New paper on science community blogging!

I really don’t want the blog to turn into a platform for announcing personal papers, but this is another case that seems worthy of an exception. I am a coauthor on a paper that just appeared in Royal Society Open Science that focuses on science community blogging as an important type of blog. In the paper, we make the distinction between two types of blogging: science communication blogging and science community blogging. Science communication blogging is traditional scicomm: communicating science broadly, with non-scientists as a typical audience. Science community blogging, on the other hand, focuses on the process and culture of academia, with other scientists being the primary audience. Dynamic Ecology is pretty much entirely science community blogging. Some other blogs mix the two, and some are solidly on the science communication side of things. One of our arguments is that science community blogging is valuable, even though it often gets overlooked in discussions of science blogging. One piece of evidence supporting the assertion that science community blogs are overlooked: the Wilcox et al. book, Science Blogging: The essential guide, does not mention science community blogs, despite aiming to provide a comprehensive overview of science blogging.

Our new paper (which is open access so available to everyone!) discusses the reach of science community blogs and their value to the scientific community, including as a means of diffuse mentorship and as a means of contributing to scholarly discourse. The diffuse mentorship aspect of blogging is a key reason I blog. I think science community blogs are a great way of ensuring broader access to information that some people have but others do not (such as my post on how to format a CV for a faculty job application or Jeremy’s on how North American search committees work or Brian’s post on the five pivotal paragraphs in a paper). I also think science community blogging is a great way to raise issues that I think are important to consider (such as my posts on not needing to work 80 hours a week to succeed in academia or on being a scientist with an anxiety disorder). At this year’s ESA meeting, a surprising (to me) number of people thanked me for talking about these issues; my favorite may have been the person who stopped me and said “Thank you for being a real person!” This feedback meant a lot to me.

Our blogging paper was led by Manu Saunders of Ecology is Not a Dirty Word; she deserves a lot of the credit for this paper seeing the light of day! The other authors on the paper are Amy Parachnowitsch and Terry McGlynn from Small Pond Science, Margaret Kosmala of Ecology Bits, Simon Leather of Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, Jeff Ollerton of Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog, and Stephen Heard of Scientist Sees Squirrel. Simon, Jeff, and Steve were the ones who had the idea for the paper in the first place.

The abstract of our paper is below the break, as are links to posts at the other blogs:

The popularity of science blogging has increased in recent years, but the number of academic scientists who maintain regular blogs is limited. The role and impact of science communication blogs aimed at general audiences is often discussed, but the value of science community blogs aimed at the academic community has largely been overlooked. Here, we focus on our own experiences as bloggers to argue that science community blogs are valuable to the academic community. We use data from our own blogs (n=7) to illustrate some of the factors influencing reach and impact of science community blogs. We then discuss the value of blogs as a standalone medium, where rapid communication of scholarly ideas, opinions and short observational notes can enhance scientific discourse, and discussion of personal experiences can provide indirect mentorship for junior researchers and scientists from underrepresented groups. Finally, we argue that science community blogs can be treated as a primary source and provide some key points to consider when citing blogs in peer-reviewed literature.

My coauthors have posts today on their blogs, too! You can find them on Ecology is Not a Dirty Word, Scientist Sees Squirrel, Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog, and Small Pond Science.

5 thoughts on “New paper on science community blogging!

  1. Thanks to everyone for writing this, nice work!

    A few related old posts from me. The first one is about why I blog and the tangible and intangible rewards I get from it. The second is some advice to anyone thinking of starting a blog. The third are the slides from a talk I gave on science community blogging a couple of years ago (though I didn’t call it science community blogging). The last one points to an old paper of mine about science community blogging in economics, speculating whether ecology will ever have a blogosphere as active as the one in economics (I thought possibly not, in part because in economics there’s more overlap between economics community blogging and economics blogging for purposes of public outreach or to influence policy.)

    I’ll be talking about blogging again at URegina this spring. Looking forward to stealing some material from this paper. 🙂

  2. Congratulations! Great paper and an important topic. Several years ago, Christina Pikas did an analysis of then science blogosphere (that was before Pepsigate so many of the key blogs were still on Scienceblogs and several of the current networks were not in existence yet). She found interesting clusters of blogs (including the expected – blogs on the same scientific discipline link most to each other), especially interesting being a cluster of blogs that you call “community blogs”, at that time mainly written by women, and almost exclusively covering topics of strategy for survival and success in the world of academia. See it here:

    Of course, I have written about this before, many times (e.g. ) and was the very first person to have a blog post cited in a scientific paper (see and ) so find your discussion of this inteersting.

  3. Question for Meghan, and any of the other authors who happen to read this: how much do you think blogs like DE actually widen access to information about stuff like how faculty search committees work, how to format a cv, etc.? I ask for two reasons:

    -I imagine that some people who learn that stuff from DE (or some other blog) would’ve learned it anyway via some other means. For instance, a beginning grad student who reads my post on how faculty search committees work might well have learned that from a supervisor or labmates or whoever sometime before applying for faculty positions.

    -In principle, everyone can read a blog–but that doesn’t mean everyone does. In practice I wouldn’t be surprised if reading DE or other good science community blogs is correlated with other personal attributes or circumstances that cause you to know “how things are done” in ecology. For instance, having a good supervisor and lots of labmates to talk to might help you learn the ropes in ecology–and also clue you in to blogs that help you learn the ropes.

    • I learned a ton from DE as an advanced grad student. And I’m pretty sure much of it I wouldn’t have encountered in another way. A lot of the challenge is in knowing what the right questions are to ask. The next challenge is access. Grad students have smaller networks than postdocs and faculty. If you are, say, struggling with an anxiety disorder or are a new parent or have a limiting chronic health condition, you may not know anyone else with a similar situation; blogs open up access. And then there’s simply the benefit of multiple perspectives. I might learn “how to get a job” from my two senior graduate advisors, since they’ve been on numerous faculty search committees, but having the perspective of an early career person who’s been through it recently provides a lot of additional useful info. Finally, don’t forget that you don’t necessarily need to be a “blog reader” to get useful information. DE’s top posts (and those of other blogs) are *shared* by regular readers with their friends and colleagues who don’t necessarily read blogs normally. So I think the best (and most helpful) posts get shared widely with people who are not blog readers.

  4. As a non-scientist with an incurable interest in knowledge development, I’d be grateful for any pointers to what you call “science communication blogging”.

    If it helps, I’m particularly interested (well ok, obsessed) with our “more is better” relationship with knowledge, which I view as being simplistic, outdated, and increasingly dangerous. I’d be very interested in any thoughtful blogger who is arguing either for or against such propositions.

    I’ve reluctantly come to believe scientists are probably not the best people to explore this with, but due to their high intelligence, advanced education, and sincere interest in knowledge development I’m more than willing to give it a try.

    The ideal location for me would be a carefully moderated forum set up specifically to facilitate conversation between academics/scientists and the general public. Yea, I know, that’s probably asking too much, but a guy can dream, right?

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