ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.
Next up, Neuroskeptic of the Neuroskeptic blog.
How did you become a psychology/neurosci blogger?
I'd long had an interest in science communication. Growing up I was a big fan of the great science writers like Stephen J Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Sagan, but until I started blogging I'd never written much beyond occasional pieces for student newspapers. My main inspiration to start came from Ben Goldacre's blog (and book) Bad Science - because it showed me that the print media coverage of science was very often terrible but more importantly that they really had no interest in making it good. So it's often up to amateurs to do it right.
And I was struck by something Ben said at a talk he was giving: someone asked him for advice in doing the same kind of thing in another country and his advice was 'just go ahead and do it'. So I did. I started reading a lot of science blogs at around that time, and really admired them, so I tried to get in on the act.
What's your blog's mission?
Well I write about what interests me, I think that's the only thing you can do really - your mission should be to tell people about what interests you in a way that makes them interested in it too. But I suppose my mission is to show that there are lots of really interesting things in neuroscience, and you don't need to be a neuroscientist to understand them.
How does your blogging affect your day job?
I think it improves it. On the one hand it takes some time out of the day, though not very much, but it means I read papers I wouldn't otherwise have, it's improved my writing skills enormously (which is very useful for writing papers, proposals and grant applications ) and it's given me contacts.
What are your weapons of choice - i.e. what blogging platform / hardware do you use and why?
I use Blogger just because it was the first one I found when I typed 'blog' into Google... and I've stuck with it because it does the job. I think Wordpress is probably objectively a bit better, you can do more with it, but I see no reason to move.
What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?
Start off by reading blogs, read them for a couple of weeks, decide which ones you really like and try to work out why. Then 'Just go ahead and do it' sums it up I suppose - if you're thinking of starting a blog or thinking of writing about something in particular, go for it. Of course you need to know your stuff before you do, but don't be put off by the idea that someone must have already done it, or that someone will come along and do it better than you. That held me back for a long time. I was overestimating 'someone'! There's loads to write about and most interesting science doesn't get blogged about at all.
What blogs do you read (list up to five)?
I read the 'big' neuroscience/psychology/psychiatry blogs but here's 5 that are perhaps less well known:
Wiring the Brain
Women's Mag Science
What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment? (up to five)
At the moment I'm reading Daniel Carlat's Unhinged, for a review. Also embarrassingly I am about to read The Da Vinci Code.
And finally, what blog post of yours are you most proud of and why?
I'm very pleased by how fMRI in 1000 words turned out - because it took me hours of head-scratching to understand fMRI when I first read about it a few years back, but I managed to compress it into 1000 words that will be, hopefully, useful to people learning about it for the first time. I can see it being useful to me if I had had it back then! It's proven very popular so I think it turned out well.