Monday, September 22, 2008

Advancing Science Thru Blogging

In an article published in PLoS Biology, Shelly Batts, Nick Anthis and Tara Smith write about blogging as a means of science communication.

Batts et al. write "Scientific discovery occurs in the lab one experiment at a time, but science itself moves forward based on a series of ongoing conversations, from a Nobel Prize winner's acceptance speech to collegial chats at a pub. When these conversations flow into the mainstream, they nurture the development of an informed public who understand the value of funding basic research and making evidence-based voting decisions. It is in the interests of scientists and academic institutions alike to bring these conversations into the public sphere....Because many science bloggers are practicing scientists or experts in their field, they can provide a unique educational bridge between academia and the public and distill important experimental findings into an accessible, interactive format."

Starting a science blog was a fairly random impulse for me. If the learning curve was steep or posting complicated, I probably would have abandoned the effort early, but Blogger's tool made posting effortless. In retrospect, blogging has been one of the best academic decisions I have ever made as it has facilitated communication with my peers and opened many doors for me.

Author Nick Anthis also blogs about his paper here. In it he writes that many other bloggers have had similar experiences to mine. After informally polling bloggers, Anthis and his coauthors found that, "Across the blogosphere, scientists had started new collaborations, enhanced their scientific work, advanced their careers, been able to communicate science as never before, and had been offered a whole array of new and unique experiences and opportunities in part or in full due to their blogs. In fact, the stories we heard were so compelling that instead of just communicating them we asked ourselves another question: why has this phenomenon gone so underreported and unappreciated within academic circles? And, more pointedly, how can we most effectively communicate this potential to an academic audience--in hopes of catalyzing even more of these wonderful successes?"

I think the scientific community is beginning to recognize the benefits of blogging. Every time I log on, there are more and more science blogs entering the blogosphere. Folks that don't blog definitely seem to read them. As with any new technology, it takes some time to get used to the idea. It may be that, in the future, blogs will be as much as part of the scientific discourse as scientific journals. Remember back in 1994, hardly any labs had a web page, but now its seems obligatory. Maybe research blogs will be ubitquitous in 2018.

Shelley A. Batts, Nicholas J. Anthis, Tara C. Smith (2008). Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy PLoS Biology, 6 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060240

Figure from the Next Hurrah.

Update: Nick respond to comments here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post, John. One of the most exciting parts of working on this paper was hearing all of the examples of blogging helping advance people's careers and their work--and it's good to know that this wasn't just the case for people we talked to. Anyway, I've now responded to some of the feedback we've read on the blogosphere.