Aside

In recent years, the online media and the use of the Internet has grown exponentially due to the widespread and growth of technology. Goods and services have started to become available and easily assessable online. People can purchase goods and merchandise from their favorite stores on different websites in the comfort of their own homes. Stores are even setting up worldwide delivery and shopping has never been easier. Even food can be delivered into the comfort of one’s own home via a few clicks of the mouse.

Schools and universities have also incorporated the online media into the curriculum. In UWA, students are given assess to online lectures and the freedom to choose when to listen to the uploaded lectures. The Internet is so prominent that it is crucial to know how to use it to our benefit. Hence, scientists are stepping up and publishing blog entries to get in touch with a larger audience. Blog entries give opportunities to individuals to express their view on a given subject and the liberty of sharing an idea (like how this blog entry is supposed to influence and generate comments from my fellow peers). But how does blogs open up areas of science for the public? Trench’s (2012) article on Scientists’ blogs: glimpses behind the scenes explore this question.

I like how Trench describes blogs as ‘More conversational internet media, specifically as web logs (blogs)’ (Trench, 2012). So, what goes on behind the scenes? Or how does communication affect the conduct of science? To answer these questions, we would have to first look at the growth of science blogging, the benefits of science blogging, features of scientists’ blogs, and the special case of climate science.

The slow growth of Science blogging

The number of blogs has grown increasingly as more and more people get involved into the blogosphere. In most cases, bloggers write about entries related to their areas of interest, sharing information and opinions about a particular subject. Some academic researchers have ventured into the area of blogging, but those are mostly subjects on literature, political philosophy, and popular culture. The topics of natural science are hardly blogged about, and science blogs still remains as a ‘niche activity’.

Uses and Impacts of Science blogging

  • Science blogging influencing the practice of science. Science blogging allows room for discussion and generation of new ideas.
  • A form of communication between the science community and general public. This allows interaction with the audience, engaging them with different topics and building relations in the process.
  • Putting a ‘human face’ to science and health related issues. Science blogging allows the scientist to give his or her own personal experiences and opinion and the freedom to express accordingly.

Features of Scientists’ Blogs

  • Good web conduct, including proper references, sources and content.
  • Frequent updates, to keep readers updated.
  • Different types of sources, to spark interest of the audiences.
  • All types of information featured, including topics such as controversy and ethics than with science content. This also helps make the topic more relatable for the audiences.

The Special Case of Climate Science

Climate science is unpredictable and seen to have strong political and ethical implications. The area of climate science is strongly associated to the media, as the change in climate generally affects everybody, and weather is a highly talked about topic. It is noted that blog entries about climate change politics are mostly highly opinionated with subjective judgments from the writer which may not be 100% scientific accurate.

With the rise of the online media, it is definitely easier to reach out to a larger audience through the use of technology. Hence, scientists have to keep up with the new age of technology and incorporate the usage of the online media to publish their works. I personally think that online interactive media further helps to spark the interest of the public (as compared to boring journal articles that are just words and numbers). What is your take about scientists’ blogs? Do you think it is effective in sparking the interest of the public?

References

9GAG. (2012). Chemistry Cat [Image]. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from <http://s3-ak.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/terminal01/2011/7/26/11/enhanced-buzz-14281-1311694183-9.jpg&gt;

Trench, B. (2012) Scientists’ Blogs: Glimpses behind the scenes. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, 28(6): 273-289.

Scientist’s blogs

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8 comments on “Scientist’s blogs

  1. Really interesting post and I loved the joke (but I’m cheesy like that!).

    Science blogs definitely bridge the gap between the general public and scientists because they tend to be more conversational, simplify complex science into manageable concepts and are hopefully thought-provoking.

    One thing worth mentioning though is that a blogs followers already tend to share the same views as the blogger. So do blogs really serve to generate new ideas?

    In my opinion they still can. Those that don’t have a varied following or active discussion are probably not worth following in the first place.

    I subscribe to ‘The Conversation’ and find it to be extremely thought-provoking. Most ideas discussed are not exactly mainstream and get quite a reaction in the comments section. Many viewers are senior academics who are widely read and can back up their opinion with actual research. Afterall, not all opinions are created equal. You should only be entitled to an opinion you can actually back up.

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you like the joke!

      Yes, I agree with you that most blog followers are following blogs that share the same views or interest as them (or why would they subscribe to it). However, I guess that it is up to the bloggers job to spark the interest of the readers, such as providing information from another perspective or including other elements of suspense to create conversation and interaction with their readers.

      A blogger worth mentioning is a Singaporean lady called Wendy aka Xiaxue (http://xiaxue.blogspot.com.au/). Yeah I know that she is not a scientist or scientist’s blog, but she receives 40,000 views each day from people all around the world. Imagine the amount of things you can reach out to people! She also does a pretty good job and engaging her audience is various means and ways. It is interesting to read her posts and listen to what she has to say, even though you may or may not agree with her.

  2. I hold a negative opinion on blogging. I think blog is dying. It feels awkward to say that on WordPress. What Facebook and Twitter is bringing to us is just like blog did last century replacing Chatroom and forum. Chatrooms and forums lost their power for lack of personal specificity, which became a huge advantage of blog. However, social networks is making us connected without taking away our personal specificity. The front page of Facebook is like a forum and every person’s page (or timeline) is just like a blog diary. Maybe I’m to radical about the shifting online medium. but this is what I think is happening. Here is an interesting article about blog: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/01/29/why-are-americas-fastest-growing-companies-killing-their-blogs/.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      With the rise of social networks, the lives of people are definitely affected by the online media, be it directly or indirectly. Coming from my own personal experience, I believe that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram plays a huge role in the lives of many teenagers and university students. It is definitely easier to comment and post an entry on Facebook or Twitter. You can even post pictures that you took with your phone in a few seconds.

      That being said, do you think that scientists should get Facebook or Twitter accounts to promote science? I know that even Barack Obama has a Twitter account run by his campaign staff (https://twitter.com/BarackObama).

  3. That cat joke attracted me to your post! While the use of internet has become widespread, i don’t think blogs are a very popular media for spreading scientific ideas. Although i am from a science background, i’ve never considered blogs as a source of science info. In fact, my German friend just told me he has never heard of blogs! I wonder what is the percentage of internet users who would follow a blog, much less a science blog.
    So as Diana pointed out, science blogs attract people of similar interests and are quite oblivious to anyone else… which brings me to the point about reaching out to the public… i think it will be a very selective public audience.
    I quite agree with Axl that blogging seems to be on the way out, with other media which are more fast paced and easy to update becoming more popular means of creating online communities and disseminating information. But you are right that science blogs are more attractive than journals and would be a good way to communicate science to young people, just perhaps needs to be “forced”, like our class blog, which is a more appealing way to publish reports/assignments and get feedback 🙂

    • Thanks for you comment! I’m glad you like the cat joke too!

      Even though the number of blog users are dying out with the rise of the social media (as what we assumed), I think some blogs are still interesting, maybe just not the blogs related to science. Take a look at http://xiaxue.blogspot.com.au/. This blog has 40,000 views from people each day around the world.

      Science blogs are definitely more attractive than journals and articles. However, for creditability purposes, we still refer to journals and articles to do our assignments. I like how you mention about our class blog, I quite enjoy the idea of getting back to blogging 😛 It is also a more attractive way to do our assignments! I know that the communications class use Twitter as a platform to post feedback and comment on their classmate’s post.

  4. I agree with djasudasen, while blogging can decrease the gap between scientists the public understanding, it maybe less effective. However, if the blogs posts are specifically directed, the post comments are open and for discussion.

    But the fact that science blogs arouse interests, in my opinion is true. Young people and I mean those of us new to this learning tool can appreciate it for now. Finds it interacting and can learn from what others have to present on an issue.

    Therefore, science blogging can be an effective means of communicating science.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      To be honest, I felt a little exposed and awkward about posting my blog comments and entries when I first started using this wordpress account for SCOM. Everyone with access to the internet would be able to see what I am writing, and the thought of how our comments were being graded gave me a weird feeling. I felt really cautious that I was exposing my assignments for the whole wide world to see!

      That being said, I slowly grew to like the idea of how we are able to interact with one another via this online forum. Because our blog entries were a graded assignment, it also made us write in proper english and in a formal manner. I like how we are given the freedom and liberty to agree and disagree with one another, and provide other sustainable evidence or information to support our stand. 🙂

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