post by Bill Gardner
I spoke yesterday at a conference organized by the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ), making the case for why scientists should blog. One reason is that, as Austin Frakt has discussed, blogging is an excellent way to get scientific information into policy discussion.
Bringing more science into policy discourse is good citizenship. But what's in it for you?
Scientific blogging can enable you to find the invisible college of people who care about an intersection of disciplines that you care about, and you may have believed that you were the only one who cared about.
The graph is from Chris Anderson, who used it to discuss how the Internet facilitates the formation of a subculture around music. What was graphed in the original figure was sales of music, with songs ranked from left to right in order of popularity. On the far left will be Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen who are well served by mass market channels. On the far right will be musicians like my son, who plays traditional Celtic music at Speed Metal tempos and volumes. There is an audience for his work, but you need a channel with the reach of the Internet to find the possibly 200 people who are interested in feedback-distorted fiddle music.
For Something Not Unlike Research, it is the intersection of health care policy and political philosophy. Ohio State is an absurdly large institution, but I never found the colleague who felt that it was important to understand both John Wennberg and John Rawls. But trying to write about health care and social justice on the net attracted the attention of people like Paul Kelleher (and our great commenters), who not only understands Rawls but exposed me to more recent authors like Jonathan Wolff. The incentive to blog, and particularly to blog on specialist topics, is not that it is likely to make you famous or even widely read. Rather, it increases your opportunities to converse with colleagues who share your core interests.