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?


9GAG. (2012). Chemistry Cat [Image]. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from <;

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

Scientist’s blogs


What makes a good science podcast?

You are asking the right person, I am subscribed to 20 of them (a few more since I read this paper).

But first, the ideal show, according to listeners of Astronomy Cast (Gay, Bembrose-Fetter, Bracey and Cain, 2007), contains two hosts, includes interviews with real scientists, five-minute news updates and information on events related to the shows topic. While I don’t necessarily have any disagreement with what they have to say here, there are few points on which I really agree with them.

The reasons listeners said they liked Astronomy Cast was because they were “intellectually stimulating” and “not dumbed down”. I like to listen to podcasts that are well outside the areas that I studied because they are more challenging. This is what I like most about the multitude of podcasts that I listen to.

Bear in mind that I have a background in science and most of the respondents to the survey also have a general interest in science (although it is not clear if the podcast inspires people to seek out more science or if they were listening to the podcast because they were interested in science). I am not sure if the same criteria would be held for people without a background in science.

This does raise an interesting point, that the internet provides the opportunity for tailoring information for very niche markets (I use the word market loosely because they are free) and on a global scale, even the smallest markets in relative terms can be fairly big in absolute terms.

Astronomy Cast is listened to by people all over the world, yet the demographics of their viewers were surprisingly similar in terms of level of education, socio-economic status and interests. This makes it even more important for them to learn about their audience because one slip-up that disappoints their listeners could make them loose their entire base.

What about you, have any of you sought out any real niche information in podcasts? What was it and what made you like it?

If you havn’t listened to any podcasts here is an awesome segment from Radiolab to get you started 🙂


 The Brain Science Podcast – for all things neuroscience

 Rationally Speaking – The intersection of science and philosophy


Gay, P.L., Benrose-Fetter, R., Bracey, G., & Cain, F, (2007). Astronomy Cast: Evaluation of a podcast audience’s content needs and listening habits. Cap 1 (1), 24-29.



What makes a go…

By Dangerous

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

This is a quote from Philip Pullman, an author. Stories are a huge part of communication. They encourage learning beyond the lifetime of an individual. They can be passed through generations.


A good story can be remembered, there is no need to go back and read it, it can be passed by word of mouth from person to person, spreading with it a message or a viewpoint.  If you can tell a good story while remaining accurate a message can be communicated so easily.

‘Don’t be Such a Scientist- talking substance in a age of style’ is a book written by Richard Olsen. There is a chapter dedicated entirely to the art of storytelling, it is entitled ‘Don’t be Such a Poor Storyteller’. This chapter highlights the importance of scientists being good storytellers, but also being accurate storytellers.


A youtube clip on what the book involves is available: if you don’t have much time I would recommend sipping to 0.50!

Do you think people can ‘learn’ to be storytellers? I’m sceptical. I think you can learn certain aspects to being a good storyteller, but I think ‘the art of storytelling’ is not something that everyone can learn. On top of this, not every scientific discover is able to ‘become’ a story. To turn something like a journal article into a story requires creativity, do you think this is something achievable by every scientist out there?


Olsen, R. (2009) Don’t be such a scientist: Talking substance in a age of style. Washington: Island Press. Chapter 3 Don’t be such a poor storyteller pp. 104-118.

Image: ‘Old books I found in the living room’ Avsilable from: taken on: 19th September 2012

Tell me a story grandma?

By zoesimmons

Do you smoke? Or do you know someone who smokes?

I personally have seen so many friends fall into the nicotine trap and just cannot seem to get out of it.
Or perhaps, they do not want to get out of it?

Either way, I’m sure every single one of them have seen an anti-smoking poster, advert, or video. I mean, even the cigarette boxes have ghastly images on them! So, do you think all these methods of discouraging smoking are actually working?


   (Credits: Thailand Health Promotion Institute)

This article by Park, Kim and Hove talks about a study that was done recently in 2010. It examines 934 anti-smoking video clips on YouTube for these characteristics:

a) Message Sensation Value (MSV) – structural and content features, and sensory, affective and arousal ‘responses’ to message features. (i.e. High MSV messages may lead to persuasion.)

b) Three types of message appeal – threat, social and humour.

The findings show that – 
(1) Anti-smoking messages are prevalent on YouTube,
(2) MSV levels of online anti-smoking videos are relatively low compared to that of televised anti-smoking messages,
(3) Threat appeals are the videos’ predominant message strategy,
(4) Message characteristics (persuasiveness and impact of message) are related to viewer reach and viewer preference.

YouTube is especially popular among youth and thus the business world sees it as an ideal platform for advertising and marketing to reach that target audience and influence their behavior. YouTube also provides data on number of viewers, number of comments and viewer ratings. This can be considered an interactive mechanism that is exclusive to video-sharing Web-sites – traditional media channels such as television and print do not have such an advantage.

However, surprisingly, the number of prosmoking videos outnumbered anti-smoking videos on YouTube. This probably reflects how much control we have over what is being posted up and who watches what video – not very much control at all. Along with social media like Facebook and Twitter now, videos could go viral very easily; it’s actually quite scary.  

Threat appeals typically showed audiences the health dangers, risks and consequences of smoking such as mouth cancer, rotten lungs, dying patients. Humour should be used discretely or otherwise, not used at all as it nullifies the intended intensity and severity of the key message.

Here, watch this short anti-smoking advertisement that the Thais have come up with. Do you think that it is effective? Do you think there are any ethical issues with using children such videos?


Reference: Park, HAN.-J., Kim, K., & Hove, T. (2010). Content analysis of anti smoking videos on YouTube: message sensation value, message appeals, and their relationship with viewer responses. Heath Education Research, 25(6), 1085-1099.

Do you smoke? O…

By Jessica Ho