Blog of a lab rat

29 August 2008

What really happens in the lab? What is it like being a scientist? Dr Richard Grant, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, has been opening up the world of the science lab through his blogs: 'Life of a Lab Rat' and 'The Scientist'.

On 30 August 2008, Richard will be one of three wrap-up panel members from around the world at SciBlog - a conference on science blogging held by Nature Network and the Royal Institution in London, UK. Richard will present on 'Embracing change: Taking online science into the future'.

The word blog comes from 'web log' and is a diary written by an individual that's accessible to the world. With regular updates, images, videos, links to other blogs and websites, and room for readers to comment, blogs are an increasingly popular way to communicate, entertain and inform.

Life of a Lab Rat, which is hosted on the University of Sydney website, has been running since June 2006, while The Scientist, available on the UK's Nature Network website, has existed since May 2007.

Both blogs have become popular with readers around the world who are entertained by Richard's amusing and informative descriptions of daily life in his research lab. Life of a Lab Rat has the preface: "Expect blood, sweat, tears along with a healthy dose of satire and cynicism."

So how did Richard get started blogging?

"There was a call from the Faculty of Science at the University to start a science blog, as some of the other faculties had started blogs. So I thought I'd give it a go," said Richard.

"In my previous job at Cambridge University in the UK, I used to write a newsletter to keep ex-colleagues up to date in an amusing way with what was going on in the lab. So the blog was an opportunity to write in a similar fashion about my new lab in Sydney."

"Life of a Lab Rat gives an insight into the scientific process, as well as the good times and irritations of being a scientist. I write about my experiences in the lab - things such as what I and the team are thinking as we carry out experiments and deal with everyday occurrences in the lab."

"Nature Network heard about my blog and asked me to write one for their site as well, so that's how The Scientist started. While my University of Sydney blog is about life in the lab, my Nature one is more focussed on science in general."

His writing has drawn an eager international audience, with The Scientist regularly ranked in the top five blogs on the Nature Network in terms of popularity.

One of his pieces was published in a book last year called 'The Open Laboratory', which features excellent science blog writing. Richard has been invited to help judge the 2008 edition of 'The Open Laboratory'.

"Blogs are a good way to talk to people who aren't scientists, as well as connect with the scientific community," said Richard.

"This concept of sharing, and the technology that allows it, is dramatically shaping the future of science. For example, data once used to be owned by the team of scientists who conducted the research, whereas now, we are starting to see open source databases, where scientists from around the world can contribute to a large database on a specific area."

"It's a real shift in scientific thinking - this new open science concept. Universities and research organisations who don't get into it will be left behind."

Check out Richard's blogs at: Life of a Lab Rat and The Scientist

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 3f00391c0b03551d1326010d79253a282d7a3f5547052e04