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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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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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