Why less posting? Thoughts on life as a professor

This morning, while I was eating breakfast, I decided to see what The New York Times had on its website. Pretty quickly, my attention was caught by a blog post by Nicholas Kristof, entitled “Professors, we need you”.


I had a couple of reactions:
(1) I’m really interested in Dr. Kristof’s list of people and topics; none of them includes science or scientists. Clearly – since you are here! – a lot of scientists are blogging these days.

(2) Oof, wow, I’m teaching right now, and I’ve barely been able to remember that I STARTED this blog, let alone had time to update it. Frankly, what news stories I’m thinking and talking about right now are part of my lectures and classroom activities, not blog posts. I’m hoping to have more time this semester, because of the specific courses I’m teaching and some help I’ve got this term, but as a seriously junior-rank professor (with a job classification that’s not tenure-track), it’s hard to take the time I love talking about science here and not feel like I’m not shortchanging my students.

I will say, however, that I would LOVE to find a way to let my students write posts for this blog. Someday, perhaps…

(3) I was shocked to see that I could get some job credit for communicating science via this blog. I hope this signals a change to the pattern Dr. Kristof wrote about!

(4) Just yesterday, I participated in an event where I got to talk about science and the arts. I think it’s great to help students realize that science and academic thinking are a major part of our entertainment, and I hope that we can expand that conversation without getting caught in the jargon (the specialized language) that academics rely on to simplify our professional communication.

(5) There is a HUGE and COMPLICATED discussion right now going on at colleges and universities across the United States about online education: who wants it, what benefits and costs it has, who should pay for it, how it affects the way we teach and how it is affected by the way we teach, and so much more. I would not be surprised at all if some of the resistance to blogging (or other writing by academics for a public audience) comes from the uncertainty about managing professors’ and schools’ priorities, finances, expectations, and obligations to on-campus students.

(6) Connected from thought 5 and from more on this from Dr. Kristof’s blog here: I am not going to claim a public position on who are and who should be treated as experts, except to say: all of us know a lot of cool stuff, and the more we use everyone, the better off I personally suspect we’ll be.

I’m really curious to see how this conversation continues!

* * * * *

With that, I’ll sign off for today and get back to preparing for teaching my classes this week! I know I missed Darwin’s birthday; I was so busy preparing and hosting a party for my students that I didn’t post here, but hope to get a belated entry up soon. I also want to catch up on some interesting news on why people dream what they do, whether people are aware of modern science facts, and how one of my professors has figured out some amazing things about the flu, as well as addressing some topics my introductory biology students have been asking me about. Hope to be back soon!


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