Motivations to Blog about Science - #MySciBlog Data

Summary: Most science bloggers are motivated to blog by both internal motivations and external goals. In a survey of 610 science bloggers, bloggers most often mentioned having started their blogs to practice their non-technical writing skills and to educate or explain science to a non-specialist audience. Motivations to continue blogging differ slightly from motivations to start a science blog in the first place.

Shutterstock: http://ow.ly/wCQLY
Shutterstock: http://ow.ly/wCQLY

What motivates science bloggers to blog about science? Why do they start their blogs, and what motivates them to continue blogging over time? What are their science blogging goals?

I've addressed these questions in #MySciBlog research (currently in dissertation mode!). Over the course of this last year, I've collected data on motivations to blog about science in two different forms. I asked science bloggers about their blogging motivations and goals during qualitative in-depth interviews (50 #MySciBlog interviews conducted in 2014). I also asked #MySciBlog 2014 survey participants (N = 610) to describe their motivations to start vs. continue blogging about science.

Most science bloggers mentioned several different motivations and goals. For example, blogging for oneself - to practice one's writing skills or develop an online writing portfolio for example - was often mentioned alongside blogging to explain, educate or popularize science. In talking to science bloggers about their blogging motivations and goals, I find that external goals (such as science outreach) and internal motivations (such as self-improvement and enjoyment) are closely linked.

"We're not doing science journalism or reporting – occasionally we do, but the goal is not really to, you know, break news or explain, you know […] a new study that has come out necessarily. Our primary goal is actually focused, I'd say, on science literacy, and particularly, on the attitudinal aspects of science literacy. [...] We want to present people who are interested in science as interesting and fun, not the 'science ruins everything' cliché? And show that thinking about the world scientifically, even if you aren't scientist, is actually a more interesting way to approach life? Than other approaches? [...]
But the primary reason to write about it is that I, you know, that I find it interesting or amusing, based on the conceit that, being human, that other people who are human will also find it interesting or amusing […] even if it's not necessarily kind of obviously straight out of like, 'this is science writing', kind of a category. And part of the thinking about that is that the sort of dedicated science blogging, science journalism readership is sort of a niche group. […] It really does boil down to, I think just the fundamental assumption that everybody that writes for the blog is a human being, and that while we're all unique little flowers, we're not that unique, and so if you as a person find it interesting, there's going to be other people who find it interesting, and frankly, […] if we're doing a good job of presenting ourselves as human beings who happen to be science nerds, as opposed to science nerds, first? And if you can present yourself as being human, then just the fact that you point at something and say, hey there's something interesting over there, that will actually cause other people to go, to look at that thing."
Interviewee #13, Male, Scientist, Independent Group Blogger

In response to open-ended #MySciBlog survey questions, science bloggers most often mentioned having started their blogs to practice their writing skills, especially non-technical writing skills for a broader audience. They also often mentioned having been motivated to start their blogs to educate or explain science to non-specialists and to correct misinformation they saw online or in the media.

In terms of motivations to continue blogging about science, #MySciBlog survey respondents most often mentioned simply having fun or enjoying the blogging process. Science bloggers also often mentioned being motivated to continue blogging as a result of seeing the impact that their blog was having for readers, in online environments in terms of social shares and visibility, etc.

The figures below represent blogging motivations categories as revealed by #MySciBlog survey (Figure 1) and interviews with science bloggers (Figure 2).

 Survey Motivations

Survey Motivations

 Goals and Motivations Based on Interview Data

Goals and Motivations Based on Interview Data