Blogging to change a malpractice

15-9-2014. On 1  October I will give an in-company-training The art of blogging at the environmental research school Sense in the Netherlands. Our question will be: How to start a blog? I have given the same workshop last year. At that time,  none of the 32 participants had experience; half of them were intend to start a blog. I hope to see their blogs this year.

According to me, one of the best ways to start a blog is getting inspired by a great idea, or rather, by a strong drive to change a certain abuse. And one of the best examples I have seen is the site/movie/blog/tweetaccount Theygotodie from epidemiologist  Jonathan Smith, lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health (US). Smith investigates the epidemiology of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) among mine workers in South Africa. These diseases are preventable, but many miners still die from them.

During his Phd research, Smith realized that nothing will change if he only publishes in peer reviewed journals. So he decided to mobilize people to improve the working conditions for the many thousands of people who continue to work inSouth Africa’s mines. He first made a 4-minutes-movie (trailer), to attract funding for a larger project, a one-hour-documentary in which he should follow he life of four miners. He succeeded and now his group has a professional site with video’s, blogs and tweetaccounts. These provide news about the miners (some of them are already dead), and about the campaign- and research results.

So Smith’s’ blog is embedded  in a broader strategy to change an injustice, using science and other means. That seems successful: more awareness makes it more likely that mine companies and politicians improve the working conditions. And also more likely that the research – visible changing an injustice – can continue.

Read one of Smith’s blogs, published on a more general newssite about Tuberculosis.