Dr Patrice Brassard of Le Physiologiste

Do you ever wonder how people get into online science communication?  I certainly hope so, because over the coming weeks Peter and I will be introducing a new series interviewing science communicators about their experiences promoting science using social media.  These individuals cover a broad range of academic disciplines, and we hope that they will be a useful source of info and motivation for others who are considering moving into social media, or for those who are already online but simply looking for some new ideas.  If you would like to share your own experiences communicating science through social media feel free to do so in the comments, or to introduce yourself to us via Twitter or email (saunders [dot] travis [at] gmail [dot] com).

Our first interview comes from Dr Patrice Brassard, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at Université Laval in Quebec city, Canada. His main research interests are the integration of cardiopulmonary and cerebrovascular physiology in patients with diabetes at rest and during exercise, and the impact of mental work on the cardiovascular system in healthy subjects.  His blog is titled Le Physiologiste and for the past two weeks he has also been guest-posting at the blog network Scientopia.


1. What is the general subject of your blog?

Initially, the general subject of Le Physiologiste was supposed to be…physiology :-). However, I started by sharing my experiences as a junior faculty member. It is important to mention that when I began to read science blogs, I was very interested in these kinds of posts from bloggers sharing similar research and teaching issues than mine. The other collaborators at Le Physiologiste are graduate students and are sharing their experiences as well (in English and French). A couple of weeks ago, we finally decided to include posts where we are actually discussing physiology, mostly in French.

I would like this blog to become a place for graduate students, researchers and professors in physiology to debate about hot physiology topics.


2. What was your primary reason for starting a blog?

The primary reason for starting my blog was that, to my knowledge, there are no valuable French blogs/websites discussing published literature in integrative/exercise physiology…however, I soon noticed that it would be easier to start blogging in English, because I was already exchanging with bloggers in that language.

I still have that goal of discussing and debating physiology research in French…Our blog remains a work in progress for the moment!

3. How often do you post, and roughly how much time goes into each post?

In the beginning, I was the only contributor…so there was A LOT of time between each post. However, now that we are five contributors (more to come!), we have considerably shortened that time between posts. For example, we went from 2 posts in January and 1 post in February to 16 posts in March!

In regards to the amount of time that goes into each post, it obviously depends on the kind of post. It can goes from 15 min when I’m discussing issues I go through as a junior Faculty member to a couple of hours when I’m discussing a manuscript. Whether I decide to write the post in French or in English will also influence that amount of time !

4. How do you fit in time for the blog?

For the moment, I don’t have specific periods of time reserved for blogging. Still, I try to dedicate time during evenings when possible. Since I read a lot of physiology papers, I may sometimes take notes for a specific post I would like to write later in the day or in the week.

5. Have there been any benefits to blogging, either personally or professionally?

When everything goes wrong (and in research you have good days and bad weeks), you may think that you are alone out there! But when you start reading science blogs, you don’t feel alone anymore :-). So, one important benefit is that you can share similar experiences.

At the professional level, I didn’t have any benefit yet…I think that we haven’t been around long enough :-)


6. What piece of advice would you give other scientists/students/funding agencies in your situation who are considering moving into social media?

I still consider myself a newbie in the social media world…I’m probably not the best individual to give advice! Anyway, this being acknowledged, I would definitely say: Go for it ! It is a wonderful experience. In the beginning, it’s not easy to find time to dedicate to blogging and you may think that nobody will read your posts. However, if you regularly and constructively contribute to discussions on other blogs and you post interesting pieces of information on your own blog, people will eventually pay you a visit. You have to persevere !


7. What have been the most effective ways of promoting your blog?

Twitter and Facebook have been the most effective ways of promoting our blog to readers speaking English and French, respectively. That could easily be explained by the fact that the majority of my friends and acquaintances speaking French are on my Facebook but not on twitter ! Also, we have recently been invited as guest bloggers over at Scientopia for a period of 2 weeks. This has considerably increased traffic to Le Physiologiste !


8. Several of your graduate students are now working with you on your blog.  Why did you decide to include them in your blog.

The first reason why I decided to include my graduate students was that I wasn’t able to blog on a regular basis. I think that with more (interesting!) posts, readers are tempted to come back more regularly on your blog, especially with tools like RSS feeds, Scienceseeker, etc.

However, since the beginning of my PhD, I’ve always wanted to launch a French website/blog as soon as I would have graduate students in order to discuss physiology as well as general science issues. I wanted it to become another place (in addition to lab meetings and journal clubs) where students could discuss, synthesize and popularize physiology issues. We are almost there with Le Physiologiste !

Thanks again to Patrice for taking the time to discuss his experience with online science communication!  The next interview in our series will be up later this week.