Science Blogging Something Completely Different

Shutterstock: For many science writers, the science blog post has come to epitomize the Monty Python phrase, "and now for something completely different." And if not something completely different, than at least something different in one way or another from your typical science news story, your typical opinion column or or your typical print feature story, among other science story formats.

As you might know if you've been following me on Twitter, I've been conducting interviews with science bloggers as a part of my PhD project (which I often talk about on Twitter using the hashtag #MySciBlog).

This morning, I transcribed a particularly telling section of an interview about how one science blogger approaches a 'typical' blog post:

"Um, so I try to mix it up a bit. I do cover new papers. Um, when I cover new papers, um, sometimes it turns out looking a lot [like] just, a regular news story, where, you know, I’ve interviewed one of the researchers on the paper, and maybe somebody else, [who are] expert? Um, but, to be honest, those don’t tend to be my favorite posts to do. Because, I tend to feel like that, I don’t know, it doesn’t add as much beyond what you would get with a regular news story online. And what, what I feel like, the freedom of a blog, and why blogs are so much fun to read, is, that you get to know a little bit more of the personality of the person who’s writing it, and what their thoughts and opinions are, and that they kind of interpret things, a bit more? And so, I would say that, the posts, what I aim for, maybe I don’t always achieve it, but what I aim for is to add a little bit more of, um, you know, my personal point of view, and also some broader context, and some other information about the topic, that you wouldn’t necessarily get just from a story about that one paper. So, there often is a new paper mentioned, but it’s not necessarily always, um, the blog post isn’t always necessarily just about that paper. Um, and sometimes I write about things where there’s no research, no new research paper at all."

Whether it's due to a desire to write with the freedom to ignore traditional news constraints, or a lack of traditional journalism resources, or having come from a background in science as opposed to journalism, many science bloggers choose a 'different' style and structure for their blogs that often contrast with the norms and routines of typical news production. Some of these different styles and structures have become the 'new normal' for incoming science bloggers who learn what blogging does or should look like from existing science blogs. Take, for example, the "conversational tone," which has become the status quo of science blogging, surely inherited from early generations of science bloggers.

Of course, bloggers coming from non-journalistic backgrounds also learn to use some of the more traditional news production processes and news values in their science blogging, perhaps in part from being plugged into a community that combines traditional journalists and freelance science journalists as well as scientists and students of science. Some scientists who blog for networks belonging to traditional news organizations, like Scientific American, ScienceNews and others, may also become more "newsy" as a result.

But certainly science bloggers have maintained the spirit of writing about science in a way that is 'different' from writing in other formats. Can you think of any other ways in which science blog posts are typically different from science news stories?