Dissecting science blogs

Just like we learnt to dissect frogs in biology to learn what frogs are all about, here we dissect science blogs and find out what is happening within this sphere of cyberspace.

lets dissect!!

What is a science blog?

Who writes them? Who reads them?

What are the forms of communication used: facts / reports / opinion / critique / others?

How effective is it in public engagement with science?

All these questions are explored in an article which sampled 174 posts and 1409 comments from 11 science blogs.

Among the things in this study that stood out for me were:

Science blog readers: mostly from the scientific community or who have “some relationship with science”. This indicates there’s not as much public engagement in the form of non-scientists.

Too heterogeneous: wide variety of  “writing and authoring models” that does not enable it to be labelled a genre on its own. The only similarity is some science content. This variety of “forms and content” becomes a challenge instead of an opportunity for public engagement in science.

“Water cooler” environment: these blogs are often a forum for light banter and trivial evaluations and arguments, more of a conversation you have with mates at a water cooler. Also presents a sense of community where a stranger (new person) may feel awkward to join.

mates chat at a water cooler, newbie feels out of place

Integrated effort: to make science blogs more effective the author suggests joint effort by scientists, journalists, educators and other stakeholders to encourage more meaningful participation

Why would you visit a science blog?

Apparently if you are not a scientist or have no background in science you most likely have never visited a science blog! Do you agree?

And if you are one, your visits to a science blog would be more for entertainment than for rational discussions, what do you think?

**would like to say a quick welcome to Tom (from Fitchburg, MA) 🙂 i wrote up this post way before i got to know you are following our class blog and what a coincidence that your blog is called “dissectingpublicscience.com”!!


Kouper, I. (2010) Science blogs and public engagement with science: practices, challenges and opportunities. Journal of Science Communication, 9(1): 1-10.

Frog image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Red_eyed_tree_frog_dissection.jpg

Water cooler image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mainman/2799055684/?reg=1&src=sharev3


6 comments on “Dissecting science blogs

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! Yes, quite a coincidence. You have much higher class frogs to dissect than we can afford at Fitchburg State. BTW: The hyperlink to the article you mention is dead. Perhaps you could update? Or send me the pdf (tschoenf@fitchburgstate.edu)? And I’d love to have you critique our blog by the questions you pose from the article. Either here or as a reply to Mission on the blog.

    • Got it, thanks. In the meantime, I discovered that Jcom is an open access journal, so all of their articles are downloadable. I look forward to your comments. And good luck with the project.

  2. I like the picture of the frog, and how you related the analogy to dissecting science blogs! Well, I agree with the points that you have mentioned. I personally feel that most of the science blog readers are already in some part of a science community, with a topic that they specialise in. It is hard to reach out to the general public, as there is a stereotype that scientific topics are normally seen as ‘boring’ with ‘too much words’.

    I agree that if I were not majoring in science, browsing upon a science blog would not come across my mind. Science blogs are not as widely promoted, as compared to the entertainment news or shopping guides. To be honest, the only times that I have ever visited a science blog is when I have a laboratory report or an assignment topic that I need to find out more about. But, I have to say that the visit to the science blogs not only helps me with understanding about my topic, but it makes me feel like I have left the page with tons of other information that I have never thought about! 🙂

    Then again, as much as I enjoy knowing all these information, it is sad to say that I also feel that once my assignment is done, all these information that I have researched on would just becomes a load of random useful facts for dinner talks or entertainment purposes..

  3. I think that whether you read a science blog or not, is not dependent on whether you are a scientist or have a science background. I think it’s probably a lot more of – what you’re interested in. Also, I would imagine how well-known or well-advertised a blog is and how well it relates to the “ley man”, would affect the possibility of anyone reading it. Even I myself, having a science background, wouldn’t read something terribly complex or with lots of jargon for leisure (especially if it was something not in my field of expertise).

    I think the purpose of reading science blogs is diverse and different for individuals. Some people want to gather more knowledge or information on a topic that they are new to, while others already are well-versed in a topic but want more insight from a different perspective perhaps. Some people just want to understand and get in the hype of current news and thus be able to converse with others over dinners, like Suyin mentioned.

    Good job on the blog post!! (:

  4. Thanks suyinnn and Jessica! While i can see why the results of the study suggests most people who frequent science blogs have a connection with science, i do think that Jessica has a point about the interest factor. To me the study could have sampled more than 11 blogs, perhaps this is the reason they got results that seems a little bias, and they do mention this in the paper (about the small sample size).

    It is good to hear that suyinnn has benefited from a science blog before! Honestly i’m new to the world of blogs (yeah a little late huh!) and even though i have a science background i never thought to visit blogs for science updates because in my mind those are not credible sources of information. The source of updates in my field of interest comes from email and facebook groups! So those are rather ‘closed community’ approaches instead of publicly engaging.

    Interesting that both of you mentioned about topics for the dinner table, i do feel that having meaningful things to discuss which brings about awareness within our social circle is an effective channel for communication and you just never know what effect it has on the individuals…. sometimes it leads to great ideas and actions 🙂

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