How has science blogging changed over the years? I asked one science blogger this question recently in one of #MySciBlog research interviews. I think the response is very perceptive.
All Sorts of Weird Stuff
"the big thing that’s changed is sort of the, at least from my perspective the big thing that’s changed is kind the nature of the field. When I started blogging in 2001/2002 uh, there was this weird, like absolutely anybody would – there were blogs about all sorts of weird stuff. [...] And so it was, even in the science blogosphere it was very much, ah, the people who were doing it were people who were primarily scientists doing this as a hobby on the side and sort of writing about what they did. Uh, it was more about personal experience and that kind of thing. Um, and that's kind of, that's kind of faded away, to a large extent."
Early Blogs - Scientists blogging as a hobby
"Now you know, when new people are starting blogs these days, they’re much more frequently people who are – have an eye toward going into science communication as a career. Uh, you know, they want to be journalists, they want to be [...] you know, outreach specialists, in education, that sort of thing. And so doing it with much more of an eye toward generating a portfolio of stuff that will help them down the road. So it’s become much more professionalized? And that’s both good and bad."
Raising the Bar - Science blogs have become more professional
"the people who are interested in doing this for a living generally are much better writers, so it sort of raises the bar for everyone? Um, you know, if you want to get attention as a blog now you have to be doing stuff that’s maybe not the right format to go on a major media site, but, but is sort of that caliber of work. And you know, it’s much less people just banging out stuff on a whim after a couple of beers. Um, and you know, so that’s a good thing."
Those Dang Good Science Writers
"On the other hand it’s lost a little something in that you, you don’t have as much stuff from INSIDE science. Cause a lot of people who are, who are, who want to be primarily researchers, um, don’t have the inclination or don’t want to put in the time to produce, you know, blog content at the necessary level, and so, you get a lot less 'life in the lab' kind of material than you used to back in the day."
So where has that "inside science" "day in the lab" content gone? As short updates on Twitter, perhaps?
There are obviously still scientists blogging as a hobby, writing about what they do on a daily basis. Jonathan Eisen's blog Tree of Life and What's In John's Freezer being great examples (although these scientists blog about many different things, not just research or academia on a daily basis). But many other science blogs today start out with a stronger focus on science communication or even science journalism, as the blogger I interviewed points out.
Some of the best, if not THE best, science writers we know today are science bloggers. They write so engagingly, you've read 1,000 words about some complex scientific topic without a single flinch. Their writing is also polished and edited. Probably quite different from some of the original science blog content.
But as science blogs become more focused on [S]cience [C]ommunication, have they lost something too? A certain edge and looseness? Science blogs have slowly come into their own standards and rules of engagement. I hope to discover more about what these are in coding my research interviews with science bloggers.
I think it's important to acknowledge, though, that there may still be a vast number of science blogs on the "outskirts" of the networked science blogosphere that ARE revealing the process of science in the lab and in the field. It's easy to start seeing the major science blog networks as the core of the science blogosphere, and many of these blogs do tend to be written by professional science communicators, freelance and aspiring science writers and science journalists.