Sunday, May 29, 2011

why research blogging has mattered to me

A little while back I had the honor of speaking on a 'careers in bioinformatics' panel put on by my former graduate program at the University of British Columbia.  Other panelists included Inanc Birol,  Bioinformatics Group Leader, Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre (who good-naturedly called postdocs the 'burger flippers' of science), Phil Hieter, Professor of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, and Anthony Fejes, Co-founder, Zymeworks and PhD candidate at UBC.  Blogging came up a few times in the discussion as Anthony and I have both been at it for a while now and have seen a clear positive impact on our careers from it.  Anthony's blog has become so popular that he has started to get invited to conferences solely because the organizers want him to blog about them..   My blog hasn't achieved the audience that enjoys but it has managed to connect me with some excellent people that I wouldn't normally have met and through them with opportunities I never would have discovered.  I think its worth jotting down a couple examples.

Blogging got me to Sci Foo.  While its hard to say exactly why you get invited I have a pretty solid guess that my writing here about semantic social tagging is what caught the attention of Timo Hannay and resulted in my trip to the GooglePlex.  Had I waited for my work on tagging to be published through a traditional journal this never would have happened.

Blogging connected me with Barend Mons and what would become the Concept Web Alliance.  Barend picked up on the same set of posts (mainly the big one that turned into a lovely rejected paper) and eventually invited me to do a postdoc in his group.  Babies and geography aside I would probably be working with him now.  Though I didn't end up working with him in Leiden, he did invite me to the first Concept Web Alliance meeting where I met Andrew Su, who would become my employer nearly a year later..

Blogging got me a better Gene Wiki network visualization!  A while ago I posted a Gene Wiki hairball picture illustrating the hyperlink network emerging from the articles in the gene wiki.  This post was picked up and used as an example of what not to do when visualizing large networks by Martin Krzywinski - author of the popular Circos visualization system and the up and coming hive plot paradigm.  After discovering our ahem 'connection', we've been working with Martin to build something more beautiful and more informative.  Posts to come about that one..

In short, sharing ideas openly here in i9606 has been one of the best parts of my experience in science and one I hope to continue for many years to come.


Morgan Langille said...

Ok, I need to start blogging again! BTW, Martin is an awesome guy. I met him during the Canadian Bioinformatics workshop a few years ago and I have used his Circos program a few times over the years.