?• A regularly published website about geoscience topics• A place to… – Communicate our work to the public and build interest in the geosciences – Use as a tool for collaboration and research – Link a diverse community of peers, mentors and role models – Have a little fun! 2
    3. 3. Magma Cum Laude 3
    4. 4. Growth of the geoblogosphere 300 • 250+ blogs • 14 languages • Many are teaching/research staff or graduate students at Number of active blogs 200 universities1 • Diverse topics • Many now part of blogging networks 100 • Majority of bloggers engage with other geoblogs1 01Geißler et al. 2011, “The state of the Geoblogosphere – geoscience communication in the social web” 4
    5. 5. Communicating geoscience• Outreach! • Explore broader impacts• Engage readers in geoscience • Correct misinformation• Explain and • Practice writing discuss your research 5
    6. 6. Who reads geoblogs? Not a scientist 35.6% Geoscience faculty 14.4%Professional geoscientist (not academic) 13.6% Geoscience graduate student 10.2% Other professional scientist 9.3% Geoscience undergraduate 8.5% Other graduate student 4.2% Non-research geoscience professional 3.4% Other faculty 0.8% Other undergraduate 0.0% N=118 6
    7. 7. Who reads geoblogs? Not a scientist 35.6% Ive never taken a formal geoscience class 19.5% Geoscience faculty 14.4%Professional geoscientist (not academic) 13.6% I took Geoscience graduate student (K-12) some classes in grade school 10.2% 5.1% Other professional scientist 9.3% Geoscience undergraduateI took some classes in college but dont have a 8.5% 25.4% degree Other graduate student 4.2% Non-research geoscience professional 3.4%I have a degree (undergraduate or graduate) in 50.0% the geosciences faculty Other 0.8% Other undergraduate 0.0% N=118 7
    8. 8. Who reads geoblogs?21 or under 3.4% a scientist Not 35.6% Ive never taken a formal geoscience class 19.5% Geoscience faculty 14.4% 22-34 30.5%Professional geoscientist (not academic) 13.6% I took Geoscience graduate student (K-12) some classes in grade school 10.2% 5.1% 35-44 27.1% Other professional scientist 9.3% some Geoscience undergraduateI took 45-54 classes in college but dont have a 8.5% 16.1% 25.4% degree Other graduate student 4.2% 55-64 Non-research geoscience professional 3.4% 19.5%I have a degree (undergraduate or graduate) in 50.0% the geosciences faculty Other 0.8% 65 or over 3.4% Other undergraduate 0.0% N=118 8
    9. 9. Geoblogging as a tool• Collaboration & discussion – Find topics of mutual interest – Make connections between your work and others’• Knowledge repository – Access to other bloggers (and social media users) in a wide variety of fields – Ask for suggestions and advice• Learning opportunity 9
    10. 10. The geoblogging community“Virtual networks offer opportunities to provide support and reduce the professional isolation that can be felt in physical work environments where there are few colleagues of a similar gender, race, or ethnicity.” 10
    11. 11. The geoblogging community• Geobloggers are active in other forms of social media• Geoblogs can be used to support geosciences – Science Bloggers for Students (DonorsChoose.org) • $51,000 for ~ 28,000 K-12 students – IVM-Fund Guatemala • $4,000 to purchase basic field and monitoring equipment for the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory 11
    12. 12. Fun!“AccretionaryWedge” BlogCarnival 12
    13. 13. Fun!Where onGoogle Earth(WoGE) 13
    14. 14. Rocky terrain• Interpersonal, employer relationships• Intellectual rights, unpublished research• Controversial issues and public response• Separating science and opinion• Time commitment 14
    15. 15. Pseudonymity or not? • Pseudonymity ≠ anonymity • Are you in a position to blog as yourself? • How much do you want to share? • Disclaimers are good! 15
    16. 16. Coming up with content• Where can you get ideas? – Current events – Research projects – Class assignments and discussions – What you’re reading – Field work – Other geobloggers – Your favorite things… 16
    17. 17. Final thoughts…• Blogging is a valuable support tool when used thoughtfully and with planning• Increases the visibility of our work & fosters enthusiasm for geoscience• Builds a diverse network of peers, mentors and role models• Does require time, creative commitment 17

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