The vast majority of science blogs, especially the more popular, well respected ones, are written by people in academia, or who work for charities, or are writers in some way by profession. And this is great.
And I’m just speculating here, but I think this is because they are mostly free to talk about their work, which is essentially, publicly funded they have few constraints. Maybe they’d want to hold off on writing about anything too specific they’re working on, especially if they are competing against other groups elsewhere, or something is coming up for publication shortly and might be embargoed by the journal. But mostly, they don’t have to be too careful about what they say.
It’s an element of freedom I don’t feel I have, and it bothers me.
I work in industry, for a small Contract Research Organisation (CRO) in support of various studies and clinical trials, mostly on biologics: Vaccines, biosimilars (like copies of proteins and hormones already produced by the body) and therapeutic antibodies like Campath. (Which I can say I worked on, as a tiny cog in a bigger engine, without peril)
We’ve had some really interesting projects for treating a whole range of maladies and diseases ranging from drug addiction, alzheimers, cancer and asthma. But even saying that much makes me nervous.
I stand a real risk of being fired (or worse) if I’m not careful, which is awful when you have this super interesting project you want to tell people about, or a news story is breaking about a similar drug.
But that’s only one side of my problem, the other is that of the perceived legitimacy of what I write. Generally it doesn’t bother me too much, but were I to come out in favour of something mildly controversial I’d be greatly saddened by calls of “bias” and “he’s in the big pharma pocket, so we can dismiss what he says” (I’m certainly not.).
This only worries me a little, since I hope the (hopefully improving) quality of my writing will speak for itself eventually, and, more cynically, due to the vast readership I have (Hey Chris, Cathy and Laura!) this is unlikely to be a problem for a while.
I don’t want to blog behind a pseudonym, I want to be honest with what I write, and not hide behind a mask.
I admire the freedom, I think, bloggers in more academic environments may have. I may be wrong about this, please let me know what frustrations you get from your institution/situation!
I tweeted @edyong209 (whose blog is here and definitely worth reading: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/) to see if he knew of any other well known bloggers based in industry, and couldn’t think of any of the top of his head. Hardly a thorough survey I know, but I’ve had a look around myself and have failed to find any.
Maybe I just need to “learn to google”…
And I certainly need to keep on writing!