The Sciences

The Science Blogosphere: Not What It Used To Be

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumMar 28, 2011 2:50 PM

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Over the weekend, I had the privilege of sharing a panel with two science writers I admire tremendously: Carl Zimmer and Deborah Blum. The topic was science blogging, journalism, and the changing media environment. Preparing for our session gave me plenty of time to consider the dynamic nature of the blogosphere and the evolution of online weblogs since my arrival in 2006. Science blogging itself has virtually exploded during past years. What was once a small community of blogs and bloggers has grown into a myriad of lively networks that interact and engage with each other and broad audiences. We were initially a handful of familiar names and urls, yet now the list is so long that no one—

except Bora Zivkovic perhap

s—can hope to know every member of the ever-expanding science blogging community. Niches have emerged across disciplines, covering topics from genetics and open access science to, well, everything all at once. And the all-stars do a heck of a good jobsharingstories and posingnew questions as well. It's been extremely interesting to observe the shifting motivations of those who decide to enter the world of science blogging. Years ago, I suspect the majority of us were drawn to this kind of forum as a means of self-expression. A creative outlet. For me, it was cathartic--I had all of these ideas swirling through my head and posting served as a wonderful way to explore them further with readers. I doubt that five years ago, many of us envisioned blogging would be a career asset. At that time, it was still somewhat taboo. Universities didn’t know what to make of blogs and some initially tried to restrict participation by faculty and staff. Meanwhile, we supported each other and the community was close.

Fast forward to 2011 and I’m meeting so many so many fascinating individuals--particularly students, early career scientists, and journalists--who have embraced blogging as a way to stand out, engage others, and get noticed. Many job applicants list blogs near the top of CVs and universities are teaching courses on using new media. Bloggers with authority speak out when they see bad science reporting and a system of mutual online peer review has emerged. There are exceptions to all of this of course, but I like the overall trends I’m observing: Blogs have become the norm. They are redefining the meaning of “mainstream media” and often determine what makes “news.” Best of all, they are changing perceptions of who scientists are and what we do. These are my thoughts on the flight home to Austin, and I’m curious to hear readers’ perspectives on the evolution of science blogging. If you are a blogger, when did you begin and what motivated your decision? If you’re a reader, do you enjoy the burgeoning community or feel lost because of information overload? Are your favorite blogs written by scientists, science journalists, or someone in between? The comment thread is yours for discussion, and I’ll be back to participate…

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