Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Future of Science Blogging

Daniel Brown of Biochemical Soul is looking for feedback on the future of science blogging [Science Blogging: The Future of Science Communication & Why You Should be a Part of it].

Personally I don't think the science blogosphere is going to attract more than a few percent of scientists and science students. Most of them don't have the time or the interest. Most of my colleagues are completely turned off by blogs. They see blogs as a negative influence on science.

The science blogosphere is a fun and interesting playground for those of us who have eclectic interests and are willing to invest the time and effort to read a few dozen blogs a day, but that's not going to appeal to the average scientist. Daniel does a good job of listing all the benefits of blogging and reading blogs but, in my experience, none of these benefits are convincing for the average scientist.

Frankly I think that's a good thing. My experience with newsgroups over the past twenty years indicates that it's much better to have a small number of really dedicated and interested participants than to try and expand to cover everyone. Besides, the more science blogs there are out there, the most difficult it is to read them all.


  1. Thank you so much for the link, Larry. I've been enjoying your blog for quite some time.

    Couple of comments:
    1) I agree that at the present, interest in science blogs among scientists is scattered and fairly thin. I personally chalk this up to a) "old fogey syndrome" and b) the fact that science blogs are relatively new. I know of MANY students and postdocs that aren't even aware of the existence of the science blog.

    And of course there will always be a large group of people that don't have time or interest. Some of these are like those I know who refuse to read anything other than what is required for their particular field. That's fine - there not the people I'm trying to reach.

    But I wonder - will the general disinterest still be the case when the new generation of scientists reach higher status? My guess is no. I think there will be much more interest - especially if the new crop of scientists are informed of this potential avenue for enjoyment (but what do I know - I'm speculating here).

    As for the "it's a good thing to keep it small," I agree from a completely selfish perspective. More bloggers means potentially fewer readers for me.

    But I don't really care about that. As long as there are readers out there willing to read any science blogs and be reasonable skeptical and critically thinking, I'm happy.

    It's true that more science blogs = more stuff to wade through. But by the same argument one could say "there should be fewer scientists publishing primary research articles because there would otherwise be too much scientific knowledge to sift through."

    I think regardless of the number of blogs, the best will always come to the fore, if solely by "flocking" if nothing else.

    I don't think we're close to the "too many bloggers" point yet. Consider my field, developmental biology. I know of only one dedicated developmental biology blog written for scientists (the excellent Hoxful Monsters - a must read for developmental biologists) . I'd LOVE to see more.

    PZ and many others occasionally write on the topic (he is a dev biologist after all), but the point is that I think there are many niches still to be filled.

  2. For me personally science blogging and blogging in general has been a boon and a very agreeable outlet that can be shared with family and friends but with the considerable added bonus of getting connectivity with a much wider world.

    However, whether science blogging will actually contribute positively to formal science is more difficult to tell. At first site it appears that one can never get enough of connectivity and the benefits of the consequent information exchange, although as Larry points out there is such a thing as an overload/over production - a supply/demand mismatch.

    In the final analysis it is difficult to know where this is all taking us; the futurology problem. But then that has been true of many a social revolution; no one was really aware or could predict where, for example, new technology was taking them, or was even conscious that it was taking them anywhere at all.

    Science blogging a social revolution? Doubtful, but it might come up trumps or it might be a dead end, or it might just level out to a niche activity, who knows. But on blog like this we all know about processes that don’t really know where they are going, could be dead ends and yet...

    It’s the unknowns at this early stage of development that add to the interest and excitement of blogging.