Getting started (A blog? In 2020?)

I’ve decided to start blogging. I can already hear the deafening silence: A blog?!? In 2020? Blogging is dead and buried!

Indeed. Blogs are long gone (having peaked in popularity over 10 years ago), and the world is currently on fire, so why bother now?

Happiness

I enjoy writing and, while I’m no great talent, I love getting better at putting down words. And as a working scientist, I am effectively a professional writer. In this, I consider myself lucky.

And yet, there’s a problem: peer review.

I love writing about science and my research, but my general negative feeling towards peer review has curdled these past few years. Is it just me, or are paper reviews worse than ever? 1

Let me be clear: there’s many excellent reviewers, and I’m very grateful to the many reviewers who have given me important and insightful comments. My papers are better due to their efforts. However, bad peer review is increasingly sucking the joy out of writing and even doing research. My productivity is in the toilet. I find myself abandoning interesting, even exciting research projects before I even begin because I can’t stomach the thought of a careless reviewer giving all the months or years of work a cursory glance and then a rejection.

So what about the blog?

I want a venue to put down my thoughts free of gatekeepers. Free of the obsequious bowing and scraping needed to placate bad reviewers. The deaths of a thousand unnecessary caveats and qualifiers that always seem to scarify my peer-reviewed writing. Disagree with me? Too bad. Angry about that missing comma? Too bad. Think the article is clickbait? 2 Too bad!

Topics

I’ve got lots of ideas to write about—some from my own areas of complex systems, networks, and data science. But I’m looking forward to posts on science and tech news more generally, life inside (and outside) academia, teaching and learning, and just all the fun little tips and tricks to be a better scientist that I’ve picked up along the way—the work of science.

Let’s go

So I hope this little experiment of a blog brings a little joy back to writing and thinking. I have no expectations beyond this, no huge audience will come to a blog in 2020, and who has time to read anymore? And that’s OK.

If I’m just shouting into the void, here the void won’t whisper back, “You didn’t cite this paper!”. Well, if the void says that, fair enough, I can revise—but the void can’t stop me from pressing ‘Publish.’

And yes, I’m still going to submit articles for peer review, hopefully more than ever. But most importantly, let’s all work to make it to 2021.


  1. Of course, it could be that the quality of my work is not keeping pace with what reviewers want. But I don’t think that explains everything. ↩︎

  2. Yes, a reviewer recently wrote exactly that. ↩︎

Jim Bagrow
Jim Bagrow
Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics

My research interests include complex networks, computational social science, and data science.

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