does science blogging still matter? yes. yes, it does.

That's the premise of an article in Nature (Brown & Woolston, 2018), which I discovered via the excellent Debunking Denialism on Facebook (& if that's not a good example of how various social media are interlinked, I don't know what is). Since mine is a science blog, obviously I was interested in the Nature narrative. 

Brown & Woolston believe that 

Blogs continue to be an effective platform for communicating your science to major stakeholders – and the public

– or in my case, communicating about science (& pseudoscience) & science education to the public; what began as something focused on scholarship biology students has acquired a wider view of things as time's gone by.

So, why do they (& a lot of science bloggers, yours truly included) think that blogging remains important?

For some, it's all part of the way that scientists communicate and network – what starts as a blog post may end up as a collaborative research project. It's one of many channels for digital communication – one that allows for deeper engagement with a topic than something like Twitter, with its still-tight limits on how much you can say in a tweet. (And of course, it's good practice to share your blog posts via Twitter & Facebook, & so potentially reach a much wider audience.) 

That communication can be with intending scientists as well as those already established in their field. Brown & Woolston cite one researcher, Allison McDonald, whose 

ultimate goal [in blogging] is to take the mystery out of the equation, to level the playing field for [young scientists] who aren't aware that there is even a game at play.

It does take time, of course. One of the reason my own posts have dropped a lot in frequency over the past year is that the demands of my day job have increased. I've got a lot of drafts stored up, for example, that I've jotted down during conferences about science education; the trick has been to find time to polish & publish them. But for those who blog, the time is well-spent. Blogs like Respectful Insolence, for example, have hits in the hundreds of thousands a month – they have a very large readership, and keep key messages in public view. (And on RI, with a range of scientists & health professionals providing commentary, you can learn a lot from the comments thread as well as the posts.) Others, like Dynamic Ecology (cited in Brown & Woolston) bring in over 40,000 views a month (still a very respectable figure), and New Zealand's own Sciblogs is in the same ballpark. 

And it is a challenge to keep posting in the face of Twitter & FB – given the apparent tendency for people to 'share' things in those social-media sites without actually reading them first, I sometimes wonder if folks have the patience to read a lengthy (or even a short!) blog post. (Not that this deters Orac, whose very long posts are legendary.) But I do agree with Paige Brown Jarreau (also cited by Brown & Woolston), who describes the way that I've tended to do things in the last few years:

social media platforms don't supplant blogging, they feed it – giving writers a place to develop and test ideas that they might later incorporate into a lengthier post

– that, & using my FB & Twitter feeds to identify interesting things to follow up & write about!

Oh, and if you're interested in blogging, the article also includes some useful hints – and some caveats about putting yourself out there for the world to read.

E.Brown & C.Woolston (2018) Why science blogging still matters. Nature 554: 135-137. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01414-6


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