home .Featured, Knowledge, Teaching, and Communication, Social Media Reflections on my 500th blog post at #microBEnet

Reflections on my 500th blog post at #microBEnet

Me, 9 years ago… around the time I started blogging.

So when I first dipped my toe into blogging on microBEnet (which I had just set up) on Feb 16, 2011 I had no idea that *nine* years later, I’d be furiously blogging about a global pandemic (and still in the Eisen lab).

Since this is my *500th blog post* I just thought I’d reflect a bit about microBEnet itself and my experience with social media for science over the last 8 years.   I don’t know how interesting this is to anyone other than myself… but hey I’m a site admin so I can do what I want right?  :)

So 15 years ago now, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation started their Microbiology of the Built Environment Program (MoBE) to “create a new field of study” and bring together folks from fields such as architecture, engineering, building science, microbiology, and bioinformatics to collaborate on what was then a relatively understudied area.  That time has seen tremendous progress and a much deeper understanding of the microbiology of human-constructed spaces.  And that groundwork has been really useful during the COVID19 pandemic (largely transmitted indoors).  It’s been great to see early MoBE collaborators as key experts working on tackling the pandemic.

microBEnet was set up as a communication and collaboration hub to disperse information to all stakeholders… grantees from the Sloan Program, other practitioners/scientists in the field, and the general public.  I would say in some ways microBEnet has been a great success and in others we didn’t achieve our stated goals.  On the one hand we’ve had millions of pageviews and some of our factsheets are top-ranked Google hits for information on relevant topics.  On the other hand ~90% of the blog posts are just by Jonathan and myself… hardly a thriving social media community.

In that time however, I’ve become wholeheartedly convinced of the power of social media in science.  When I joined Twitter back then I was half convinced that it’s only purpose was for sharing what you had for breakfast and following Justin Bieber.  Now I’ve seen the incredible power of digital collaboration (during the pandemic more than ever!) and the ability to disseminate new research to a wider audience.  Discussions on Twitter (just within science) have exposed fraud, shamed politicians, organized rallies and fostered countless collaborations that would have never otherwise taken place.  I’ve gotten scientific advice on Twitter from people all over the world… that I never would have met.  I’ve published papers with people whose face I’ve never seen in person (even before the pandemic).  In that context, I think microBEnet has served as a useful filter… take the pandemic for example.  Of the thousands and thousands of tweets that go through my feed in a week I’ve managed to blog a few times a week every time a new paper related to COVID19 and the Built Environment comes out.  Hopefully that filter is useful for others!

No particular point here… but if you’d like to blog here and share in the fun, please contact me!


David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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