Ask a ScienceBlogger: This IS My Hobby

This week’s Ask a ScienceBlogger question deals with blogging itself, and not so much with science:

How is it that all the PIs (Tara, PZ, Orac et al.), various grad students, post-docs, etc. find time to fulfill their primary objectives (day jobs) and blog so prolifically?

I have a slightly more serious response to this than many of my co-bloggers, simply because I half expect the issue to come up at my tenure review in the fall.


I don’t make any real effort to hide my blog (obviousy), but I also don’t advertise it on campus. I know a few of my students are aware of its existence, and a few guys in another department read it, but I don’t think any of my immediate colleagues know about it (or at least, none of them have mentioned it to me).

I haven’t talked about blogging at work, becuase I’m a little worried that blogging is hazardous to academic health. It’s an outside activity that isn’t teaching or research, and thus might be seen as frivolous. Which is why I at least half expect to have to defend my blogging practices at tenure time– I don’t plan to bring it up, but somebody involved will probably check me out on Google.

So, my answer to this week’s question is basically a defense: I manage to blog as I do because this is my hobby. The time I spend on blogging is time that I would otherwise spend doing something else to decompress from my primary activities. I write posts in the morning before work, over lunch, or in the evening after I’m done with other things, and I schedule them to appear during the day, when I’m at work.

The total time spent actively blogging is probably less than two hours a day. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in academia who doesn’t spend two hours a day doing something that isn’t research-related. Some people garden, some people knit, some people refinish antiques– I publish stuff on the Internet. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be doing something else to relax– reading novels, or watching tv.

Of course, you’ll also notice that I’m not all that prolific, relative to many of my co-bloggers… I really don’t know how they do it.

7 thoughts on “Ask a ScienceBlogger: This IS My Hobby

  1. I don’t think a blog carries any weight as science outreach right now, but one day it might. I suppose you could make the case that it does, although many science blogs (mine and Chad’s included) spend as much time on ranting and musing as they do on real science stuff.

    I will note, however, that a lot of people will view even time spent on outreach as borderline wasted…. It depends where you are. I like doing outreach, and do quite a bit of it. Indeed, I do more than is “needed” to convince people who will be evaluating my tenure case and so forth that I’m doing outreach, which means that I’m wasting time that would be better spent doing other things the tenure evaluation people want to see. (The whole idea of each playing to and emphasizing his strengths is out the window; we have to fit every nook and cranny of the cookie cutter they’re looking to fill.)


  2. does a blog carry any weight as a form or science outreach?

    It might, but that wouldn’t help, as outreach isn’t particularly valued in tenure decisions.

  3. Blogging may not have a direct impact on your tenure review or job placement, but the indirect benefits shouldn’t be glossed over. I’m only on this panel, for example, because I’m a blogger–and as you can see from the description of my presentation, I’ll not only be on the panel, I’ll be addressing this particular question. I mean, if blogging improves your prose, your connections, the number and quality of your readers, it will have an indirect impact on tenure decisions, since it thrusts you into (and makes you a more responsible member of) the academic community.

  4. Every time I read discussions like this, I remember why academia as a chosen career path is not for me. On the one hand, yeah, the potential of Job Everlasting. On the other hand, even the notion that my employers could ding me for not working when I’ve left the building and gone home is just alien.

    Not to mention, do they actually expect that your having suppressed your hobby instincts for seven years (or just successfully hidden them) is going to mean that once they’ve given you Job Everlasting, you’re not going to develop one?

    I can’t understand the mindsets of any of the participants, really. I myself would interpret as sort of like getting fired from a Corporate job for excessive internet useage– they were going to fire you anyway, they just chose the path of least paperwork.

  5. Every time I read discussions like this, I remember why academia as a chosen career path is not for me. On the one hand, yeah, the potential of Job Everlasting. On the other hand, even the notion that my employers could ding me for not working when I’ve left the building and gone home is just alien.

    Think of it as trying to pack all the horseshit of a thirty-year career in industry into a six-year period. And, really, I think I’m willing to accept six years of ridiculous scrutiny in order to avoid thirty years of uncertainty and the smaller levels of day-to-day management bullshit that I read about from people in a corporate environment.

    I guess it’s sort of the career equivalent of removing a Band-Aid: would you rather have a split second of intense pain from yanking it off quickly, or an extended period of less intense irritation from pulling it off slowly?

  6. You’re living in a fantasy if you think it ever ends Chad. I started my career working in a university, and watching academentia made me damn sure that while being staff was just fine, being faculty would lead to me killing people and doing it with a smile.

    It never ends. You’ll be competing for grants and publication long after you’ve acheived tenure, and your fellow faculty aren’t your friends, they’re your competitors for every last one of those dollars and inches of published space.

    The ones who win the most are the targets of bitter and cynical colleagues, and the ones who can’t bring in grants or get published find out that the tenure job isn’t as secure as they were led to believe.

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