On Thursday, 14 March, two dozen PhD candidates and young researchers from Paris West University Nanterre La Défense made their way through the snow to campus. Most of them are students in literature or human and social sciences. They were all coming to hear about scientific blogs, networking, and social networks. But what’s the point when you’re doing a PhD?
This article is a translation of “Blog de science et doctorat” by Timothée Froelich.
We’ll probably come back later, in greater detail, to each of the presentations given on this day organized by the PhD professionalization program of the Paris West University. However, one specific point seemed particularly important to us: Why blog about science?
Blogging about science
This question was addressed right at the start of the day by Isabelle This-Saint Jean (@IThisSaintJean on Twitter). “The public has to be informed,” stated the doctor in economics. Reviewing the history of scientific blogs, Maris-Anne Paveau, professor in language sciences at the University of Paris 13 (@mapav8 on Twitter), showed that this point of view was shared by certain scientists who pioneered scientific blogging.
“The transmission of knowledge is a difficult task. You need to multiply the initiatives, and that’s where the blog plays an important role!” concluded Isabelle This-Saint Jean. She definitely has a point there. However, some moments in a scientific career can be tougher than others. Is the PhD period a good time to start writing a blog?
Blogging during your PhD
Blogging does take some time, especially at the beginning. Kévin de la Croix, PhD student and blogger on rés-EAU P10, explains that “what actually took us time was putting the blog online and making editorial decisions. The first publications were laborious, but it got better very quickly.”
PhD candidates have little free time, but it is probably the period in their careers when they have the most time to spend “informing the public”. Is that enough reason to finally take the plunge and create a blog?
Give visibility to your work and expertise
For the average PhD student, blogging is about sharing findings, sharing your work, and creating a digital e-reputation. Today, almost systematically, recruiters use Google searches when they want to know about a candidate. Having a blog allows you to control what will come out of it. Google your own name and check if the information that appears will work in your favor and is not only related to your Facebook account. Try and created some fixed pages where you can post your CV, your publications, a list of your skills, and your fields of expertise.
A post on a scientific blog allows you to show your knowledge about a specific topic. It associates your name to a certain theme. It is your expertise, and you can rightfully claim it, like Sabine Pasdelou (@spasdelou on Twitter). As this PhD candidate in art history, head of the association @HistArtPX, and blogger specialized in ceramics says “People thank me for the very precise information I give them.” Laetitia Gérard shared her experience, too, as a PhD in education sciences, an illustrator and a blogger: “The post-thesis period has to be prepared during the thesis itself. You have to do some networking and personal branding. You can create a CV 2.0 by creating your “first name-last name.com” website on Wordpress, or by buying a domain name.”
Gain some general culture and a new vision of research
Blogging also means improving one’s writing skills, editing speed, and scientific analysis, which are all valuable abilities when it comes to writing your thesis. It is also a golden opportunity to take an interest in new subjects. A PhD implies a commitment over a three-year period to two, sometimes three, research subjects. Varying your interests is a way to get a bit of distance from your own work. This can help us analyze the research direction to which we contribute in a larger sense, with a broader point of view.
Blogging on other subjects allows you to increase your interdisciplinary, general culture, which can stimulate innovative ideas. As a matter of fact, there are numerous innovations inspired by other disciplines.
In human and social sciences and in literature, there are still PhD candidates without offices or laboratories or teams to work with. Sophie Le Filleul, a PhD student in performing arts and founding member of the blog for PhD candidates and doctors of Paris West University, explains that she started blogging “in order to escape the isolation, the solitude, and to talk about subjects that fascinated me.”
Blogging is existing, tweeting is connecting
If you write and publish online, make it so that you’ll be read. Post your articles on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. E-mail your texts to people likely to read them. Your first readers will be the closest people around you: friends, relatives, and coworkers. They will give you the first feedback on your texts and topics, and will improve your natural referencing on Google. As Evelyne Jardin (@EvelyneJardin), web journalist and editor of the blog Doctrix on EducPros, pointed out, “Recruiters are also on Twitter.”