What has blogging ever done for me? : The benefits of writing for a non-academic audience

The short answer to this question is lots! As for the slightly longer answer, I have been blogging for just under 3 years and the impact has been far greater than I ever anticipated. Blogging has influenced my own research design and funding applications, helped foster new collaborations and has increased my engagement with stakeholders and policy makers. Additionally, blogging has improved my confidence in writing for non-scientific audiences, which is important for clearly communicating research with the main beneficiaries of my work (for me this means writing for a general audience of smokers and drinkers.). Below I share some of the most satisfying and beneficial experiences I have had blogging.

 
Impact on Research
I have previously blogged and written about research within my own area of interest and expertise -the cognitive and behavioural effects of alcohol use. However, one of the best experiences I have had blogging is writing about research topics that I am less familiar with. I wrote two pieces for the Guardian blog “Sifting the Evidence” on the science of hangovers and the genetic basis of hangover. I really enjoyed writing these blogs and investigating a new body of research. Writing the blogs also made me aware that alcohol hangover was an important, but poorly understood and under-investigated research area. These blogs were the starting point of a new stream of research for me, including; the development of a new collaboration and the submission of funding applications. To date I have submitted a large grant application (unfortunately unsuccessful) and a PhD studentship (Successful!). I am delighted that in September this year I will have a PhD student working on a fully funded studentship examining the cognitive effects of hangover. As a results of the hangover blogs I have also developed an international collaboration. I will be attending the annual meeting of the Alcohol Hangover Research Group in New Orleans to meet my research collaborator and other individuals working on alcohol hangover.

 
Links to Further Public Engagement Activities
Several of the blogs I have written have also led to further opportunities for public engagement and science communication. For example the blogs on hangover led to several local and national radio interviews. In general blogging has increased my profile as an academic who is engaged in science communication. I now have a good relationship with the press office at my university and I am regularly contacted to speak about alcohol-related stories in the media. For me, public engagement is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable activities I do as an academic. Blogging has improved my confidence in public speaking and increased my appetite for further public engagement. Since blogging I have become actively involved with the public engagement unit of my university; receiving funding to engage smokers and drinkers in my research, presenting to other academics on the benefit of engagement and starting my own health-related blog.

 

Engaging with Policy Makers                                                                                    A blog that I wrote on the availability of alcohol at motorway service stations led to an invite to a consultation meeting of alcohol sales at the Home Office. This was a fantastic opportunity to present research at a meeting of stakeholders and policy makers. This invite was directly related to the blog and demonstrates the potential that blogging has to reach not only the general public but policy makers too.

 
Conclusions
For academics and students I can’t think of a better recommendation for a New Year’s Resolution than to start blogging. For me blogging not only represents an opportunity to engage a wider audience with research, it is an enriching and informative activity for personal and research development. Happy New Year and Happy Blogging!

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