Lisa: Last week I went to a science blogging event at the apple store in London. It was an interesting audience of bloggers (about 20% by quick audience poll), scientists (missed catching the number of hands up at that one!) and anyone else interested in how self-publishing is changing the way science is communicated. Present to talk about their own blogs, and blogging in general, were Ben Goldacre, who runs BadScience and also publishes a weekly column for the Guardian. Ed Young started his own blog Not Exactly Rocket Science when he wanted to get experience as a science writer and blogs about peer-reviewed literature, deciphering complex ideas without ‘dumbing down’ the content. Jennifer Rohn writes Mind The Gap about her return to the world of research after a period out, and is more a personal blog about her own journey and experiences
Why blog about science? One of the great things about blogging is the ability to directly connect with ‘the masses’. Scientists often blame ‘the media’ for getting their message wrong and misinterpreting research, but scientists can now connect directly to the public. So no excuses any more right? It’s free and easy to set up a blog, although all the bloggers spoke about the need to keep a site constantly updated to maintain your audience, and this is where the motivation comes in! On the other hand, as Ed pointed out, blogging can make you a better writer, due to the instantaneous, constant, and anonymous feedback you get. It’s not just good science, said Ed, but good prose, that will win you an audience. I think that’s where I struggle!
Who reads science blogs? I guess anyone and everyone, and how people get to your blog is irrelevant as long as they stay to read an entry or two! Although as Ben Goldacre put it, when asked about why there seems to be more people blogging about biology than chemistry or physics, that the more specialised your subject becomes, the more background knowledge people require to ‘get the jokes’. Scientists may like science blogs because they go down to a more ‘satisfyingly nerdy’ level of detail than mainstream media. I thinkthis point is one of the things I really enjoy about reading a good science blog. People link directly to their sources, so you have your own chance to check for yourself if you agree with their conclusions.
So- what was my feeling after the whole event finished and we all headed to the pub? Just do it! I think it would be fantastic to get more scientists blogging. Whether blogging can be used effectively within research is debateable, as the gold standard of peer-review won’t accept data that’s been previously published. But in terms of getting more (and better) science out there and accessible, encouraging scientists to write what they know about, showing how science works and what it entails on a day-to-day basis can be a form of ‘science therapy’ and who knows may make scientists better communicators after all.