Cell biologist Alexander Palazzo says his blog helped him secure an assistant professorship. "My department" -- the biochemistry department at the University of Toronto in Canada -- "told me part of the reason they hired me was because of stuff I'd written on my blog," he says. "It wasn't the main reason they hired me, but it helped."
Blogs that support the traditional academic activities of teaching and outreach are often valued as a nonresearch activity -- but only at institutions, and in departments, that value nonresearch activity.
Blogs are communication tools, not research tools, and advertise scientists' eloquence, not their research skills.
Blogging is often seen as a waste of time at major research universities, where those seeking tenured positions "progress in their careers based on their research output. That research is hard work, so you tend not to be successful unless you do it full time," says Peter Littlewood, head of the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Gbur says he's received "good scores" for Broader Impacts from NSF for, among other things, proposing to create a laboratory blog to present his research to the public. He suggested driving traffic from his existing blog, Skulls in the Stars, which once received 100,000 visits in a week. "I'm conveying information to people who wouldn't normally see it," he says.
Another way blogs may benefit research scholarship (and, hence, careers) is through networking. Social media tools, including his blog, helped Pawel Szczesny, a blogger and bioinformatician at the University of Warsaw, start research collaborations with two scientists he met on FriendFeed. When he applied for an assistant professorship in 2009, his interviewers seemed very interested in this collaboration, because "fresh Ph.D.s usually don't have their own international collaborations, at least not in Poland," he says. They hired him.
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