The pre-eminent journal for cell biology, Cell, has a piece out in the latest issue on scientists in the blogosphere:
These 1,000 or so science blogs provide authoritative opinions about pressing issues in science, such as evolution or climate change, or aim to engage other scientists in open and frank discussions about the scientific literature or science policy. Because of their freewheeling nature, these blogs take scientific communication to a different level.
The piece revisits questions of what service blogging provides to science, journalists and students, and how they promote exchange of information in new and dynamic ways. For society at large, Laura Bonetta has this to say:
But how significant are these discussions if only a minority of scientists read blogs, or write them? “Blogs are important sources for opinion leaders, activists, and journalists. They help create a lot of the discourse out in the world,” explains Nisbet. Indeed, many discussions that grab the attention of bloggers have ended up in the pages of The New York Times or in the news sections of science journals. “Blogs are having an impact because newsmakers read them,” says Moran. “To some extent we are writing for science journalists. We are saying ‘Here is something getting the wrong kind of coverage’ or ‘Here is something you should be paying attention to.’”
Bora Zivkovic has of course been far, far more thorough about cataloging the various reasons and ways that science aficionados maintain weblogs.
Why do I blog? For a long time, I blogged because I was upset at the state of politics and the treatment of science in our society. That’s becoming less true, as I use blogging as more of a journal than a platform, these days. It reflects my ideas and interests, and I’ve gotten varying degrees of approval from the scientists that I work with (but never a negative response – yet), for having this blog.
And what I like most, is occaisionally coming across websites for other people’s labs, and finding that the lab has a weblog for the group. It’s rare, but it happens, and hopefully it will gradually become more common. Such blogs are usually updated quite infrequently, as their priorities are publishing in journals after all, and with few visitors outside of their group. But they can serve as very useful forums for laboratory groups to exchange ideas and keep a record of them, even with former group members who’ve moved on to other employment, to say nothing of expanding the potential for science journalists to the inner workings of scientists’ minds.