One of the blogs I’ve really valued over the years was written by a pseudonymous academic blogger called DrugMonkey, but for two months the Monkey’s blog has been silent.
Has he called it a day? Dropped the mic after successfully having big impact?
What’s the deal?
After many years could it be that the DrugMonkey decided to move on to focus on other things? He provided valuable, no-B.S. perspectives on science and in particular on NIH funding. There was also the occasional post on the science of drugs that gave that blog and blogger his name.
One of the commenter’s on DrugMonkey’s last post, many of whom have been lamenting the possibility of the end of that blog, noted that he is still very active on Twitter.
Maybe he’ll be back to the blog eventually?
DrugMonkey’s disappearance from his blog has made me think more about my own blog. I’ve been at this blog more than 7 years and on the web with various websites for about a decade. You can read more about my web history here. If DrugMonkey is done or even just taking a blog sabbatical, I’m curious what was the deciding factor.
I still find the educational outreach on this blog to be a meaningful, positive thing to do despite being crazy busy overall. While there are many potential or even concrete risks, especially for me blogging as myself by name about often controversial subjects including reporting on stem cell clinics that have at times even threatened me, I continue to feel strongly about keeping this effort going.
Some would argue that much of life boils down to a series of risk versus reward decisions.
This equation-based way of viewing life can be applied both to personal and professional levels. When it comes to the latter and to biomedical scientists specifically, how much risk should we take?
What forms could this risk take?
On a scientific level, risk could involve publishing something too fast before you are sure the results are accurate or publishing data too slowly and getting scooped. Or you could submit a grant that is a high risk-high reward proposition and find reviewers are uncomfortable with the level of risk so you don’t get funding.
What I’m more interested in today is the idea of scientists taking risks (or not) by publicly taking specific positions on policy matters.
Years ago I once asked the venerable DrugMonkey of DrugMonkey Blog fame (a great blog primarily on science funding issues including NIH grantsmanship) about the possible risk of being a blogging scientist using one’s own name as I do. DrugMonkey replied sagely, “Everything is a risk” for us scientists. Perhaps this is one reason why DrugMonkey blogs using a pseudonym.
If one feels strongly about a science policy issue, how outspoken should a scientist be? Pushing this question further, if a scientist sees something that she feels is wrong, should she say something publicly even if that risks negative repercussions or even outright retaliation? What if it feels like “everyone” else or at least powerful people have the opposite view?
We can see historical examples of where saying nothing was harmful by allowing bad things to continue happening and escalate. Most of us can think of other situations where contrarian people who spoke up got hurt because they took that risk. Of course there may be times we think something is wrong and then later we realize that maybe we were wrong.
How “wrong” does the situation have to be for you to pull the trigger on standing up publicly at any given time on an important policy issue? Where do you fall on the riskometer? Has this changed over time and if so, why?
Science blogging is somewhat of a communal exercise. At least, it should be and cool biomed blogs are a great community.
One of the most invigorating aspects of blogging is finding new blogs that are worthwhile and edgy.
Below I list some of my recommendations for blogs that you might not be familiar with, but that you should definitely check out.
DrugMonkey Blog.A go-to source for perspectives and a reality check on NIH funding, careers, and sometimes a bit about drug science. Whoever DrugMonkey is, s/he is awesome. @drugmonkeyblog
Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI) Blog.The IGI is Berkeley’s fantastic gene editing and genomics group that includes Jennifer Doudna and Jacob Corn. Jacob writes the IGI blog and his posts are definitely worth reading including many insights on CRISPR. @igisci
The Node.Love stem cells and developmental biology? Then you’ll love The Node (symbol above), the timely web offering of news in this arena that feels very much like a blog from the folks who bring us the wonderful journal Development. @the_Node
Nerds Eye View Blog.UC Davis Medical Student Fiona Scott (pictured) is funny and irreverent as she writes this edgy blog about medical school and more. Many of you will enjoy this site. @Nerdseyeview22
STAT.While STAT is not a blog, it is my vote for the best new biomedical science news outlet of 2015. It has a stellar group of science writers who also seem to have some of the best insider sources. You’ll often read about cool new developments here first. @statnews