Once again, Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has put me onto an interesting article, this time about chemistry communication and collaboration via the web. The essence of the article is that many sciences make great use of web-based collaboration, but chemistry as a whole lags behind and discusses why this is.
There are many reasons – a lot of chemistry is secret and as a result difficult to talk about, a lot of the work is away from a computer so it does not allow it to be incorporated into the work-flow. Another point is that a lot of chemistry projects are about making something and not working on a theory as such, so are inherently less collaborative. A final point they make is that relatively few chemists are bloggers and it is really this point that I want to discuss further in this post.
I think it would be fair to say that the pharmaceutical industry and chemistry industry have not really embraced social media to the extent other industries have. A few companies have accounts on Twitter and a presence on Facebook. There is a bit more representation on LinkedIn but that really reflects the individuals working at companies that want to network and connect with old colleagues.
Blogs are more a personal undertaking, providing a relatively conversational environment to discuss topics on the mind of the blog creator, often commentary on current events in the industry or personal diaries of life in the labs. For the chemist, a lot of the things we could talk about come under “should we talk about that on the world wide web?” Often their quick reply is negative. So the list of things to talk about shrinks and we talk about other people’s work or in more general terms about trends in the industry.
From a personal standpoint, as one of the supposedly rare chemistry bloggers, starting a blog was a way to talk about my experience as a chemist especially as one looking for employment in these uncertain times. Continuing the blog after employment was found is a way to keep myself engaged with the wider world (also known as looking out for things to blog about) and giving my take on things that are going on, all while keeping my writing skills sharp and keeping up with the developments in social media (a subject I am woefully behind on). The time it takes to create a post is tricky (time is short), but I slot it in, mostly over my lunch break, which I generally spend at my desk anyway (often while the Isco is running and so work is still progressing). Sometimes I wonder how other keep up with daily posts, but I am happy with my one-to-three times a week efforts.
Other blogs clearly incorporate aspects of their work into their blogging – whether it is following kinase inhibitors, interesting synthetic papers or reporting pleasing procedures . And various others, some of which I have links to from here, which is definitely a partial list. So there is plenty of life in the chemistry blogging circuit. Despite our apparent reputation, we do like to talk about our subject.