TodayI will tell you how I changed – and am changing - the way I do my workAnd how you can do that too
All of us are very aware of this phrase: Publish or PerishSo we all work very hard to get grantsthat allow us to do researchso we can write the best papersand get them published in the best journalsWe present our work at conferences and build up networksAnd once in a while we publish a paper that gets people excited
It builds reputation, which helps for the next round of grant applicationsIn addition, we get a lot of attention, perhaps even in the media etc, which is very satisfyingIf we're lucky or just very good, this happens once every year or two
What if this could happen to you - on a smaller scale – a couple of times A YEARWhat if you could share some exciting finding - however small -get instant feedbackbuild up a networkbuild your reputationby simply sitting yourself down and WRITE and then PUBLISH IT
Here is the story of how this started for me
First, I learned a lot about this one program called newblerIt is used for de novo assembly of genomes using 454 dataWe used it a lot for the cod genomeI became kind of a specialist of how it works
I felt I wanted to share what I had learnedSo, how to do this?
I came up with the idea to do this through a blog formatSo, what is a blog?BLOG --> short for weblogWikipedia:
a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject.
I found a blog service - wordpress -that made is easy to get startedSo, in 2010 I started writing 'posts'on how the program workson how to set up an assemblyon the parameters you can chooseon the output it generatesall from a 'users' perspectiveSo far, I've written 18 posts
Guess what: it worked!My blog now attracts between 4000 and 6000 visits EACH MONTHEven if only 1% of these actually read an entry or two, I find that AMAZING!
People do not stop at reading my blog postsMore than 100 people commented on my postsoften they ask a question that I then answer for themPeople ask me follow-up questions in the comments sectionOr they point out errors/mistakes in what I wroteSo my posts actually get better
When people ask a question about newbler on the internet, often somebody will refer them to my blog
I get really cool feedback in the 'comments' section
You might think "Great, but so what?"What do I get out of it?What would you invest energy in this?Let me explain how I actually get a lot out of it.
I myself use the internet extensivelyTo learn about biologyTo solve problems I have with software, coding, researchTo learn coding tricksto learn, learn, learnI guess all of us do that
I find it only fair I give something in returnShare some of what I know best for the benefit of othersThis in itself is satisfyingIt gives me a sense of contributing, sharing
Also, through my blogging I built up my reputation as being an expert on this programBut it didn't stop with this one blog
I got inspired to start another blog in April 2011This one not on a single software programBut on the latest developments in high-throughput sequencingI am following this field closely
Sometimes, I test out new data that are released by the companiesBe it 454, Ion Torrent, PacBio, you name itI then share what I find on my blog
I have written 11 posts This blog gets between 500 and 2000 hits per month
I got one very nice praise for it by the maker of an assembly program (MIRA)He wrote thisin his program's manual, on where to find more information
In fact, this blog is doing wonders for my reputation.I am considered as a critical voice, debunking some of the hype the sequencing technology companies createCould I have published this information?Perhaps, but it it ages very quickly
After writing two posts on PacBio, I got a message from Pacific Biosciences:"Would you like to chat with Eric Schadt 1:1? if so, let me know your availability.”Schadt was Chief Scientific Officer at PacBio at the timeI was thrilled!He called, and we chatted about PacBiowhat we want to use it for, what they are developingHe was clearly doing the rounds, others reported talking to him tooBut, he chose BLOGGERS to talk to!PacBio has realised bloggers are their ambassadorsScientists use blogs to learn about their technologyAnd bloggers don't lie, or have an interest in the company
After writing on Ion Torrent, I got contacted:They were going to publish a tech note on a new datasetThey wanted to give me early access to itI went ahead and tested the new dataI managed to get a better result then they described in the tech noteThis I posted on my blog - they were impressedJust the other day they started priming me on an upcoming new datasetsupposedly much better then what they had produced so far
So, I use blogging becauseit is a very good tool for sharing in scienceit builds reputationIncreases myit allows me to PUBLISH small findings that would never have made it into a full paperor would have been outdated once the paper came out
Blogging is an excellent way to practice writingAsk for feedback from your colleagues before publishingYour group could start a blog where based on what is said about papers in a journal club!
But there are obvious drawbacks and pitfalls as well
What other types of blogs are there?
Blogging is thus all about sharingAnother excellent such sharing tool is TWITTER
a short message service, 140 characters onlyalso called 'microblogging'anything anyone posts can be read by anyonemessages/posts are called tweets, posting is called tweetingif you have an account you can start following peoplefollowing: you receive their tweets in chronological ordertweets from people you follow appear together in a timelineyou don't have to follow someone to see their tweetsfollowing helps filtering all the information on twitter
Now follows a short manual on how to get started with twitter
You could follow people you knowOr people that tend to write on what interests you
If you write about interesting things yourself, people might start following you
I try not to follow too many peopleand have built up a modest group of followers
Once your on twitter, what to do there?
Read content - generated by others, read their tweets
Write content - broadcast your message with a tweet
Repost something to your timeline - retweet
Only those whom follow both of us get to see this tweet in their timelineAdditionally, one can send private (direct) messages
You can hear about the latest research without attending!Use hashtags for quickly finding out about topics
Example: I followed Oxford Nanopore’s announcement ‘live’ via twitter
Certain things twitter is not
Twitter is BIG: 100's of millions of users
Science journals are on twitter
But also news servicesTwitter often faster than other newsThis is a classic example of new first appearing on twitter
Definitely not all you find is relevant for sciencelow signal-to-noise level
Twitter can be very useful for scientists!
An example from our own work
Many people have obtained PDFs of articles in journals they hadn’t access tooNote the hashtag
Announcements of scientists that passed away
What do I use twitter for?finding out about new articles (I don’t use PubMed or eTOCs any more)finding out about new blog postsfollowing a conference without being therenews items relevant for my researchNetworkingannouncing new blog posts
Twitter is the biggest social network for scientists
In the fall, I organized a course in de novo genome assemblyI spontaneously contacted a fellow-blogger, Nick Loman, who knows a lot about the subjectWe have never met, just knew about each other through our blogs and twitterHe immediately said Yes
It worked out greatWe are considering doing a project together now
A few weeks ago he contacted me to give me a preview of his upcoming Nature Biotechnology paperand allowed me to write a blog post about it prior to the lifting of the embargowhich I didSo the publication was released the same minute as my blog post
I never had so much traffic on my blog
This post went viral on twitter
This tweet was followed by a request for a phone interview from GenomeWeb
And an article heavily quoting me
Again, the reputation slide
Now you might ask: surely, this is all nice, but not for meYou may be rightit can be a time-sink (following too many people - I've been there)you need to use it wiselybe careful what you post - it might haunt you
So by now, you know I am all about sharingYou might not be…
There are many excuses not to sharebut your biggest problem might be:I need to publish, so I don't want to spend time on this
Here is my main message:we are going from 'publish or perish' to 'share or suffer'
Science is no longer present only in articles and at conferencesScience is more and more happening 'in the cloud’in the blogospherein the twitterverse
Share buttons are everywhere
Publishing on the internet means Instant Distribution
But what about the Peer-Review assurance of quality control?Sure, there will be bad science on the internet, there already is
Post-publication peer review is the futureThe credit system will change accordinglynot just based on impact factors of the journalsbut on some measure of your impact on scienceBut, it will be only the good science that is citedgets enough 'like’s; gets the attention of bloggers
Again, my main message
How and why I use blogging
+How and why I use blogging and twitter for science Lex Nederbragt @lexnederbragt CEES Late Lunch Talk, Monday May 7th
+ Praise The blog of Lex Nederbragt is [...] very down to earth and he knows a bluff when he sees it ... and is not afraid http://mira-assembler.sourceforge.net to call it (be it from IonTorrent, PacBio or 454). By Bastien Chevreux The analysis he did on a couple of Ion data sets have saved me quite some time http://mira-assembler.sourceforge.net/docs/DefinitiveGuideToMIRA.html
+ Blogging Very good tool for sharing in science Builds reputation Increases your network Allows you to PUBLISH small findings that would never have made it into a full paper or would have been outdated once the paper came out
+ Blogging Writing exercise Journal club blog @ CEES?
+ Blogging Takes time Shouldn‟t become the marketing department for a company
+ Science blogs Describing new papers Critical comments Science news Conference summaries Fun facts Etc. etc…
+ What do I find on twitter finding out about new articles finding out about new blog posts following a conference without being there news items relevant for my research networking announcing new blog posts