What motivates a scholarly blogger?

Why do researchers blog? Although it is definitely an expanding discipline, it is not yet common for researchers to share their thoughts, products and experiences through a blog – at least not in a Danish context. After some months of wondering around the world of science communication via social media it seems quite obvious to me that there are several benefits in sharing and communicating research through blogs.

Several characteristics of the blog can be highlighted as beneficial for the researcher who is willing to share both results of his research and the reflections on the process. Below I would just like to highlight three characteristics of the blog that I find valuable.

  1. Via a blog you communicate here and now. As a result, reactions, comments, critic, approval of what you write may come almost instantly. The blog posts doesn’t disappear, so later comments etc. are always possible. But not having to await e.g. long review processes in scientific magazines can in some cases be very valuable. And the ‘here and now’ structure gives space for a forum to put thoughts and ideas into words (which can actually sometimes be a challenge), which can be beneficial in later more formal communication of your research.
  2. Through it’s often more informal structure you can share your research, your thoughts, concerns etc. along the way, which makes it possible for the readers to comment and contribute to the process as well as the product. Informality also means that one can write more freely and not get stuck in specific word counts or formal language that even other researchers might find troublesome.
  3. A blog can help establish connections to fellow researchers or people with common interest – even people whom you would never have known otherwise. I know this from my own few months and weeks on blogs and twitter. Truly an eye-opener.

There are of course lots of benefits to blogging just as there are disadvantages to the media. Some of the things I here promote as advantages may, seen from a different perspective be perceived as problematic. (I promise to do a separate post on this one day)

As interesting as my perspective on scientific blogging may be, I have through my research come across an interesting ph.d. study which focuses exactly on why science bloggers blog. The study by Sarah Kjellberg from Lund University focuses among other things on Motivations for blogging in scholarly context.

Based on interviews with a group of researchers from different disciplines she examines why these researchers blog – what are the driving factors?. I shall not refer the complete study here, but just point out some of the main motivation points she finds to be general for the blogging researchers (the highlighted words are my responsibility):

  • The possibility to share knowledge and opinions
  • A creative catalyst for their work
  • Provides a feeling of being connected in their work as researchers and to enter into dialogue
  • Ability to reach multiple audiences and expand professional network
  • Enables the combination of formal and informal scholarly communication

It would be interesting to know if this is also the experience of other scholarly bloggers. Are there other motivating factors? And what can challenge them, so motivations is risked lost? What about shared blogs? Is motivation different if you have your own ‘solo’ blog or is part of a group blog with several contributors?

And where does the motivation come from. Can it only come from oneself or are the ways to ‘help it along? If for example a School of Public Health made an executive decision to have their researcher blog, would the lack of self-induced motivation affect the quality of the blog? Could a general blog format to all bloggers/staff at university fit all or would it affect motivation? There is truly still a lot to explore…..


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