Write for The Molecular Ecologist

Bluebook pages with notes by entomologist H.G. Dyar (Flickr, Biodiversity Heritage Library)

Have you ever considered science blogging? This might sound like a question from 2011 — have you ever considered taking a smartphone into the field, or posting your conference talk on YouTube, or wearing a fedora in a non-cosplay setting — but I’m really quite serious.

The current reality is that, after years spent using a handful of centralized platforms, social media is splintering and getting noisier. If you want to build a public online profile for your scientific work, you really need more than a Twitter profile and a validated entry on Google Scholar. Blogging can build an in-depth profile of more than just dashed-off thoughts, on an independent website that’s fully connected and searchable on the open Internet.

Blogging can also be a form of scholarly writing that sits between the short informal thoughts you might exchange on Twitter or Mastodon and the deep work you put into a peer-reviewed article — a space to flesh out your notes about an exciting paper you just read, to sketch some connections you see between a handful of different concepts, to work out a new idea while it’s still forming, or to outline the steps of a method or procedure for future reference. Maybe other folks will benefit from even that preliminary work, and maybe their response will help you polish it for publication in a more formal venue; but the blogging itself is useful practice even if it doesn’t go viral or yield a new publication.

If any of that piques your interest, let me further ask: have you ever considered blogging for The Molecular Ecologist? Contributing a guest post to this very blog is a great way to try the practice without committing to setting up a website entirely your own — and it gets your name into an online venue with some established weight in search engine indexes. We’ve had an open call for one-off contributions for some time, but this summer especially, I’d like to have some new voices on the site — especially early-career contributors who can benefit from the platform. We’ve got a little budget to pay honoraria for guest posts, even.

So, as you contemplate your summer plans, why not pitch a guest post for The Molecular Ecologist. If you have an idea, email me with “TME guest post” in the subject line, and we’ll get you started.

As a further prompt, here’s a few ideas of what could make good guest posts, from that open-call page:

  • Paper recaps: Short discussions of new scientific results, which explain a technical paper, place it in context, and/or provide critiques. Length may vary, but posts of this sort work well at less than 1,000 words. We’ve got a brief guide to writing a paper recap post; or see examples here and here.
  • Mini reviews: Reviews of a particular topic, explaining a method or a group of related papers. They may be quite a bit longer than a paper recap, but if a mini review gets above 2,000 words you might think about pitching it as a series of posts rather than a single one. A classic example is K.E. Lotterhos on “triangulating” different sources of evidence to find loci under selection.
  • Book reviews: Read a book, write up what it’s about and what you thought of it. Length may be closer to a mini review. Academic books are pricey so if you’ve got a title of particular interest in mind, we’ll buy the book for you if you review it for us. There are lots of examples over the years.
  • How-to: Explain a method, either computational or experimental, for the laboratory or the field. If the method is computational, we’d prefer to have examples of code, and a link to a publicly available sample dataset that the code will run on. Examples: making Gantt charts; organizing spreadsheetscleaning microbial reads out of your high-throughput sequencing data.
  • Interviews: Find someone interesting, ask them good questions, get interesting answers. These can work well as a series of perspectives on a single topic; one-offs will a harder sell. Examples: A. Murat ErenJane LubchencoRosemary Grant.

Some things that we’re not likely to take an interest in include

  • Writing about your own work. TME aims to provide community perspective on our field, not a platform for people to post “lay summaries” of their published papers — that’s good content for your professional website.
  • Sponsored content: We do not accept pitches for posts advertising commercial products or services, even those related to our fields of interest, nor do we accept proposals for link-sharing or other traffic-exchange purposes. We do not respond to inquiries of this sort, and we will report them as spam.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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