What I learned from 10 years of science blogging

By Patrick Cooney

On January 15th, 2022, The Fisheries Blog officially turned 10 years old!

This is the 472nd original article published on The Fisheries Blog. In that span of time, many things have changed, but what hasn’t changed is that a team of fish scientists brought you an original article each Monday morning (barring holidays)!

Join me below as we celebrate a decade at The Fisheries Blog and the incredible body of work that has been created.

The Beginning

Three fisheries science graduate students, Steve Midway, Dana Sackett, and Patrick Cooney, were conducting science at North Carolina State University.  We recognized that fish science was being published in scientific journals, but those articles were expensive, difficult to access, and often written in a format not easily digested by a broad audience. 

Steve Midway, Dana Sackett, and Patrick Cooney were the founding members of The Fisheries Blog.

The Issue

Fish scientists spend a lot of time and funding conducting research, yet very few people read the published studies.  We asked ourselves: Is there a way to lower the cost and improve access to fish science, write the information in an easily digestible format, and broaden the audience reading about fish science?

The Mission

The first published article on January 15, 2012 states:

Hi everyone, and welcome to the opening of The Fisheries Blog.  The Fisheries Blog is a website created by three fisheries students and friends who wanted a forum to share short, information-packed articles on topical fisheries themes.  Each Monday morning, we’ll be posting one article written by one of our bloggers and these articles will range from paper reviews of published primary literature, synopses of ongoing research projects, information on interesting topics, and details of professional meetings.  There is no prescribed article type, so you’ll have to check in weekly to find out what we are talking about this week.  Additionally, we welcome guest bloggers—if you have something unique and fisheries you would like to cover—and we will also do our best to address questions.

The Fisheries Blog is specifically designed to reach the widest audience possible.  We hope our articles are of use to the seasoned fisheries professional looking to stay current with the literature, to the fisheries undergraduate who is still identifying the fundamental concepts of fisheries science, all the way to someone looking for interesting information about fish science. 


The People

Over the years, we expanded from the original three people.  Additional fisheries scientists and professionals joined the team.  Abigail Lynch, Brandon Peoples, Solomon David, Henry Hershey, Rene Martin, Hannah Dean, and Erin Miller expanded the capabilities and expertise of the group.  Further, their artistic capabilities and web design expertise brought a wonderful visual component to the content.

The Fisheries Blog Team through the years. Pandemic travel restrictions prevented us from creating an in-person group picture after 2019.
During the Pandemic, we met and shored ideas on Zoom. Included are Rene Martin, Patrick Cooney, Dana Sackett, Henry Hershey, and Abigail Lynch.

The Numbers

  • 10: years and still going!
  • 471: original articles (472 including this one!)
  • 418,472: words (for comparison, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has 76,944 words)
  • 888: average number of words per article
  • ~4: minutes to consume each article
  • 31: hours it would take to read every article published on The Fisheries Blog
  • 3,315,722: number of readers
  • 7,039: average number of readers per article
  • 8: fish scientists that have “rotated” as authors for The Fisheries Blog
  • 200: United States Dollars spent maintaining website
  • 0: money earned from The Fisheries Blog
  • 120: guest authors involved with co-writing ~25% of the articles on The Fisheries Blog
  • Priceless: many of the articles were utilized in lesson plans for teachers, as references for journalists, and as platforms for amplifying important scientific research
  • 10: children born to authors at The Fisheries Blog in last 10 years
  • 5: Doctorates earned by authors at The Fisheries Blog in the last 10 years
  • Countless: fans of a particular Disney movie that have called us bad names for pointing out interesting scientific facts about fish (we can handle it…we’re scientists!)

The Increased Impact

As scientists, we should be asking ourselves if the work we are doing is like the hypothetical tree in the woods: “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one hears it…does it really make a sound?”

To that question, if we are conducting critical research and no one is really reading or hearing about it, can it really make an impact or difference?

The most valuable lesson I learned from personally authoring, co-authoring, or editing more than a quarter of the articles on The Fisheries Blog over the last 10 years is that my science reached a much wider audience and had a much greater impact when I blogged about it.  News agencies, teachers, authors, scientists, neighbors, friends, family, and politicians all reached out to me over the years to discuss articles that were published on The Fisheries Blog.  Whereas, a much smaller number of people (and exclusively scientists) contacted me about the scientific articles I published.  It was clear that the blog articles were drawing attention to the science in a way that the scientific articles (which are still important to publish!) were not.

If we are to continue increasing the value and impact of the science we conduct, we must continue to find ways to bring it to wider audiences in ways that people enjoy reading, hearing, and viewing.

The Lessons Learned

I conducted multiple “scientific communication” workshops over the last decade that relied on the information I learned from the years of operating The Fisheries Blog.  The following three “lessons learned” were the most useful to others when they successfully created and maintained scientific communication tools themselves. Most importantly is establishing a method of accountability.

  1. Work together: Create a team of people that can help meet goals and hold each other accountable. It is difficult to continue meeting your goals alone.
  2. Schedule: Create a publication schedule that is spread out enough that you can maintain the schedule yet often enough that readers maintain interest. Once a week works well for a blog, whereas other platforms may require a different time frame.
  3. Captivate: Create content with passion and compelling visuals (artwork, pictures, videos, graphics). People are more likely to continue engaging with your content when they can tell you care about the science.

One final thing to consider: You need to decide if you will monetize your content.  There can be real costs that you may need to overcome.  At The Fisheries Blog, we chose not to monetize the site.  By not hosting advertisements or sponsors on The Fisheries Blog, we have maintained creative control over our own content, and therefore, write about the things we were most passionate and knowledgeable about.  With this choice, we also constantly aim to keep real costs low, which creates limitations to things like the visual look of the web page and the number of photos we can host on the site.

The Future

As long as there are scientists who have the passion to create content as well as people who want to read that content, The Fisheries Blog will continue publishing articles on Monday mornings.  We love what we do and we love hearing from you about the impact the articles have.

As we stated in our initial article, we enjoy working with guest authors to create articles about fish science.  If you or anyone you know wants to write an article, let us know.

Further, we are excited to see other forms of scientific communication from awesome people that have significantly expanded the audience and impact of fish science. For example, the Fisheries Podcast is phenomenal and we highly recommend listening to them.

Thank you

Thank you for interacting.  Thank you for contributing.  Thank you for reading.

Much love.

The Fisheries Blog Team

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