Recently, Bayblab bloggers raised some controversy in the science'o sphere with their article about the current state of science blogging.
Anonymous Coward noted that:
Now there are thousands of blogs dedicated to science, yet only a few are popular. And strangely the popular ones are only loosely related to science. Just take a look at the top 5 science blogs (according to postgenomic):
1 Pharyngula (mostly about creationism)
2 Cognitive Daily (psychology research)
3 Living the Scientific Life (personal journal)
4 Sandwalk (some evolutionary genetics, and creationism)
5 Aetiology (pop science)
Of those only Cognitive daily is consistantly talking about peer-reviewed research. Why is that? Perhaps there is less appeal in discussing recent papers than bashing creationists. But bashing creationists is almost too easy, and not very constructive...
A.C. then added that:
... If you examine the elephant in the room, ScienceBlogs, the trend is maintained: politics, religion books, technology, education and music are tagged more often than biology or genetics. This suggests that their primary motives are entertainment rather than discussing science. Why? Because it pays. Seed Magazine and the bloggers themselves profit from the traffic. That's right, Seed actually pays these bloggers for their posts. And the whole ScienceBlogs thing is a little incestuous, they really like linking to each other, but not so much to the little blogs. I'm afraid gone is the amateur blogger, and in is the professional gonzo science journalist. Might as well read Seed magazine.
They immediately got a massive and largely negative response from science bloggers both inside and outside the ScienceBlogs community. Even heavyweights like PZ Myers and Larry Moran addressed the points in the post.
I think that many of the main points have already been discussed in these blogs and in the Bayblab comments section, so I won't add to those.
However, A.C.'s post has brought two interesting side issues to my attention, and I think it's worthwhile examining these further.
1. Peer-reviewed research papers = Science?
Other bloggers have already debated the suggestion that science blogging should be mainly about peer-reviewed research, akin to a journal club in academia. The consensus view is that science blogging need not be restricted to this - other resources are just as relevant to the main topic of science.
There is another implication - is science really just about discussing research articles? Papers are definitely important, but publishing is on the tail end of a long, long journey.
No matter how boring that paper already looks, the actual process of getting all that data is even less glamorous.
It seems to me that to be a True Science Blog, one should not only write about the highly-polished end product, but should also include the laborious process at the heart of the practice of science.
Often omitted from most science blogs are the arguments, disagreements, tedious experiments, inconclusive results, blind alleys, endless troubleshooting, health hazards, frustrations, self-doubts, mental and physical exhaustion that is the inescapable reality of research.
Will it make for compelling reading?
Difficult to say.
Is it "science"?
2. Not blogging for money = Noble?
Another curious point is the negative sentiment that some bloggers have about money. A.C. is certainly not the only one to feel this way, and this view is not limited to science bloggers.
Somehow, if the primary motivation for blogging is not some sort of ideal (such as educating the public on good science), then it MUST be for the money.
This is a strange false dichotomy because people can blog for all sorts of non-idealistic reasons that have nothing to do with money.
Here are some common possibilities:
c. to relieve stress
d. to practice writing
e. to hone debating skills
f. for social interaction
g. for self-expression
h. for self-education
i. for hot babes (dream on buddy...)
As you can see, none of these are particularly noble reasons to blog.
Yet blogging for money is regarded more negatively than blogging for popularity, for example.
Does it mean that it's OK to be a vain, selfish and rude blogger - as long as you're not rich?
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