Editor’s Note: We could not be more delighted to have Scicurious, one of the top science bloggers out there, share her plentiful wisdom on how to start a science blog. Scicurious is a fellow ex-ScienceBlogs blogger, and now runs a fascinating blog called Neurotic Physiology over at the Scientopia network. All of Sci’s posts are brilliant and engaging, and her “Friday Weird Science” series can not be missed. Here’s Scicurious!

So You Want to Start a Science Blog?

Good for you! No doubt you are looking forward to huge amounts of flattery and fame, millions of hits, and a whole line of merchandise with your face plastered all over it.

Well, maybe those goals are a bit lofty.

Nonetheless, Science Blogging is important. It’s a great way to increase communication between scientists and the public. It’s a good way to do outreach and get more people interested in science. It’s an excellent way to learn to analyze papers and get feedback on your analysis in a public forum. And it’s a really good way to improve your writing skills!

But of course, everyone wants to know where to start. In my case, I pretty much just started a blog, and learned as I went. School of hard knocks and all that. But there’s no reason that you should have to do the same, and starting a blog doesn’t have to be uphill through the snow both ways.

Over the years, I have collected some tips on blogging and things to think about as you get started. And Peter has been kind enough to let me share them with you!

1. Establish what you want to accomplish. Who is this blog FOR? Are you trying to reach younger kids and families with basic science and nature outreach? Are you reaching for other scientists in your field to discuss findings? Are you trying to communicate with adults to make science interesting for those with little science background? Are you looking to discuss ideas? Ethics? Life in science? Major advancements in your field? While you may end up doing one, more, or all of these things (and much more than that!), it might be good for you to think about what niche your blog should fill, the audience you primarily want to communicate with, and what that will mean in terms of the types of things you write.

2. Establish the tone of your blog. This is tied in closely with who you want to talk to and what you want to talk about, but establishing your own unique writing tone can give you your own niche in the blogsphere, as well as making your writing easily identifiable. Are you funny and light hearted? Sarcastic? Serious? While you will, of course, end up writing in all tones, a predominant one can help you define yourself as a blogger. If you’re snarky and sarcastic, maybe play that up to great effect. Read other bloggers in your field. See what you like about their tone. See what bugs you. And then think about how you can invent your own tone that is somehow different from what others have done.
So you’ve got a niche in mind. You’ve got a tone. What else should you do?

3. Again, read the blogs in your field and outside of it. How do they approach things? How often do they post? What kinds of topics do they post on? How often do you yourself want to post?

4. Think about whether you want to be pseudonymous or under your real names, and think about the consequences of both paths (to be discussed in detail in a future post).

5. Get started! Put up a few posts, including a couple that are substantial and a good idea of what you’ll want to be seen as going forward. One of the great things about the internet is that, if you don’t want, no one HAS to know that you are a grad student with no money and a hangover who’s out of clean underwear (not that you are, but if you WERE, no one would have to know!). It is entirely possible to put your best foot forward all the time.

For getting started, you don’t want to be posting science on your livejournal. WordPress or blogspot are great places to start. As for design, stick with something basic and easy to read, with individual touches, like a fun or cool header, good avatars, etc. Make sure you include an about page, and a page which demonstrates how you can be contacted. Make up a name for your blog (witty is always good), and make sure you google to see if anyone else has it. (These technical matters will also be topics of future discussions on Science of Blogging)

6. Now you have a blog, get the word out! Get Twitter accounts, follow people you are interested in and say fun and witty things until they follow you back. COMMENT on other people’s blogs, both in your field and outside of it.

This is a big one.

A comment, with a link to your name, can get the blogger interested, as well as their readers, particularly if the comment is insightful and interesting. You can even email bloggers who you think might be interested in your new blog, and ask them to put in a blog for you or add you to their blogroll.

7. Get protective headgear. I recommend this. While the blogsphere can be fun (and most of us are very nice and really don’t want to hurt your feelings, honest!), it can also be MEAN. Don’t let people hurt your feelings, let the criticism roll off, but when people are right, do not ever hesitate to agree and correct and learn.

8. Ask questions! Older bloggers love new, shiny bloggers with bushy tails and energy. If you’ve got talent and a new point of view, bloggers will almost always be glad to advise and promote and encourage.

That’s what I’ve got so far. Anyone else have words of advice and encouragement?

And new bloggers, go out and get ‘em!


About the author: Scicurious has a PhD in Physiology from a Southern US institution. She is currently a post-doctoral researcher at a celebrated institution that is very fancy and somewhere else. Her professional interests are in neurophysiology, specifically the interactions of neurotransmitter systems. She blogs at Neurotic Physiology and can be found on Twitter.