Public outreach is an important part of being a researcher, in my opinion, and blogging is the method of choice for many researchers. Is it okay to share recent research progress, explain publicly what you are doing, what kind of experiments/simulations you are running, why you chose these kinds of simulations, and the main conclusions you could draw from the simulations, and what you think comes next? I am not sure if research group leaders are keen on such being made "publicly available" before a paper is published. Of course, some might read your idea and realize something huge, do it themselves and take credit, and claim they came up with it independently.

I hope to get a PhD in computational chemistry in the next few years, and I would very much like to share ideas, share my thoughts, and explain concepts as an attempt at public outreach. This would, naturally, lead to sharing of some group-specific ideas and progress. Is such behavior generally supported by research group managers (or the university in general)? How would journals respond to publishing papers where some progress figures and ideas have been "published" on personal blogs?

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    "I would very much like to share ideas, share my thoughts, and explain concepts as an attempt at public outreach". Yes, but this is done by publishing papers.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 11:51
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    You misunderstand me. Public outreach is about conveying scientific ideas, results, and its significance to the general public - not the experts.
    – Yoda
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 11:55
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    When a joint paper is sent to a journal, it must have the consent of all authors BEFORE being sent. Similar to what you are suggesting, are the blogging of these "ideas" have the consent of all the people participating in those? You cannot make public something without the consent of all the authors.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 11:55
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    Strongly related: Why scientists don't share their research ideas?
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 17:32
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    Also related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/69665/19607 (and I suggest to blog in my answer)
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 20:26

4 Answers 4


Blogging is very common and appreciated in mathematics. For example, here are some blogs maintained by well-known mathematicians: Terry Tao, Quomodocumque, Tim Gowers. None of these blogs are devoted exclusively to mathematics, although each of them contains plenty of math. Each of these links to tons of other math blogs, so you can see many more examples.

I think that what you propose is a very good idea, subject to some caution. As Alexandros suggests, I would only discuss other people's ideas if you get their permission. (Or, perhaps, if you are discussing something publicly available. In mathematics this is certainly considered okay but you should check with someone in your discipline.)

Most importantly, I would suggest waiting to blog about your work until after you have completed it and made your results publicly available. (In math it is typical to post a preprint to the arXiv at approximately the same time that you submit your paper for publication, and at this point your work is considered public. But in some disciplines a paper is not considered "public" until it is formally published.) There are several reasons for doing this. One is that you avoid the risk of being scooped. Another is that, by waiting, you get to advertise your finished work. Typically, math blogs contain links to PDF copies of the papers they discuss. When I get interested, I often want to click through and read the paper!

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    Tao, Ellenberg, and Gowers are also well-established math professors who don't need to worry about having enough publications to secure their future careers. Nobody gets tenure for making a series of well-conceived blog posts. Posts on a website don't count; publications do.
    – anomaly
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 15:19

There can be another reason to maintain a blog: public outreach.

A well-written blog that communicates not just with other research personnel, but can also be accessible to younger students and primary and secondary teachers, as well as the public at large, can serve as evidence of community outreach under the "broader outcomes" criterion when applying for National Science Foundation funding.

Maintaining a blog for other researchers that cover current results is a part of what has been called the "open science" movement, which values reproducibility and transparency over the traditional closed model of scientific research. It is still a very niche field—in large part because of concerns over "scooping" and idea theft that have already been mentioned.

With respect to how journals will react, this is entirely field- and even journal-dependent. For instance, in the field in which I work, the American Chemical Society is one of the largest and most significant publishers, and they take a very expansive view of what constitutes "prior publication," which would mean that a blog post containing a figure that is reproduced verbatim in a journal submission to them would probably be a no-no.

As far as your advisor goes, this again is something that you have to bring up with the particular advisor you are interested in. I suspect most advisors will be against you maintaining a blog that captures "live" results, but would be OK with stuff that has already been sent out for review.

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    Indeed, this is the first sentence of the question: "Public outreach is an important part of being a researcher, in my opinion, and blogging is the method of choice for many researchers."
    – LSpice
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 23:22
  • This just repeats the information from the question. It doesn't address the concerns raised, or advise on any particular way of deciding when/when not to blog about one's projects, at all.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 0:05
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    I was trying to clarify the information already given—and to point out that the public outreach should be designed to reach as many people as possible, not just other scientists in the field. I was also trying to put it into context for future readers why it can be so important.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 1:30

Much like everyone else has mentioned, being too detailed can risk scooping. So sharing progress and new ideas, specifically, is probably not a good idea.

However! That's not to say there isn't anything research-related to blog about for the sake of public outreach if you haven't published. At least on Tumblr, there are many blogs in the scientific community who post pictures of what they're doing in the lab and generally discuss what it's like to be a researcher without giving details to the projects they're working on. I do it even as an undergrad, and following blogs of grad students helps give me a perspective of what to look forward to when I graduate. Much like my blog likely does for high school students considering research in college. You don't have to be specific for it to be public outreach and to encourage interest in science!

But if you do want to explain things... You have to do literature research in order to understand your field and advance your own work. So you could summarize that sort of information without giving away new ideas that you have yet to publish. It's tricky, but it can be done.

When in doubt, ask your advisor.


Personally I think its great to share your ideas as well as research progress.

But! It might be problematic. From two points of view.

Firstly the research institute you might be working at, could have you sign a non-disclosure agreement. Which means you cannot talk about the work being done at that institute.

This is to prevent scooping. It might happen you share partial results and the idea, and someone else finishes and publishes it before you do. The institute would maybe want to patent something, and if you leak it, they would have trouble doing so.

In terms of science as a human endeavour, there is no problem. But in terms of your career (in the real world) you just lost a possible publish opportunity and since grants depend on you publishing, you might not want to do that.

Often research institutes have their own PR departments who do the "public outreach". This also prevents leaking of incorrect or overly inflated information about the research being done. You might write in your blog that you are near discovering a cure for something (near being subjective) and a journalist might blow it out of proportion, making a sensation story out of it. This can be problematic for the research institutes funding and is a bad idea.

However sharing your "own" ideas, that you do not intend to see through as some research is perfectly fine.

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    LOL, university PR to reduce inflated impressions? I have never once seen a researcher state the import of their work more strongly than an independently written press release describing that work. You're right about the NDA, scooping, and patent issues, though. Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 22:39

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