Blogging for the BSR

This is a condensed version of the BSR Blogger Guide, which offers more exhaustive detail. This page provides information for those wishing to write for the BSR blog. Click here if you’d like to know more about writing for the magazine.

So, you might want to be a BSR blogger.

BSR Bloggers are Berkeley students, postdocs, and affiliates. We are constantly accepting new bloggers on an ongoing basis, both for a one-off post or a regular contribution. If you have a story idea, we can work with you to develop your first post, though completed posts are also accepted.

Below is a guide to the kinds of content that we post on the BSR blog, and some inspiration for ways that you might be able to contribute.

If you’re interested in blogging, please tell us a little about yourself (including your connection to UC Berkeley) at sciencereviewblog@gmail.com.

How is the blog different from the magazine?

The BSR blog differs from the magazine both in formalness (blog entries have a more conversationalist tone and undergo less rounds of editing before publication), and in content. Whereas the magazine focuses on UC Berkeley research, the blog is open to your perspective—as a UC-Berkeley graduate student in the sciences, and to topics of general interest in the sciences, including non-Berkeley research, education, politics, and even your personal research/experiences.

What should I write about?

Anything![1] To help you get started, our current categories are (click the category for a good representative article!):

Behind the Science From uncovering obscure topics to elucidating poorly explained national headlines, take your reader behind the scenes to explain science near and dear to your heart.
In the news Are you passionate about a major headline or topic of political debate? Is the national media doing a poor job of explaining your science? Is UC-Berkeley research in the news?
Research Highlights Tell us about research highlights at UC-Berkeley! Emphasizing the contributions and perspectives of graduate student researchers is strongly encouraged.
From the field What’s it like to be a graduate student in the sciences at Berkeley? Do tell, personal narrative style. Focus on a story that is exciting, reveals your personal connection with science. Avoid cliché!
Opinion An outlet for your (organized and reasoned) thoughts. Back up your opinion, cite your “facts,” and avoid running on conjecture. Be respectful of opposing views.
Lower/ Higher Education K-12 education topics include the state of science teaching for kids and ways that scientists can connect with our younger future scientists. Higher education posts might address how it is and is not working.   What unique perspective can you give on higher education as a student? Did you GSI a particularly difficult class? Did you really enjoy that mentoring opportunity you had?
Science communication /outreach What outreach opportunities are available to graduate students?   What organizations have you heard about that are particularly awesome? (e.g., Wunderfest, teaching programs at the local penitentiary, etc.) Know of some other science magazines / blogs / groups that deserve attention? Give them a shout out!
Events Check the events calendar. Is there a particularly fascinating event coming up that you would like to recommend or call attention to? Attend it and consider live blogging or live-tweeting. Summarize your experience.
UC Berkeley A catchall for UC Berkeley.
Psych Wednesdays A cross posting with Berkeley psychology blog http://psych-your-mind.blogspot.com/. If you have a relevant story, you may want to cross-post with them. (not sure if this is still going)
Teasers Section reserved for BSR magazine writers, who are encouraged to write little teasers to raise excitement for their upcoming magazine articles.
Grad Student Corner A place for Berkeley graduate students in the sciences! Posts offer advice specifically relevant for the unique challenges of graduate students in the sciences, e.g. research anecdotes, monthly highlights, deadline reminders, and more.
Advice Column “Advice” columns are a great way to bring in a larger readership (especially from random web searches) to the BSR. Examples: Top 10 books scientists should read (and why), How to make the most of your graduate career, How to become a lab super star, etc.
Meta-Science Topics include peer review, PLOS, reporting errors, and reproducability in science.
Crazy Awesome Science Pretty self-explanatory.

Please feel free to add or email the blog editor your thoughts/opinions!

What should I expect to put into a blog post?

Content:

  1. Text: There’s no magic formula for the right length. Popular posts may be fewer than 500 words, or more than 1500. In general, strive for short and snappy over arduously detailed. For more help on determining structure and length, you may want to check out this quick and dirty guide on how to write a good blog post. With respect to grammar and usage, please refer to the BSR blog style and grammar guide.
  2. Visuals: You also should provide one or more images to accompany your text. These may be photographs you take, figures you make, or appropriately copyrighted images from the internet. The full BSR blogging guide has a great section on creating/finding images.
  3. Title: The title is an important aspect of how we compete with people’s very divided attention! The best guide we’ve found for writing titles is this post. Every word of the title must be important. Don’t waste words on clever puns unless you truly think that it will get someone to click on the article. Don’t take 10 words to say something you can say in 3 unless it’s really good.

Effort: Strive to turn in your best, and not just “good enough,” work– it’s great practice and allows you to slowly build an outstanding body of work to show. That being said, a great post does not always have to mean a great amount of time. A blog post doesn’t need to tell a long, complex, or multifaceted story, nor does the language need to be especially poetic. If finishing up a post feels like a burden, it might be simply because you are trying to fit too much into one post. Try focusing on a smaller topic, and splitting up multi-topic ideas into a series. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” (Voltaire).

Who is my audience?

In general, the BSR tailors to the “intelligent non-specialist,” i.e., those who have the desire to understand more difficult ideas, but are not assumed to have a scientific background. This means that you have the green light to dive into challenging concepts, but that you must explain yourself clearly, avoid jargon when it is unnecessary, and make sure to introduce any concepts that may be unfamiliar to a lay reader. Keep in mind the blog may reach a much wider variety of readers than the magazine.

What happens once my post goes up?

Make sure to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to promote your post! Keep a dialogue going by commenting on related posts on the BSR blog and other blogs, and by responding to comments.

If you would like us to write about you

If you are a lab or student at Berkeley and have some exciting new research or publication that you would like the BSR blog to cover, we’re happy to hear from you and will try to get you covered!

If you are NOT affiliated with Berkeley, please tell us specifically why the BSR audience would like to read about your work. Please make sure you take a look at BSR content before querying us to get a feel for what we cover.


[1] Okay, maybe not anything, but if you have a fantastic idea or concept that does not fall into any of the categories described below, talk to us.