My colleagues (generally the older ones) often ask me why I blog or podcast. They believe that I am wasting my time. After all, I am a scientist, and it is my job to carry out research. In order to do this I must publish papers and obtain grants. The grant funds are used to pay salaries (mine and those in my laboratory) and purchase the supplies needed for research. In my institution, nothing matters except raising money for research. Teaching, mentoring, and other community services mean very little. Blogging and podcasting do nothing to help fund my laboratory.
Here are my answers.
Why did I go into science? Because my parents (physician and teacher) and my teachers inspired me. But for many other children, the only inspiration they have is their teachers. They need input from other sources. I believe I can help provide that input over the internet.
Most people – kids, teens, adults – don’t understand science. Their teachers can provide only a very rudimentary, often flawed view of some of the fundamental concepts. While I cannot cover all of science, I can do a good job of teaching what I know. I have been studying and thinking about viruses for over 30 years, so I understand them quite well. I am also able to talk and write about them clearly and concisely, a gift I probably received in part from my teacher parent. These qualities put me in a unique position to educate the public about viruses.
Early in my career, I didn’t think much about teaching. I focussed on research. Later I realized I had a reasonable ability to communicate what I knew, which turned into a love of teaching. My blogging and podcasting about viruses represent part of the effort to impart some of my knowledge to the public.
As I have read and heard many times on the web, if you want to blog or podcast, do it about something you are passionate about. And that is what I am doing.