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I am a PhD candidate in Physics, and I am applying to some interdisciplinary postdocs that deal with economics/climate science/etc. I have a pretty good academic publishing record, but also own a moderately successful blog that deals with economics, politics, science, etc. from a Left perspective.

Would it be sensible to include my blog in my CV or research statement to show that I am interested in that sort of interdisciplinary work and that I have good communication skills?

Some of the posts have a couple of thousands reads etc, which implies I have an audience. My issue is that, because it is a partisan blog it has obviously some strongly worded opinions, so I am not sure if it would be professional to mention it. The reason why I want to include my blog is that my PhD is in pure physics, and I want to show I can "work" in other environments as well.

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    Is your blog prominently under your real name (i.e., if someone googles you, does it show up?) – AJK Jan 14 '18 at 19:30
  • Nope. It isn't, and I made that choice in purpose for some of the reasons I outlined above. – mathDummy Jan 14 '18 at 19:32
  • Wrote up an answer, but I think I ended up writing about a general job application rather than something specifically related to a postdoc as the same would seem to generally apply. So just to check that I didn't miss anything, is there an argument for why this consideration might be different in the context of a postdoc application vs. an application for another job that a PhD might pursue? – Nat Jan 15 '18 at 4:45
  • I think it's great idea to include it if you have a successful blog. Blog is a publication that is an evident of skills and experiences. – user80821 Jan 15 '18 at 13:56
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tl;dr- While a good blog could be a professional asset, the given description sounds like something that probably wouldn't enhance an application.


Blogs can be professional assets, even with political content

A good blog can be a professional asset. Such a blog could even touch on topics that others might consider politically sensitive; for example, it's entirely respectable to write a technical piece on forecasting climate change using data science techniques.

You can even write a heavily political blog in a professional way. FiveThirtyEight's a great example of this: they're heavily involved in political analysis, but they're quite professional about it. I'd imagine that its writers would generally do well to include a reference to it in their future job applications.

Then there's a grey area when it comes to the interfacing with politics in one's own field of expertise. For example, if a climate scientist were to maintain a blog devoted to their research on climate change, then it wouldn't seem like the worst thing in the world if they occasionally included a political perspective piece in which they maintained an objective tone while expressing personal political opinions. However, it'd be important for such opinion pieces to be substantial in terms of content and analysis.

Political rants tend to come off poorly

Political rants can cause the reader to think less of the writer. This can be true even if a reader shares some of the same opinions.

I suspect that a lot of factors go into this. As a partial list, in no particular order:

  1. Readers get into the habit of filtering content from politically charged sources, so if the writer starts to sound like a source of politically charged content, it makes sense to put less trust into their assertions.

  2. Strong political positions can reflect on a lack of political knowledge (Dunning–Kruger effect), professional focus, emotional inclination toward objectivity (stability), or/and reasoning skills.

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

    -Bertrand Russell, on BrainyQuote

  3. The willingness to engage in political rhetoric in professional venues (e.g., a job application) negatively reflects on one's general professionalism.

As a consequence of factors like these, many'll tend to respect a writer less for their political rantings even if they would tend to agree with the opinions expressed in those rants.

Overall, probably best to not share this blog

For the reasons given above, sharing a "partisan blog" that has "some strongly worded opinions" would seem like a bad idea. While it's not impossible that a reviewer might actually enjoy it, I'd expect it to generally have a negative impact if anyone takes the time to check it out.

In general, folks'll be more likely to think well of your ability to operate in other venues if you're able to conduct yourself with the same sort of professionalism that you'd approach Physics with, keeping a level and objective perspective throughout.

  • This was very helpful. Although they aren't really "rants", more like like using conceptual tools from physics, nonlinear dynamics, complexity science etc to formulate an analysis about economics and society. – mathDummy Jan 15 '18 at 20:54
  • @mathDummy Particularly as you mention interdisciplinary, keep in mind that such analysis might not come off well, depending on who is reviewing your application. – R.M. Jan 17 '18 at 4:01
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Unfortunately, it's risky for a junior academic to draw attention to a blog which is either (a) not about your discipline or (b) highly opinionated, regardless of topic.

The risk can be offset if it is clear that the blog enhances your professional standing in some way. But that doesn't seem to be the case in this situation--in fact, it seems a little gratuitous to put it on your CV. There are other ways to demonstrate your communication skills and interest in public engagement without potentially alienating a future academic employer.

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Although I personally do not agree with the left slant on climate science, I don't think that it should not be mentioned, but with a caveat: check what is the bias of the department you are applying for.

If the lab/department itself is hugely biased or partisan, and values politicization of science they would perhaps love your blog and you would stood better chances of being accepted.

Now, I am not proud of giving you that advice, but we see more and more fields of science being blatantly abused with PR that has nothing to do with science (AI has gotten really bad recently in that respect) and I would expect that such groups love people that would be engaged and spread the faith in addition to doing research work. Strange times we live in.

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