On March 27 2013, around the time of Easter and the school holidays, I gave in to the urgings of my wife, to try this blogging thing.
And today it's two years later and now very clear to me that writing for fun, but based around what I know in science, will be something I do for many years to come.
At times it's been tough - or maybe other pressures made it feel tougher than it was - and I've considered stopping and have at times paused. As hard as it was though, I found myself wanting to chime in on stuff and could not stay away. I still find that weird, but it must have been a part of me all along - I just hadn't noticed it until after I turned 40'ish. I'm a bit slow sometimes.
Turns out that I enjoy writing and I needed a hobby that I enjoy and that helped inform and generated such unexpected positive feedback. Everyone needs that I think. Bit of a shame that the typos don't get fewer but such is life.
It also turns out that blogging made me resign from my job of 23 years - which just so happens to co-occur with this very date. No, of course my resignation was not for such a simplistic reason, but blogging was one of a few major factors that set the process in motion. In particular, blogging about outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), avian influenza A(H7N9) virus and the Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa. It was that last one that really had the greatest impact on me though.
From blogging has come more interactions with the media (something I am now a firm believer in more scientists needing to do-communicate what we do to our stakeholders), new collaborations, papers, strange discussions with affiliate Institutes about why they'd rather me not link them in print or press to this press or these papers since I had no research funding for these viruses, friendly discussions with very high ranking Health officials, advice to documentary makers and then an invited role helping out my State's public health team. That one was the kicker. The feeling that the virology information and patterns I'd spent years accruing and piecing together in my head, and now blogging about and drawing graphs and graphics to describe, could be used for the greater good completely ruined me. But in a good way. It triggered many realisations about my current role, some were familiar to me as I had been living with them daily for years, others I had felt in the corners of my mind but they were too intangible and just wouldn't coalesce into anything that would describe itself to me and yet others that were patterns I simply didn't see. Told you I was a bit slow sometimes.
You could of course dismiss all of this as the rantings of a failed scientist who - despite an h-index of 32, 80 papers (15 with >100 citations), >400 citations per year for the past 9 years, 14 book chapters, roles as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Clinical Virology, a Section Editor at Biomolecular Detection and Quantification and an Editorial board for Viruses as well as having continuous competitive research grant funding since he was awarded his PhD in 2003 until 2014 - had missed out on achieving most of his recent grant applications. Go right ahead.
I wanted to use what I'd learned for the greater good. Yeah - as a comic nerd that makes even me cringe a little. But that's where I've been heading, knowingly or not, for some years now. Well, soon I'll be a part of a team that cam help me to do that.
So I wish you a Happy 2nd birthday little VDU. You've helped me to grow and to learn at the rate of a human two year old. And in doing so, I've met and made friends with a lot of great people around the world. For such tiny things, viruses can have such an impact on us. Quite the hobby.