There’s a great piece up at one of the Scientific American blogs about why grad schools should require students to blog. The author argues that with blogging,
I have to distill multiple sources from multiple areas into a compelling, clear narrative. I have to build a case quickly and persuasively and learn to incorporate disparate voices into a coherent argument or conversation. I have to learn to get the gist of an argument quickly and be able to distill papers in a way that will be understandable even to someone who is totally unfamiliar with a topic. Most importantly, I need to create a quality end product: a piece of writing that someone will want to read. Otherwise, not only do I not get paid, but I will have failed at my job. And I have to do this over and over and over again, week after week and piece after piece.
What am I doing but honing my ability to think, research, analyze, and write—the core skills required to complete a dissertation? And I’m doing so, I would argue, in a far more effective fashion than I would ever be able to do were I to keep to a more traditional academia-only route.
This is probably obvious, but I agree 100% that pretty much all grad students would be well-served by blogging about their research or their fields. (Even unpaid blogging!) It helps put what you’re doing in perspective, it connects you to other researchers and interested non-researchers, and of course the practice of communicating and explaining ideas is critical to refining and improving ideas. I think even if one doesn’t find science communication inherently enjoyable (as Erin and I do!), it’s a really worthwhile skill to cultivate.