Do you want to start a science blog? Probably if you landed on this page. Science blogging is an incredible way to build skills, meet fascinating people, and accelerate your career. It’s also just stimulating and fun! But science blogging is a commitment – why start a science blog?
Before getting into why you should start a science blog, let’s first address a more fundamental question: what is science blogging?
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What is Science Blogging?
This is a surprisingly tricky question. HubSpot provides a helpful (if vague) definition – a regularly updated website or web page. Conventional blogs are written posts, but photo or video blogging (“vlogging”) is also practiced. Blogs tend to be informal but can be any length.
Blogs have their roots in the early internet. “Blog” is actually a contraction of “web log,” coined in 1999. At that time, blogs were almost entirely text-based. Blogs were confined to specific websites and had a reputation of being unprofessional and of dubious quality.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and things have changed. Blogging has exploded in popularity. Small businesses, multinational conglomerates, and thousands of influencer/thought leaders maintain blogs.
Science blogging is posting (typically writing) about a scientific topic. Science blogs could cover topics such as:
- Discussing the latest publications in a field for a specialist audience
- Video essays on famous scientists for a general audience
- Commentary on science culture and academic politics for graduate students
Science blogging has existed in various forms since the beginning of the internet. You can find science blogs all over the internet. Medium, Science Bites, and Scientific American are a few of the many places to check out science blogs. There is also plenty of science blogging content on YouTube and TikTok.
Now that we understand what science blogging is, why should you start a science blog? There are many reasons, but first let’s cover why your motivation matters.
Why “Why to Start a Science Blog” Matters – Science Blog Strategy
Blogs are most effective when they have a strategy. If you know what you want, you are a lot more likely to get it.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Is your long-term goal to support a business or generate income?
- Are you looking to build skills?
- Do you want to prioritize networking and making professional connections?
- What do you want people to do after they visit your blog?
- Are you satisfied with your blog being a hobby or passion project?
If you are writing to establish yourself as a thought leader in a specific area you need to focus. Want to become a science journalist? You should write about current events. Those just practicing and having fun can cover a broader range of topics.
You are in complete control of your blog, so you get to make a lot of choices. What do I write about? What platform do I use? How technical should I get? There are no right or wrong answers, so you need to know what you want to get out of blogging. You also don’t need a single goal, but you do need to pick one or two that are your north star.
Writing is also hard work. “Blogging” sounds silly and childish, but maintaining and growing a healthy blog requires a regular time investment. Your early posts will be some of the most difficult to write and receive the least attention, which is discouraging. To push through, you need a sincere purpose and motivation. Keeping your goals in mind will help you stick to it.
So, what are your goals? Let’s consider some possibilities in more detail.
Why Start a Science Blog?
Skill Building – Learning Science and Writing
Are you passionate about science? Do you geek out on new studies, discoveries, and technologies? Turn that passion into a blog! Now you have an excuse to dig deeper into your favorite topic and turn that energy into something bigger.
Even if you are not a certified science fanatic, blogging is an excellent way to dig deeper into your field. Say you wrote a monthly blog that summarizes one new academic paper. That forces you to scan through publications to find an interesting one, then digest the information into a summary. Within just a couple of months, you will feel significantly more up-to-date with the literature.
Blogging also allows you to develop your writing skills. Writing is an incredible tool. It is as powerful as it is versatile. Crafting words to explain, persuade, inspire or entertain is addictive. While blogging is a distinct genre, the skills you develop here are transferable to other types of writing.
Scientists are also bad writers. They love run-on sentences stuffed with polysyllabic gunk that is meaningless and boring. This means two things:
- If you have not done any non-academic writing, your writing is worse than you think
- With a bit of practice and training, you will be a much better writer than most scientists
What’s the best way to become a better writer? Writing! There are plenty of great resources for learning how to improve, but you absolutely must start by putting words on the page.
Blogging also teaches the skills involved with internet publishing. Learning the basics of web analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing can help you professionally, and teaches you how the internet works. This heightened level of digital literacy is quite handy!
If skill building is your goal you should be focused on developing a challenging yourself. At first, just setting up your blog and putting out regular posts will be challenge enough, but over time this will become routine. Push yourself, work on projects that are outside your comfort zone, and accept your content isn’t perfect. Before long will notice that your writing abilities are rapidly improving.
Networking through Science Blogging
The science community may be small, but researchers are hyper passionate about their specialization. Whether it is astrophysics, gene editing, or hydrology, there are scientists out there in love with their niche. You will naturally start meeting like-minded people if you show a sustained interest in a specific topic.
Not only can you passively network, but you can also take a more proactive approach. Say there is a professor you respect. Write about their research! Better yet, you could interview them about their work. Researchers are busy people (who isn’t?), but you are essentially offering free publicity for their work. Even if they say “no,” they might refer you to a colleague, and you are likely to make a good impression (unless you botch the actual article somehow).
Networking is particularly useful in science because the community is both small and heavily interconnected. All you only need is a few connections within a field, and you will be linked to almost everyone through the “friend-of-a-friend” effect. It also feels incredible to be plugged in to a worldwide network of friends who share your passion!
As your network grows, you eventually graduate from an enthusiast for a specific area into a thought leader.
If networking is your goal be strategic about who you are reaching out to, and why. There are a lot of people who will say “yes,” to an interview, but that doesn’t mean they are all equally valuable. You should also consider building other skills, such as the ability to cold email people.
Personal Branding and Thought Leadership
Many scientists seem to think that fame and respect are objectively based on your research work. This has never been true but is especially out-of-touch in the age of social media. Developing a reputation as an expert is a function of both your contributions and your ability to market yourself. Blogging is a tool for putting your ideas out into the world.
To be clear, you should not fake your credentials. Don’t pretend to be a world-famous expert when you aren’t. Scientists will figure this out quickly since they can quickly look up to see where you have been published. Getting caught lying or exaggerating will lead to embarrassing situations.
Personal branding is about promoting who you are and what you have to offer. By blogging, you are drawing attention to your contributions and expertise. Your name will be closer to the top of the list when someone is considering conference speakers or looking to hire an expert consultant. Don’t rely on the “natural diffusion” of your ideas – help them move around.
If thought leadership is your goal you need to clearly identify your area of specialization. Writing this type of blog is like building a house, where each brick is laid on top of each other. If you have done a good job you will be able to reference previous blogs to reinforce each post you put out.
Getting a Science Writing Job
While it is tough to make money directly from your blog (see below) when starting, it does provide opportunities to make money elsewhere. We are living in the gig economy era! Once you develop a small portfolio it is possible to jump on a platform like Fiverr to get freelancing experience. The money will be limited at first, but it isn’t nothing. Many grad students would love to have a side hustle that fits an irregular schedule.
Traditional freelancing is also an option. There are plenty of science journalism outlets that are always hungry for content. A small handful of blog posts that show you are a competent writer and knowledgeable about science could be enough to start pitching editors. You can also reach out to companies that run blogs on their websites and ask if they work with freelancers.
What about full-time jobs? There are lots of opportunities. Most scientists are lousy at writing, and most writers don’t know much about science, so anyone that can do both are a rare breed. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, media outlets, and biotech start-ups all need science writers. The demand for science writers has jumped through the roof in 2020 and is likely to remain elevated over pre-pandemic levels. Personally, science marketing is my jam, and there are often opportunities in that space.
A writing portfolio is valuable even if you aren’t applying for a science writing job. Imagine you are applying for a research position – your blog is proof that you are current on the latest trends. Managing a blog also demonstrates grit, individual initiative, and creativity.
If you want to get a job you should probably trying to transition into freelancing work as soon as possible, which could be several months. Getting your toe in the door is often the hard part, so work backwards from what will give you your first paid gig.
Science Content Marketing – Promoting a Service or Product
Before the internet, marketers had one primary tool to get in front of potential customers: advertisements. Everything was an ad, whether it was a TV ad, a flashy billboard, or a post in the classifieds.
In the age of the internet, it was possible to reach customers more directly. Websites sprang up like weeds, allowing customers to find products they want. Websites that hosted high-quality blogs could outperform websites by bigger brands.
What do science blogs offer business? Here are a few of the ways they help:
- Lead nurturing
- Customer retention
- Community building
- Social media friendly content
Content marketing is a broader topic, which can’t be adequately covered here, but blogging is one of the easiest ways to get started.
Blogging is tremendously valuable for marketing to a scientific audience. It is a way to demonstrate your subject area expertise, target niche search keywords, and more. Many companies that sell to scientists have a blog. In fact, ThermoFisher has about 10, each focusing on a separate subject.
If you work in marketing at a science company and haven’t launched a blog, now is a great time to start. It is a critical step to establishing your online presence.
If you want to promote a product of service your will benefit from a more in-depth strategy. Audit your content, research your audience, assess the SEO landscape, etc. This is especially important in existing businesses, where blogs need to be a piece of a coherent marketing operation. Set up a meeting with me to learn more about science content marketing strategy.
The Fun of Starting a Science Blog
You know what? Forget all those other reasons: science blogging is fun and rewarding all by itself. You get to explore new ideas, craft interesting articles, and publish your thoughts for the whole world to see. Like many other arts and crafts, you get the satisfaction of creating something from nothing.
Blogging is also an opportunity to help people. Students and researchers from around the world will learn from you. There is an endless appetite for educational content, particularly material aimed and upper high school and early university. Getting messages about how your content saved someone from failing an exam is deeply gratifying.
Your enthusiasm and passion for science will also help others discover the joy of science. Maybe you think fungus biology or physical chemistry is fantastic even though everyone thinks they’re boring – prove them wrong! You can also champion topics you care about, such as global warming or sustainable plastics.
You don’t need an ulterior motive to start science blogging. If you just want to have fun, you can do that! But you should still be aware that this is your purpose in starting a science blog.
If you are just in it for the fun you might want to ignore some of the advice out there about science blogging (including my own). Don’t fret over being hyper consistent, SEO, or blog strategy – just write about what you want and share it with whoever you want. Maybe you decide to change gears later, but it is fine to just mess around and have fun.
Why Not to Start a Science Blog: Easy Money
The internet is full of articles explaining how to get rich quick. As you see by now, this is not one of those articles – in fact, it is the opposite. I want to make this clear: blogging is not a ticket for easy money. Your first blog post is very likely to make $0. Same with the second. And the third…
A 2015 post from the Content Marketing Institute explained that companies that started blogs needed at least a full year to see a return on investment. The story for individuals is similar: don’t expect to make money directly from your blog in the short term.
I’m not saying it is impossible to make money from blogging. It is possible, it just requires significant time investment. I’m not trying to discourage you. I just want to make it clear: if you are only motivated by money, blogging will be painful. You need another reason to show up.
Focusing on making money will also distract you from actually blogging. Managing a Patreon account, Google ads, or affiliate links is time-consuming. When you are starting, your two primary focuses should be:
- Writing quality content.
- Building your audience.
… and nothing else! Only once you have that foundation set should you shift your attention to other questions such as monetization.
This is especially true of science blogging. Certain types of blogging lend themselves naturally to marketing consumer products, such as tech, fitness, and travel. Would you buy chemical supplies or scientific instruments using an affiliate link? I know I wouldn’t.
Next Steps in Starting a Science Blog
So what’s next? Time to think about where to start your science blog. Picking the right location online will have a massive impact on your success. You can also get started with this guide on How to Write a Science Blog.
Want to learn more about science writing? Be sure to check out this article on “What is Science Writing” and this list of science writing resources. You can also sign up for my newsletter to know when new articles are published.