Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Where's the Science?

Every once in a while, a commenter remarks that this blog is not a Science Blog but is instead an Academic Culture Blog. Some commenters politely request that there be more scientific content (though some understand that this would be an anonymity-compromising move), and some are rather more rude about it, acidly noting that there is no scientific content whatsoever in this blog, as if this will be painful news for me.

This is not a Science Blog. It is what it is because I don't feel like blogging about scientific topics, however fascinated I am by my research field. There are many science blogs, but this is not one of them. Even if I could retain my anonymity to some extent and blog about science, I would not.

Perhaps my lack of interest in blogging about science relates to the issue I discussed the other day with reference to whether blogging is a good use of one's time. Blogging is sort of a hobby for me, and I like that I have an outlet for discussing academic issues other than those directly related to specific research. I also like that I can contribute my perspective as an academic inhabitant not otherwise well represented in the blogosphere - a senior FSP.

I am fascinated by the academic ecosystem, and am particularly interested in issues that aren't typically discussed much, if at all. Some of these are generic academic issues, some are specific to science (and perhaps engineering/math), some are specific to professors at research universities, and some are specific to Female (Science) Professors -- or some combination of those elements. I also write about random things, mostly about family and cats.

There are some very interesting issues related to research, teaching, and life as a professor in my specific research field, and these I don't discuss because of my wish to remain semi-anonymous for now. Even these issues, though, are related more to academic culture than to the science itself.

Even if I have no wish at this time to write a Science Blog, I'm glad that other people write such blogs.

Maybe part of the problem for me is that I don't have a clear sense of what my purpose of writing about science would be. I have zero interest in blog-lecturing about research topics. I find most explanatory/lecture blogs boring, though I'm sure that others find them interesting and I am glad that this is so.

I would be slightly more interested in writing about Science in the News, but there are many such blogs and other sites that do just that. I'd have to feel rather strongly that I had a new perspective to add to the discussion before I would blog about scientific news.

Maybe someday I will run out of things to say about academic culture and will turn my attention to another hobby, perhaps even Science Blogging .. or emu farming .. or creating designer graph paper (and graph-paper themed apparel). For now, however, I am still finding things to discuss and am interested in reading (most of) the comments and posting random cat pictures.

24 comments:

cmb said...

Not to be too much of a fangirl, but for my part, I'd trade articulate musings on sexism in academia (esp. in a world where most female science bloggers are just whining about how against them everything is) for another science blog any day. As a young female scientist, its reassuring to me to see and hear about women who make it and assert themselves even in fields more biased against them than mine.

Anonymous said...

I am soo thankful that there are voices like yours in this goofy ecosystem. I read papers about researchy stuff out the wazoo, but being in the minority (white chick in a sea of white dudes like you) really frustrates me and asking for advice from the majority is mostly useless. I have great research mentors (all men) - but as a woman, I am always in search of better ways to handle things and new ideas to try in dealing with collaborators and students. I spend more time some days dealing with jerks than I do on my research. It also helps to know that I am not alone.
Love the kitties!

Kristen said...

As a Female Science Graduate Student (FSGS?) I am frequently grateful for the unique perspective you offer on both the current and past state of academia, especially since explicitly talking about issues that women scientists face is not very fashionable in my department. Frankly, if your blog was about Proper Science I would probably not have good reason or interest to read it.

RJ (I think - student work does that to you!) said...

I beg leave to disagree with your commenters (who I respectfully suggest should get a life. OK, not very respectfully suggest.)

This is about science - it is about the culture of science. Applied psychology and sociology.

If what they are after is how many quarks can fit on the end of a pinhole, where the angels used to be, then they can find their dry, dull, technical stuff elsewhere.

But blogging, overall, should be about the human experience of the world.

You apply your scientifically trained brain to your surroundings. You are witty. You write fantastically well.

You just Rock (and in more than an igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary way).

Although - maybe you could compare yourself to a Rock - if you Rock which would you be?

A blog is in some way sedimentary - out of the flow of life some things stick, and a book comes out of it at the end.

Igneous - the result of an explosion of frustration thrown from the volcano?

Metamorphic - the result of lots of pressures over the year?

/musing (Can you tell I've been marking ALL DAY!)

James Bourne said...

Hi, I'm James Bourne.
Are you really a professor ?

A Life Long Scholar said...

As one who is looking at making the transition from graduate student to a full-time Academic career with a yet-to-be-determined ratio or research & teaching, I find your blog particularly fascinating as it is. If you were writing about science it would be less interesting & useful to me (unless you happen to be a geologist, interested in the same sub-fields I am, which isn't terribly likely, given the large number of science options there are out there).

I only wish I'd had information like this available when I made the transition from undergraduate to graduate student back when I did my Master's (more than a decade ago). I think I would have approached it all quite differently if I'd known the sorts of things you share here. I honestly expected graduate school to be all about classes! I was more than a bit shocked after I got there and they explained that I was expected to pick a topic, do research, and write a thesis! (Yes, I am the first person in my family to go to university!)

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I am a postdoc at a major Research University. There are no other female postdocs in my field of study or other female grad students working in this area of the building. And since the recent faculty searches at this place have only had male candidates, I feel a bit hopeless. So your blog helps me feel much less isolated as I endure some of staff here preying on me, lack of role models, and lack of creativity (because of the lack of diversity). I hate the isolation that I am experiencing and your blog relieves some of that for me. Thank you!

dr. dave said...

you may SAY this is not a science blog, but that there cat is quite clearly in a superposition of quantum states.

Kimberly said...

I, for one, enjoy this blog just as it is.

Peggy said...

Please continue to blog about academic culture and aspects particularly relevant to FSPs, a species not well represented in the blogosphere, as you point out. Thanks!

JRB said...

I love your blog just the way it is, do not change anything! You write about topics that have a broad appeal to people in all areas of science, engineering, academia, and research. I started reading your blog as a confused grad student, and continue to do so as a confused postdoc. I look to your blog for insight and inspiration; you are an anonymous mentor to me and many, many others.

The Bear Maiden said...

I, for one, enjoy your blog because of what it is. A perspective on a society I know nothing about, but I enjoy your female perspective on things. It's fascinating to me also, to read about how you navigate in a male-dominated society. I spent some time as the only female computer-support person in a world dominated by men and machines, and it was an interesting place to be. Some of what you write about is familiar to me, although with more geekily intelligent people than myself or what I dealt with.

And I enjoy the random cat pictures... I should put some more cat pictures on my own blog...

Female Science Professor said...

That may well be, but in my non-anonymous life, I exist quite visibly as a productive scientist. My publications, grants, advising activities and so on demonstrate better than any science blog I could produce that women can make it as scientists and science professors.

Spokey dokey said...

FSP, as a mastress of science, I appreciate your perspectives and read your blog for what it is, insightful personal musings on what it means to be a FSP. I get plenty of science elsewhere in my life, and the information I get from your blog is unique. Keep it up.

By the way, your cat and my cat could be brothers (you can see him on my blog page, if you want).

chall said...

I think this is a science blog as much as it is about science and a blog. It's not about the results per se, but it is about all the other things in science.

I remember starting as a grad student thinking my main obstacle getting my PhD would be "if the science would work". Of all the problems I encountered during my quest for the degree, the actual science wasn't the tricky part*, it was the politics of the Department, my PI's thoughts and non thoughts, the "being one female in an all male group" etc.

When I found your blog some years ago I was so happy! I'm since then a post doc at a Prestigeous Research Institute and very happy to read about your thoughts and the things you encounter as a successful Female Science Professor.

If science was all about the lab and experiments, nothing would be as hard as it is today. Therefore science is about the culture, experiemnts, paper writing and the people in it. ok, imho anyway.

*ok, I had one year of useless experiments that didn't pan out but really, that's part of science too

Styling with Renee Michelle said...

As yet another FSGS, I add an additional note of thanks for your blog. I can read about science in many places, but I am grateful for your perspective on academia, and women in academia.

Mel said...

I love your blog and I think it is both unique and interesting. There are plenty of science blogs that actually discuss research and not enough that discuss academic life. No one discusses it quite like you do, which is with insight, humor and intelligence. You have a unique perspective as a tenured FSP and I love hearing about your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Not to rain on the parade or anything but...

Part of what makes this blog less interesting is that you have in fact "made it as a scientist and science professor". This means that the issues and conflicts about which you blog are all essentially trivial or mundane in nature, and not the career-threatening stuff that the rest of us (non-tenured faculty, post-docs and grad students) are dealing with on a daily basis.

Just sayin'

PhysioProf said...

Blogging about actual scientific content is totally fucking boring and a complete waste of time. Why any scientist would devote a single nanosecond of time and effort to blogging about scientific content boggles my mind. I can see non-scientist science buffs and aficionados spending their time blogging about science, but real scientists!? It's ridiculous.

Odyssey said...

What I find truly remarkable is that people would presume to tell you what you should write about in your blog. If they don't like it they should bugger off.

Anonymous said...

i can haz kolapsed wvfunkshun?

Doctor Pion said...

Don't change. What interests me the most is seeing the academic ecosystem through the eyes of someone who could be one of my female colleagues.

Abel Pharmboy said...

Jeebus! Enough already of people telling us what our blogs should and shouldn't be. A blog is what you, the author, want it to be.

btw, anyone who complains to you that an Academic Culture Blog is *not* a Science Blog has their head completely up their bungus. I find your discussions of academia to be more relevant to science than those of most so-called science blogs.

Moreover, I think it's cool to learn about other things that scientists do and love. These "off-topic" posts tend to humanize scientists to readers and I find them to be an integral part of unidimensional science blogging.

Hell, you're the Grande Dame of science blogging - you can do damn well what you please - and it sounds like an awful lot of folks love *exactly* what you do here.

Zuska said...

"Not enough science in your blog" = "I don't like you talking about all that gender stuff and I want you to shut up and make me feel good about being a part of the patriarchy".

CMB: in a world where most female science bloggers are just whining about how against them everything is

Way to go with the solidarity there. Really, did you have to use the word "whining"? And do you think those female science bloggers are just writing about trivial shit, or non-existent shit? Or do you think they ought to just suck it up and learn to take it like a man? Jeebus. Part of "making it" and "asserting yourself" is knowing that you don't piss on the women around you who are trying to cope with bias and discrimination, and who have the courage to speak up about it.