The early days of Bogology

You might have read the title for this blog and thought you were in for a history lesson on the pioneers of peatland climate science, those finely bearded gentlemen of a bygone age. But alas, no. Since Tom and I can lay fair claim to the term Bogology and released it to the world only a couple of months ago, this post is more a reflection on our early days in the big wide world of science communication.

On the face of it, things have gone quite well. In our first month, the website received over 3000 page views from 801 unique visitors in over 30 countries. Without the novelty of launching, November’s numbers have been somewhat lower, but even so, hundreds of people are still finding out more about our work than they otherwise would have. We’ve cracked all the world’s continents (well, WordPress doesn’t give us data on Antarctica), have over 100 Facebook likes and almost 200 Twitter followers. Not all of them are geography teachers, PhD students and academics, I promise. So far, we’re pretty happy with our stats.

One of the most rewarding aspects for me personally has been the chance to engage people on a one-to-one basis, whether through our social media or via the website Ask a Bogologist function. That our work and the way we’ve written about it has inspired and excited people (honestly, I know it’s hard to believe but people have told us this!) is a feeling that is hard to get from the other aspects of a life in academia. I’m also beginning to tick off many of the benefits of blogging so ably described by Bethan Davies of AntarcticGlaciers.org; I’m certainly enjoying it and I have learned a lot from researching new posts and pages. My first attempt to involve Bogology in my teaching last week could probably have gone better, but you can’t win them all first time!

The world of science communication is one that Tom and I entered with Bogology because we felt something nearing an obligation to make our research more accessible to more people, especially those who fund it through the public purse. Although we seem to have made a reasonable start, there is undoubtedly a lot more to do and a lot more to learn. I’ve barely even begun to scrape the surface of the vast academic literature on ‘scicomm’ that is out there. However, next week I’ll be heading off to attend the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, one of science’s biggest annual get togethers where over 20,000 scientists gather to discuss, well, basically everything! Now, as well as sucking up all the peaty research I can find, I’ll also be keenly attending a number of science communication sessions to try and learn how we can do things differently and, ultimately, better.

By next July, when I’m giving a public talk to a local Science Café, I want my communication of all things boggy to be as engaging as it can be. It’s easy to think that by ending up in what could quite easily be viewed (from a bystander’s viewpoint) as a rather obscure corner of academia, there are not many people out there that really care about or are interested in what we do. Our first two months as self-titled Bogologists have hinted otherwise and hopefully over the coming years we can introduce even more people to what we (of course!) believe is the fascinating science of peatlands and past climate change.

To finish, the one thing that seems abundantly clear so far is that science communication, public engagement or whatever else you want to call it works far better as a conversation. We’d therefore like to encourage you to make suggestions or comments on any aspect of what we are, or maybe what we aren’t, doing or talking about. It would be nice to imagine that Bogology’s future evolution can guided not only by our own whims and interests, but also by feedback on what you would like to see!

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