Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rating Science Blogs

I received the following message this morning from Amy Liu of Blogged,com.
Dear Larry Moran,

Our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it an 8.0 score out of (10) in the Education/Science category of

This is quite an achievement! Science

We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style.

After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 8.0 score.

... Please accept my congratulations on a blog well-done!!
Sandwalk ranks 190th out of 822 science blogs. The top blog is Centauri Dreams an astronomy blog with a 9.8 rating. Bad Astronomy ranks 94th with an 8.9 rating.

I only recognized two blogs in the top 20: Science Blog (2nd 9.8), and Cosmic Variance (5th 9.8). In my opinion, Cosmic Variance deserves a high ranking, but so does Bad Astronomy for slightly different reasons. Science Blog is a joke, it just copies press releases.

Pharyngula (36th 9.1), The Genetic Geneologist (38th 9.0) and Aetiology (39th 9.0) make the top 40. Molecule of the Day (42nd 9.0), Discovering biology in a digital world (46th 9.0), Biocurious (47th 9.0), The Evilutionary Biologist (48th 9.0), and Sex, Genes & Evolution (49th 9.0) are in the next 20 top science blogs.

There are other ways of ranking science blogs. For example, they could be ranked by popularity as on Wilko [The Top 100 Science Blogs]. The problem with that ranking is that some of the best science blogs aren't even listed as science blogs (e.g. Bad Astrononmy).

I'm not under any illusions about the rankings of science blogs. They don't count for much in my book and I can't imagine that anyone is going to make a decision based on what reviewers say about a blog. But it does raise an important point. The world wide web is a mess. There's lots of inaccurate information out there and lots of blogs and web sites with hidden agendas that are not obvious. (See OpenCourseWare for one aspect of this bigger problem.)

The question is whether anything can be done about it. Is there any way to provide web users with a reliable way of determining what is accurate scientific information and what isn't? In the case of blogs, I suppose that forming clusters of blogs such as ScienceBlogsTM or Nature Network is one way.

Both of those groups are run by for-profit science magazines. It seems a shame that we have to rely on the private sector to put their stamp of approval on good science blogs. Besides, that's only going to work if the quality of blogs on such sites is maintained at a high level so that outsiders can trust them as authorities. So far, it seems to work reasonably well although there are a few mistakes now and then (cough, Framing Science, cough).


  1. Mine rated as 8.3. I agree with you there are much better blogs that deserve to be rated better.

  2. Maybe they dinged your blog for lack of science content. I enjoy this blog (obviously, since I still visit here), but frequently the posts have no appreciable science content:

    Congratulations Janet Stemwedel
    A Chip Bus in Ottawa
    Detect Alien DNA
    Lester B. Pearson
    Baldwin and Lafontaine

    or are abstracted to a meta-level of science (discussions about discussions of science) or are posts about posts on other science blogs.

  3. Ratings and rankings like that leave me cold because they (attempt to) impose an artificial taxonomy on phenomena that are inherently not classifiable into neat categories. The comment by anonymous precisely illustrates that: Sandwalk is not a purely "science/education" blog. It's also illustrated by the high rank given to a collector of press releases.

    One doesn't read blogs solely for the content, scientific or whatever it might be. One reads blogs in no little part because of the personal voice of the blogger.

  4. That score has nothing to do with the real quality and value of a blog. got 8.2 and I don't think Scienceroll is better than Sandwalk.

  5. 8.0? That's a B minus material, isn't it? No blog tenure for you.

  6. Hey, my astroblog is at number 3! So the ratings muts be right :-)

  7. Ian Musgrave says,

    Hey, my astroblog is at number 3! So the ratings must be right :-)

    Ohmygod! I didn't notice that. Well that changes everything. I guess the ratings are better than I thought. :-)