OpenSciLogs: An Experiment in Crowd-funded, Open, Participatory Science Journalism

OpenSciLogs. Shutterstock:

OpenSciLogs is a new project at designed to introduce crowd-funded, open, participatory science reporting to the science blogosphere and beyond. Each month (or so), an OpenSciLogs story project, lead by a selected blogger, will be introduced here and on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo (the first OpenSciLogs Indiegogo page to come soon). If and once funded, the selected blogger will lead his or her OpenSciLogs story project with open participation from other science writers and readers, with regular blog updates, social media conversations, and most importantly a public and editable Google Doc. Each OpenSciLogs story project will be a living, breathing investigation into an important topic in science or science communication, published under a Creative Commons license. It's in-depth science reporting by, but more importantly, it's in-depth science reporting by You.

We've heard that science journalism is dying. But this isn't quite true. In fact, science blogs and other new digital and social media platforms for science writing are exploding with a capital "E". New digital formats for popular science coverage are on the rise while in-depth traditional media coverage of science, especially investigative science journalism, suffers.

Unfortunately, many science bloggers and science writers for new digital media outlets go unpaid or underpaid. So how can we support high quality science reporting “from the ground up,” in a way that prompts scientists and science writers in digital and social media environments - including the science blogosphere - to participate collectively in creating more in-depth science journalism across the web?

At SciLogs, we have an idea for how we might make this happen. We introduce to you OpenSciLogs, an experiment in crowd-funded, open, participatory science journalism.

The idea of this project is to combine crowd-funding with an “open notebook” and participatory approach to science writing, to produce in-depth science reporting from the ground up. By the ground up, we mean an ongoing science journalism process that starts in the science blogosphere, right here at, and continues on to produce in-depth science storytelling in other nontraditional and traditional science media outlets across the web.

Social technologies such as blogs, Twitter and public Google Docs have paved the way for the rise of participatory and collaborative journalism, or citizen journalism. This project seeks to inspire a new approach to science journalism underpinned by participation and the creation of open, creative commons content, taking advantage of social media to bring contextualized and in-depth science reporting back to mainstream media.

In an effort to encourage open participation in a science storytelling process that transcends the individual science writer and the individual science blog, this project also embodies an “open notebook” approach to in-depth science reporting. The “open notebook” approach involves full disclosure and public publishing of raw story materials, a focus on science research published in open access mediums, and encouraging scientific story sources to provide their contact information for follow-up coverage of the story. In other words, each blogger leading a science story topic under the umbrella of OpenSciLogs will both be joined by other science writers and readers in the investigation and writing of the story, and supply everything another science blogger, journalist or media outlet would need to fact-check and continue the story. This might include raw story notes published on an open and participatory media platform, interview materials, any data collected, contact information for original sources (dependent upon permission granted by the source), and more.

The conversation around each OpenSciLogs story project is meant to be open, and other journalists and bloggers should feel free to take the story to their own blogs, news sites, etc. By engaging readers and encouraging other science readers and writers to take the story in directions that interest them, OpenSciLogs' bloggers will hopefully motivate others to participate actively in the story.

So without further ado, the design concepts!

OpenSciLogs Concepts:

  • Crowd-funding of an in-depth “open notebook” science reporting “story project” by one blogger every 1-3 months.

  • Each story project will begin with a pitching phase from all bloggers. SciLogs blogging and community managers will choose one story every 1-3 months to continue to the crowd-funding phase. The selected blogger is encouraged to begin the story pitch process by fielding ideas on social media for science stories that deserve more in-depth coverage, and then pitch the best idea for the Indiegogo funding phase.

  • Each story project will proceed with a crowd-funding pitch on Indiegogo. Goal: $750-$1000 US dollars per blogger per story project.

  • Selected blogger, once funded, begins the reporting phase. The blogger provides everything another journalist or blogger would need to follow up on the story (Source contact info, raw story notes, references with links, etc. in a public Google Document), thus helping contribute to a complicated ongoing story in the realm of science or science communication, which other outlets and bloggers could continue on if so desired.

  • Focus on open access published science and sources that are willing to answer follow-up questions.

  • Selected blogger posts regular updates on the story via blog posts, fields comments from readers, other science writers, etc. The blogger should field ideas from audiences on what direction the story should go, what to report on in more detail. etc. The blogger should encourage others to participate in writing the story, or offshoots of the story, in the public Google Doc. The reporting phase will take 1 month ideally, 3 months maximum.

  • Goal: to start a next generation model of science writing, that would be participatory and open, with potential to develop into a larger story in the news media or blogosphere.

  • For each story project, the selected and funded blogger is strongly encouraged to have another blogger, journalist or editor fact-check (for a share of the funding, or for a share of authorship).

  • Anyone can contribute story ideas, story content and/or multimedia to each OpenSciLogs story project, and are encouraged to claim partial authorship.

So drink up that coffee, and get ready to write about science with us! We've got OpenSciLogs bloggers interested in exploring how the concept of science news has changed over time, what role journalists may play in the public health management of infectious disease outbreaks, and live science reporting from the Global South. 

More details on our first OpenSciLogs story project and Indiegogo funding phase soon! Follow our Twitter hashtag #OpenSciLogs.

Write! Shutterstock: