There are ecology blogs, but no ecology blogosphere

“Blogosphere” is the collective term for a bunch of blogs, especially blogs on the same subject. This post is about the ecology blogosphere–which doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of ecology blogs. Here’s one list, which has dozens of entries. And EcoBloggers aggregates the RSS feeds of numerous ecology blogs. But if you’re going to have a collective noun for something, that something probably ought to be more than just the sum of its parts. A multicellular organism is more than just a bunch of adjacent cells. A herd of cattle is more than just a bunch of individual cows that all happen to be standing near one another. A nation is more than just a bunch of individual people. EDIT: And I can’t believe I forgot the most obvious example: the biosphere is more than just a bunch of living organisms! 🙂

But while ecology has lots of blogs, it doesn’t have a blogosphere. Ecology blogs mostly do their own thing, and each mostly does different things than all the others. For instance, as of this writing, here are the topics of the most recent posts aggregated by EcoBloggers:

  • News about the data archiving policy at the Journal of Ecology
  • Why students don’t raise their hands in classrooms
  • Why debates at scientific meetings are a good thing
  • Indigenous rights, film, and empowerment
  • Semantic versioning for scientific software
  • Effects of ocean noise on killer whales
  • Transferable skills relating to academic authorship
  • The low visibility of queer scientists in Canada

And if you keep looking further back at the EcoBloggers feed, or if you look at other ecology blogs that aren’t aggregated by EcoBloggers, you’d just find more of the same.

Ecology isn’t alone in this. For instance, there’s no neuroscience blogosphere, apparently, although there are neuroscience blogs.

In contrast, economics has a blogosphere. Economist’s View isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good daily compilation of what economics bloggers are talking about. If you skim it, you’ll see that within a day or over the course of a few days, there often are numerous posts on the same or closely-related topics. Inequality, market bubbles, and the possibility of long-term stagnation of US economic growth are among the popular topics recently. And many of posts discuss posts from other authors, so that there’s a lot of two-way and multi-way conversation among different blogs. See, for instance, this compilation of recent posts on economic inequality, or this compilation of posts about a quite technical modeling issue.

And while I know other blogospheres less well, my sense is that at least some of them are more like the economics blogosphere than the ecology “blogosphere”. For instance, it’s my impression that the science blogosphere often engages in widespread discussion of events like the recent sexual harassment case at Scientific American. And there’s widespread, ongoing discussion in the science blogosphere of topics ranging from open access publication to “data science” to “the replication crisis”.

So why is the ecology blogosphere just a bunch of independent blogs rather than a true blogosphere? Here are some speculations (which aren’t mutually exclusive; I think the lack of an ecology blogosphere is overdetermined):

  • Too few ecology blogs? Maybe. But I’m not sure number of blogs per se is the main issue. At least not independent of other factors. There are enough ecology blogs in the world that, if other conditions were met, I think you could have an ecology blogosphere.
  • Most ecology blogs post infrequently? This is part of it. You can’t have a discussion involving many people if the large majority of people only speak at widely-spaced, irregular intervals.
  • Ecology bloggers care about different things? This is a big one. Even if there aren’t many blogs and their authors only post infrequently and irregularly, you could still have a blogosphere if authors all felt moved to post on the same stuff at the same time. But with rare exceptions (e.g., this), ecology blogs mostly don’t post in reaction to one another. Speaking only for myself, that’s for a few reasons. My interests and expertise are sufficiently different from those of other ecology bloggers that I don’t often feel like I can do more than comment on their posts. I don’t often feel like I have enough to add to do a whole post in reaction to someone else’s. Plus, I can’t find enough time to write all the posts I’ve already thought of myself, never mind any that might happen to be inspired by reading someone else’s blog. So while I do read and comment on other ecology blogs, I don’t often post in response to them.
  • Ecology bloggers would rather comment instead of post? Following on from the previous bullet: instead of commenting on someone else’s blog, I could present my comment as a short post on my own blog instead. But I don’t often do that, because I want my posts to be more substantive than that. And while I guess I could comment and post, that would be repetitive. But I suppose this attitude, if it’s widely shared (I have no idea if it is or not), could be a factor. Economics bloggers often post themselves rather than, or in addition to, commenting on one another’s posts.
  • Ecology isn’t news-driven? This is another big one. Economics is news driven. For instance, every US economics bloggers agrees that things like meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee and releases of key economics data are big news. And big economic news events happen frequently. The same is true for, say, political blogs. And as noted above, lots of general science blogs often react to the same news. But there aren’t any frequent news events on which a large fraction of ecology bloggers all want to comment. I mean, yes, ecology-related news comes out every day–but rarely are the stories so big as to demand everyone’s attention.
  • Too little popular interest in ecology, or too little overlap between topics of academic and popular interest? A guest post here once suggested that one reason the economics blogosphere is vibrant is popular interest in economics. Posts of interest to academics also are of interest to many non-academics. This encourages economists to blog (because it’s easy to build an audience), and encourages them to blog about the same topics (namely, topics of interest to a popular audience), thereby helping to build and sustain a blogosphere. But on the other hand, it’s been suggested that neuroscience lacks a blogosphere (at least one in which professionals address one another) for a similar reason. Lots of people are interested in the brain, and so neuroscience bloggers all get sucked into writing popular posts for a non-professional audience, leaving no one writing posts aimed at other professionals. So maybe the key thing here is not so much whether or not there’s popular interest, but the extent to which the interests and expertise of the general populace overlaps with that of academics. I do think that overlap is lower in ecology than in economics. Certainly, it’s hard for me to imagine many people outside of academia being interested in most of the stuff I post! 🙂 (Heck, I’m still pleasantly surprised that there any academics who want to read some of the highly idiosyncratic stuff I write) An interesting comparison here would be physics, where there’s lots of popular interest in certain topics that are also of interest to academics. Anyone know anything about the vibrancy of the physics blogosphere?
  • Ecology blogs mostly don’t join in larger conversations? There may be something to this, though I can really only speak for Dynamic Ecology. Different blogospheres overlap; there are no hard and fast boundaries. For instance, like many ecology blogs we often post on topics of broad interest to scientists or even academics. Very occasionally, one of those posts leads to us becoming heavily involved in a broader conversation in some larger blogosphere, such as with my post on “E. O. Wilson vs. math”. But we sometimes consciously avoid talking about or even linking to topics that are being widely discussed in larger blogospheres. Often that’s because we don’t feel like we have anything to say that hasn’t been said already. And we want to remain an ecology blog rather than getting sucked into becoming too much of a science blog or academic blog. But in any case, this seems mostly irrelevant to me. I don’t see why the level of involvement of ecology blogs in the broader scientific and academic blogospheres would have much to do with the existence of a specifically ecological blogosphere.
  • Ecology lacks topics that are suitable for long-running debates or other drivers of extended conversations? This is a factor. For instance, one common sort of post for ecology blogs (and the only sort of post for some, such as journal-associated blogs) is summaries of recently-published papers. But there aren’t many single papers that are suitable as fodder for a big extended conversation involving a bunch of different ecologists. And there are exceptions that seem to prove the rule here. For instance, it’s my impression that one bit of ecology that does have a blogosphere is climate change work. Presumably because that’s a topic about which there are long-running controversies, which can fuel long-running conversations. But surely there’s more that goes into determining whether a topic can serve as fodder for a long-running conversation besides whether or not it’s controversial?
  • Ecology blogs aren’t a “club”? Some longstanding and widely-read science blogs comprise a sort of informal club. The authors know each other, intermingle the professional and personal, and often link to and discuss each other’s posts. Ecology has this to a much lesser extent, and it mainly manifests in the comments. For instance, many of our most active commenters here at Dynamic Ecology are ecologists with their own blogs. But it tends not to go further than linking to or commenting on the posts of others, and hardly ever involves intermingling of the professional and personal. I think this is a good thing, on balance. A blogosphere that comprises a bunch of friends having a conversation (complete with inside jokes, an expectation that everyone involved is familiar with the entire past history of the conversation, etc.) is one that “outsiders” might not find inviting. But my thoughts on this one are pretty tentative. (Aside: you might be surprised to learn that Dynamic Ecology itself is run by three people who hardly know each other. Brian, Meg, and I actually are looking forward to this year’s ESA meeting so that all three of us can talk face-to-face for the first time!)
  • Ecologists don’t really know anything about ecology (which is really complicated), and recognize this, so most have the good sense to keep their mouths shut rather than open them and remove all doubt? It’s been suggested that that’s why neuroscience has no blogosphere. But I have no idea if that applies to ecology at all. I mean, if nothing else, why can’t you blog about what you want to learn (as opposed to what you already know), and how one might go about discovering it? Plus, there are numerous ecology labs that blog about their own research, which you wouldn’t think they’d do if ecologists were all secretly embarrassed at their own collective ignorance about ecology.

Is it a bad thing that there’s no ecology blogosphere? If so, should ecologists try to bring it into existence? My answers are “I dunno”, and “no”. I have argued in the past that there would be benefits to ecology as a whole from having something closer to the economics blogosphere. In particular, I think it would be both fun and tremendously useful if our many important debates didn’t play out solely at the snail’s pace of journal articles, or in venues that can only be attended by limited numbers of people. But on the other hand, maybe there would be hidden costs to ecological research if lots of ecologists committed as much time to blogging as would be needed for ecology to have an economics-type blogosphere (like everything, blogging has opportunity costs). And there are some benefits to having a bunch of independent blogs, but no blogosphere. It prevents “echo chambers” or “groupthink” from developing. And it ensures that readers constantly encounter new ideas and information they didn’t even know they wanted to read about. In any case, no matter what sort of blogosphere would fit ecology best, I don’t really see much that can or should be done to bring it into existence, besides “individuals deciding to allocate their time however seems best to them.” I mean, I definitely don’t think that ecologists who don’t blog, or who blog but don’t post much, or who don’t post on the same stuff others post on, are doing it wrong! (see here and here) And while I certainly have my own opinions as to what sort of blogosphere ecology would be best off with, I don’t know that I trust my own opinions more than the collective decision-making of my colleagues. Maybe the best way to find out what sort of blogosphere (or the lack thereof!) would fit ecology best is just relying on individuals to make their own decisions. Much as the best way to find out what phenotype would be best-adapted to a given environment is to let evolution by natural selection work its magic. For various reasons (e.g., a long tradition of preprint sharing), economists were “preadapted” to have the sort of blogosphere they now have. But the only sort of blogosphere ecology will ever get–and maybe the best sort for ecology–is the sort that emerges from individuals deciding for themselves if and how they want to blog.*

*Those individual decisions need to be informed ones, of course. Ecology definitely misses out if people choose not to blog because they don’t know or misunderstand what blogs can be used for, or because they stick with old ways of working purely out of habit, or whatever. For instance, here’s Rich Lenski talking about how hearing a talk by a colleague convinced him to start blogging. But I have no idea how many ecologists would start blogging if they had more or different information. It might not be that many. After all, the many readers of this and other ecology blogs presumably are well-informed about the value of blogs, what it’s like to blog, etc.–but only a very small fraction choose to blog themselves.

39 thoughts on “There are ecology blogs, but no ecology blogosphere

    • Thanks! Though that may mean I was a bit unclear. I really am sure that there’s no ecology blogosphere (though there are ecology blogs). I’m just not sure why that is.

  1. Really great post Jeremy. I particular think there are some broader transformative issues (going beyond blogosphere) hidden in:
    ◾Ecology isn’t news-driven?
    ◾Too little popular interest in ecology, or too little overlap between topics of academic and popular interest?
    ◾Ecology blogs mostly don’t join in larger conversations?

    I wonder how some of your observations would change if ecology had a stronger direct feed into and back from the broader environmental sciences?

    • “Really great post Jeremy.”


      “I wonder how some of your observations would change if ecology had a stronger direct feed into and back from the broader environmental sciences?”

      I’m not sure. If you look at the EcoBloggers feed, ecology blogs as a group already cover a quite broad range of stuff, including other environmental sciences. So I’m not sure that breadth of subject matter, or the nature of the subject matter (e.g., how “applied” is it?) are issues per se.

  2. Excellent post.

    Here is my take on the subject: less and less people comment on blogs (, most of the discussion happens on twitter. The ecology community is *incredibly* active there — which is a good thing, but (imho) decreases involvment in blogs, which is probably the reason for which there is no ecological blogosphere.

    On the other hand, a few words about EcoBloggers (as a co-instigator of it): ecology is a very broad field, that reaches all the way from mostly mathematics to social sciences. And all the way from the fondamental to the applied. Computational vs. field, experimental vs. theoretical, etc etc. So in a way, it makes sense that the posts reflect this variety of subject. I’d even say it’s a good thing, because we can read things which are different from what we/our colleagues do.

    • Good point re: the discussion maybe happening on Twitter rather than in the comments section. Certainly, most of our posts get more retweets than comments* (and that’s true even though we get lots of comments). But on the other hand, it depends what you mean by “discussion”. I do lurk and keep an eye on Twitter discussions of our posts, and mostly it’s just people RTing or liking the original tweet announcing the post. Few people even say anything as brief as “I agree!” or “Rubbish!” or whatever. So I’m not sure that, if Twitter didn’t exist, the people who are tweeting about blog posts would be commenting instead. I don’t know that tweets are competitive with blog comments, at least to any important degree. But I’m just speculating here, I don’t really know.

      EDIT: *Although this particular post is drawing more comments than retweets so far… 🙂

      • Valid point about people not discussing the blog posts on Twitter. But what I meant to say is that there is a discussion nonetheless — even if it’s not, specifically, about the blog posts. Yes it is frustrating to write a long text and not have comments (or feedback, because comments are really good for that), but the fact that ecologists are active on twitter mean that we’re not just talking in a vacuum.

        On the other hand, even very successful aggregators (R-bloggers for instance) are not a blogosphere either. Which do not mean that (1) there is no readership and (2) the content is not interesting. I think the main problem is the lack of comments, and (unless we all start writing inflammatory things on purpose just to get people to yell at us!) I don’t see how we can change that.

      • @Tim:

        “I think the main problem is the lack of comments, and (unless we all start writing inflammatory things on purpose just to get people to yell at us!) I don’t see how we can change that.”

        Well, we get lots of comments here, and we don’t write inflammatory things on purpose just to get people to yell at us! (I know some people think I do that sometimes, but honestly I don’t! It’s just that it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between “Jeremy Fox writing inflammatory things on purpose just to get people to yell at him” and “Jeremy Fox having odd but sincere opinions and expressing them badly”) 🙂

        I agree with you in part and disagree in part. I have an old post with blogging advice, including advice on drawing traffic (and hopefully comments) without trolling: I do think ecology bloggers could do some of those things if they chose. In particular, decent traffic is a necessary precondition for getting a decent number of comments, and if you want decent traffic consistently (as opposed to every once in a while when one of your posts happens to go viral), you pretty much have to post often. It might seem like that shouldn’t be true in this age of RSS feeds, but for the most part it is.

        But yeah, I agree that even if you do everything right, it’s quite possible that your blog won’t draw lots of traffic, or will draw lots of traffic but very few comments. So I freely admit we’re lucky here at Dynamic Ecology. By which I mean, I can’t fully explain why we get lots of comments and some other very good blogs (within and outside ecology) don’t.

        tl;dr: If you want your blog to get comments, you need to be both good and lucky. 🙂

      • Another thought: I wonder if part of the reason Twitter isn’t competitive with our comments is that we’re not on Twitter? There is a Dynamic Ecology Twitter feed, but it’s just a robot that announces new posts. And Meg’s the only one of us who’s on Twitter herself. So if you want to have a conversation with the post author, then at least for posts by Brian and I you have no choice but to comment on the blog (well, or email us, I guess). In contrast, as much as Athene Donald might prefer that people comment on her blog rather than tweet at her about her posts, you can tweet at her and she will respond.

  3. Based on the recent events in the self-titled “science blogosphere,” I have soured a bit on the desirability of a blogosphere elsewhere (paleontology in my case, which parallels the issues you describe in ecology), pretty much for the reasons you note. I _strongly_ suspect that the clubby nature of some science blogs contributed to, or at the very least exacerbated, problems with harassment…a strong downside of the “club” is that it can create cults of personality which can swing things up in a negative way.

    • Interesting that the paleontology blogosphere is more or less like ecology’s. I had that impression, but wasn’t really sure. Interesting b/c paleontology is another field like economics, where there’s substantial public interest in certain bits of it. And like economics, it seems like there’s something of a continuum of expertise and knowledge in paleontology–there are lots of keen amateur fossil hunters, right?

      I agree that “clubby” blogospheres are a very mixed bag. But the example of economics shows that you can have a blogosphere worthy of the name *without* that clubbiness. Indeed, perhaps one could argue that the economics blogosphere exists (in part) precisely because it’s *anti*-clubby. It exists in part because lots of economists not only disagree with each other, but really don’t like each other on a personal level. Now, that too obviously has various undesirable consequences; I certainly wouldn’t hold up the economics blogosphere as the Platonic ideal.

      Which raises an interesting question: what field, if any, has an ideal blogosphere? One in which there’s a lot of serious discussion and debate, and in which there’s a good mix of “everyone talking about the same stuff” and “everyone talking about their own stuff”, but where’s there’s neither “clubbiness” nor its opposite?

      • There are certainly some high profile paleontology-themed blogs–Laelaps and Tetrapod Zoology are perhaps the best examples–but I think for the most part they get subsumed into the larger “science blogosphere”. There really is a lot of overlap. Maybe that’s the same case for ecology?

        I think an ideal blogosphere is in the eye of the beholder (paralleling what Fabian said below). In terms of what I want to get out of blogging and reading blogs, I am fairly satisfied with the paleontology blogosphere as it exists right now. Blogging has done a good job of helping me push for the change in the field that I want to see, (mostly) tastefully communicate my own research, work out ideas, learn about new research, make professional contacts, etc.

      • “There are certainly some high profile paleontology-themed blogs–Laelaps and Tetrapod Zoology are perhaps the best examples–but I think for the most part they get subsumed into the larger “science blogosphere”. There really is a lot of overlap. Maybe that’s the same case for ecology?”

        Good question, to which I don’t know the answer. As I kind of implied in the post, Meg, Brian, and I think of Dynamic Ecology as an ecology blog, not as a broader science or academia blog. But I couldn’t say if that’s how readers see us. Probably depends on the reader.

        “I think an ideal blogosphere is in the eye of the beholder.”

        I’m sure that’s true. I actually don’t even know what the “ideal” blogosphere for ecology would look like, though I have some sense of the pluses and minuses of different sorts of blogospheres. I mostly just care about this blog, frankly. It’s exactly as you say–if I’m accomplishing what I want to accomplish by writing this blog and reading other blogs (and I am), then I’m happy.

      • “As I kind of implied in the post, Meg, Brian, and I think of Dynamic Ecology as an ecology blog, not as a broader science or academia blog. But I couldn’t say if that’s how readers see us. Probably depends on the reader.”

        I personally think of it as an ecology blog that engages with many issues relevant to broader science (including paleontology). So, maybe you’re not as isolated as you think!

  4. Hi Jeremy,

    interesting post! I think you’re right that there are differences between the structure of blog networks in different fields and also compared to the popular science scene.

    One additional thing that strikes me in comparison to Econ and Stats is WHO is blogging, seems to me their big old names are a lot more active than in ecology. Is it cause or effect of the different network – who knows? I sometimes regret that we hear and see little from the “idols” of our field via blogs (with the exception of dynamic ecology of course 😉 )

    What I feel uneasy about is saying that we don’t have a “blogosphere”, it sounds as if we are missing something others have. May be we could have more people commenting, may be we could cross-link more, but all in all I feel we really have an excellent community of blogs in ecology, so why not just saying the ecological blogosphere is different, and that’s it?

    • Yes, in economics everybody who’s anybody has a blog. That’s for various reasons. And yes, one effect of that may well be to encourage “unknowns” to blog. But not necessarily. Noah Smith, a prominent economics blogger who began blogging as a grad student and only just became an asst. prof, has talked about how worried he was that blogging would hurt his career ( So even in economics, it’s definitely not the case that everybody thinks blogging is great and is rushing out to do it. (EDIT: Noah’s also written recently about his “heroes of blogging”: the bloggers he admired, whose examples inspired him to blog himself:

      A while back we speculated on whether Rich Lenski’s foray into blogging might encourage others to consider doing the same (

      And thanks for the kind words, but nobody who writes here is one of the “idols” of the field, at least not in the sense of someone like Paul Krugman or Greg Mankiw or Rich Lenski! Especially not me–insofar as I have a “profile” at all, it’s *because* of the blog. The causality for me runs from “blog readership” to “having a bit of a profile”, not the other direction. Indeed, I’ve talked a bit in the past about how it feels kind of weird to me (*very* flattering, but also weird) that anyone would ever think of me as some big shot famous ecologist because of my blog. I’m just not used to anyone thinking of me that way, even in jest.

      As I hope the post made clear, I’m not complaining or bemoaning that ecology doesn’t have a blogosphere. I’m just noting that it doesn’t, and musing about why that might be, because I think it’s interesting to think about.

  5. Academics communicate among themselves. A prevalent fear of developing a popular (unprofessional) reputation silences most of their bloggy urges. Of course, lecturing, good science, and the requirement to publish don’t leave time for much else.

    • “Academics communicate among themselves. A prevalent fear of developing a popular (unprofessional) reputation silences most of their bloggy urges.”

      I’m sure there’s something to that. Indeed, that’s kind of something Meg and I both worry about from time to time (not Brian as far as I know, I think he’s fearless). Not that we’re worried about getting a reputation as “popular” (and therefore unserious), because this blog isn’t aimed at a “popular” audience at all. But I have worried about whether particular posts, or blogging in general, would cause colleagues to see me as a self-promoting jerk (and honestly, I’m sure at least a few do).

      And yes, while blogging isn’t as a big a time commitment for me as probably many people think it is, it absolutely is a non-trivial time commitment. Which is a big reason why there aren’t more ecology blogs. But then again, the example of economics is instructive. Does Paul Krugman or Greg Mankiw (or Noah Smith) really have fewer demands on his time than ecologists? I doubt it! So it’s not really “lack of time” that’s the issue, it’s time allocation choices. I suspect there’s a collective action problem here. If there were a true ecology blogosphere and it were really large, probably ecologists wouldn’t feel like they were too busy to blog. Because the expected payoff to allocating some time to blogging would be bigger, more certain, and more obvious.

    • p.s. To continue the thought, the lack of large, obvious, certain payoffs to blogging is probably part of why the ecology blogs we do have don’t comprise a blogosphere. If there’s no payoff to blogging, then you’re probably going to do it just because you’ve got some things you just have to get off your chest. Or as notes to yourself about your ongoing work, which you put online on the off chance anyone happens to be interested. Etc. All of which are very good reasons to blog, at least as good as a young economist deciding “I want to be part of the online conversation that’s so central to economics”. But none of which are going to tend to lead to an ecology blogosphere, because they’re all very personal reasons.

  6. It’s really too bad that ecology is not like the climate change globosphere, where everyone who’s anyone gloms onto the latest popular dust up over something or other that somebody said somewhere, perhaps to Congress, perhaps on a blog somewhere, wherein much heat and little light regarding topics that are actually important and unclear, emanates. It’s also quite enjoyable to read posts on how many years are necessary to determine whether a trend exists, and whether or not there’s been a “hiatus” in global warming since [pick favorite start year], and other fascinating statistical concepts.

    • Yes, that’s another reason why having a blogosphere isn’t necessarily a good thing. Even in economics, which I do think has a very good and useful blogosphere in many ways, it’s common for comment threads to get derailed or dragged down by uninformed, politically-driven, or just plain crazy comments. For instance, the comment threads for Nick Rowe’s posts at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative often are informed and informative. But at lots of other econ blogs, including many of the most prominent ones (e.g., Krugman), I can’t see why anyone would bother commenting or reading the comments, the threads are so bad.

      Which is actually kind of interesting now that I think about it. The example of economics would seem to suggest that you can have a good blogosphere *despite*, rather than (in part) *because* of the quality of the comment threads.

      • To me, the comments are just as important as the post itself, in how I evaluate the quality of a blog. It’s absolutely astounding to me how some scientists can just allow almost any crap in the comments, with seemingly no quality moderation or sense of purpose. It’s a pretty clear indicator to me that they just don’t really care all that much about generating a productive discussion–they just care about their post, but not really the discussion. When I tried to raise the issue with at least one of these people, the answer I got was pretty much “Well, whatever, they’re going to say whatever they want, it’s not that important”. WTF???

  7. Anyway, the answer to your question is that in ecology we lack enough blogs saying sufficiently stupid things that can generate the activation energy necessary for a good, self-sustaining food fight. Some of us are working to redress that however.

  8. I’ve continued to think about this, and there are two explanations that have really stood out to me. First, Economics is fundamentally political in a way that academic ecology (and neuroscience…) is not. You don’t really see big discussions in the economics blogosphere about Theory or decision-making or any of that; it’s mostly macro-level stuff that people have VERY STRONG OPINIONS ABOUT.

    The other is the broadness (and technicality) of both ecology and neuroscience. We have a learning&memory journal club that generally ends up with a minimal amount of discussion of the papers; it’s hard to have really strong criticisms of the varied molecular, cellular, and behavioral data because there’s so many technical details that we know nothing about! On the other hand, we had a vigorous discussion when we went over a paper where humans stimulated in a certain area of the brain reported feelings of intense motivation. It turns out, everyone knows what it feels like to feel intensely motivated and have VERY STRONG OPINIONS ABOUT IT.

    And yet – both neuroscience and ecology COULD be news driven. There are plenty of articles and news topics published every week that are related to concepts in neuroscience and ecology.

    In this general vein, Bradley Voytek has suggested creating a “NeuroLog” (re: LanguageLog) to gather a bunch of experts in one place to squabble about…whatever. But given point 2 above, I’d really like to see something like a “CompNeuroLog”, “BehavioralNeuroLog”, etc…it’s just a matter of finding all those people. Because I know that I have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about a lot of computational neuroscience 😉

    • Well, you do see big discussions about theory and highly technical concepts in the econ blogosphere. I think I remembered to link to one of them in the post (a discussion about a technical mathematical condition called the Euler condition and its role in macroeconomic modeling). But I actually do think you’re right, in that the ultimate motivation for caring about those technical issues is that political conclusions (not to mention the lives of millions of people!) ultimately are at stake.

      And yeah, economics bloggers as a group definitely have strongly-held opinions. So do Brian, Meg, and I, though not about everything of course. I think you’re right that that’s a trait bloggers tend to share. I do think it would be hard to blog well if you didn’t have *some* strong opinions. Also enough self-confidence to be comfortable voicing those opinions to anyone. (I’d think even blogging under a pseudonym requires some self-confidence).

    • I had forgotten it exists! I think I glanced at it once yonks ago and didn’t find it useful, but I can’t really recall.

      I’m not much of an “aggregator” person in general. I know Brian swears by them, as do others, which is fine. But they don’t really suit my way of reading. I don’t even subscribe to RSS feeds.

      You may commence mocking me as a Luddite…now! 🙂

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