Yes, fair play, there are quite a few blogs, websites, twitter feeds and plenty of news coverage out there about microbiology and how microbes might affect us. So, why do we need another blog?
Ever since my early days of training as a microbiologist, I have been acutely aware that if I couldn’t explain what I was doing to my Nan, I would be in trouble. Not particularly with her, she’s lovely; it would be with the people that would eventually use my research if I ever discovered anything. So, after 10 years at this, I have now figured out a thing or two about explaining microbiology to audiences other than colleagues and scientists.
So, the first post is not actually going to be about microbes. Not one singular bug is going to make an appearance here. Not yet. Firstly I want to get the ground rules, and my expectations down on paper (electronically speaking).
What I will cover
Basically, if it is research about microbes and how they affect the human directly, then it is fair game. I will cover results of good clinical trials with novel findings. Equally I will probably feature quality systematic reviews (which is where research on a particular topic is brought together to get an overview of evidence). I will probably not cover studies that are about particular commercial products and potential health claims unless there is a significant wow factor about them. As far as pre-clinical work goes (i.e. done in a petri dish or with animals), I will only talk about those that really will make you sit up and think. In terms of topics, I’m expecting to cover topics that are mainly health related. However, this is not to say I won’t cover topics outside of this. They just need to be interesting and significant. You can expect to hear about, for example, fuels generated by microbes.
How I will cover it
I am not going to produce the news. There are plenty of outlets that do this (some better than others) and basically I am not going to compete with them. I will take a different approach, explaining the subject clearly, the implications of the research, what we can reasonably conclude about it and whether we are likely to get any benefit from the discoveries any time soon. In short it will be about context and analysis. I will try to avoid jargon, but if this is unavoidable for bringing you a complete picture, I will attempt to explain carefully what is going on. Whenever possible, I will link to the primary research so you can judge for yourself about the scientists’ (and my) conclusions. Just be aware that a lot of this research is locked up behind (high) paywalls (comments about this will be forthcoming). If there are other ways of accessing the content, I will include these details. Some research is published through channels that make their content freely available. I do not intend to particularly favor this sort of content in terms of coverage. You just have to realise it is easier to access, which makes it easier to cover.
I promise you now that however interesting a story might look from a press release, unless I have primary sources in front of me (read the paper(s)) I will not cover it. The only exception that I will make to this rule is coverage of conferences. In this case, I will report what I see and think and it will be up to you as a reader to judge the stories on their own merits. I will try to provide as much context and resources to a story as possible.
If you want to send me a press release, you can. Sorry, I do not respect embargoes.
All posts will have comments enabled at the time of publication. If a post does receive significant levels of interest (bring it on!) I might well have to disable comments if it gets too much to handle. Comments are moderated and there is a ninja spam filter installed to avoid too many adverts for drugs, obvious link bait and trolls.
Enough of this. I will update this post as needed. Consider it the rules of the game. Now, first post.
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What's microbes.me about?
Microbes... and us humans.
Bringing context and meaning to interesting discoveries made about microbes and how they might affect us. Even more specifically, it is about investigating the science of microbiology and explaining what it means and what we should think about with respect to the latest microbial discoveries..
Who's behind microbes.me?
Max Bingham. I'm a science writer and this is my channel for going on and on about a topic I think is fascinating. I worked for 10 years as a research scientist studying gut microbes. I have a PhD in gut microbiology. All opinions are mine, except when they're from a guest, and any waffle is just a great idea working itself out.