Grad school has very few rules and very little structure –two of the reasons I welcomed the decision to become a Ph.D. candidate. In a program without course requirements and very flexible assistant teaching stipulations, the one hard rule I have had to follow thus far is this: blog. My adviser requires that everyone in our lab blog at the minimum of one post per two weeks. Of all the things to enforce, I thought it was interesting and perhaps a sign of a true paradigm shift in education that the blogging requirement was the only thing that every two weeks I had to do. Some weeks I sit in on classes, some weeks bench-work becomes clockwork and other weeks I am seminar-going or experiment-doing or reading. The only thing that remains a constant on my to-do list is to write a blog post. The task is easy, fun and encourages the honing of important skills like writing for the public, cross-referencing, translating jargon into accessible words with meaning. As much as I enjoy blogging for my lab and on my personal web blog, I still wondered of all requirements, why this one?
Ells recently wrote a post about why academics blog, but as graduate students, we also need to be reminded of why every academic should blog — why we should embrace the blogosphere. Very few grad students maintain a regular blog, and the reception to blogging remains mixed. Some find it to be self-promoting, which it is, or perhaps feel self-conscious about publicly exposing personal thoughts and ideas in a space that is shared globally. My personal blog has had 862 views from 17 countries, places I have never been to and with people who I have never met. I have no way of knowing their reception to my posts or their motivation for reading. On one hand this is encouraging, it means my posts have broad interests and are engaging people outside my normal social sphere. On the other hand, are our ideas being shared too freely? Others in an alarmist mindset fear that too much exposure early on in a career could overshadow future prospects for that career.
The benefits of blogging in grad school likely outweigh any potential costs of keeping one. Drew Conway recently posted a handy list of ten reasons why every graduate student should blog and other scientists have supported the notion that keeping a blog may be the secret to launching a successful career, honing writing skills, reflecting on our science and gaining exposure. With those types of benefits, we should all want in.
Link to a blog on Scientific American which also discusses the benefits of blogging (a blog about blogging seems so frame-story-esque): http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/2013/04/12/why-grad-schools-should-require-students-to-blog/