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Scienceblogging: Scitable – a Q&A with Khalil Cassimally

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who you are, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

Hi all, I just completed a research year in the fields of developmental biology and neuroscience in Australia which concludes my undergraduate study. Prior to coming to Australia, I spent three years studying in Malaysia. I’m not from Australia or Malaysia though; I’m from Mauritius, a small tropical island in the Indian Ocean. It’s the kind of place most people hope to go to for a great vacation spent at the beach, under the sun. And that’s my home, ha!

I started writing about science when I was 16. I enjoyed writing and science in general so it felt natural to start writing about science. I was never much of a geek back then to be honest but as I started writing more about science, I gradually (and proudly) transformed into one. But my major foray into science blogging happened some three years ago when I got in touch with Scitable’s senior scientific editor. Back then Scitable only had a handful of blogs, including Student Voices, a group blog for students by students. I started contributing sporadically to Student Voices and then went on to manage the blog. Now, I manage Scitable’s network of 16 blogs and 3 forums.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

Although I was part of the science blogosphere back then, I was still relatively unaware of the happenings. So, although I was surprised by the mass exodus from Scienceblogs.com, I did not know what to make of it. Now that I know more about the science blogosphere, I can see how the exodus actually helped me (and I suppose a number of other newcomers to science blogging) to identify myself as a science blogger.

Back then Scienceblogs.com was a hub for many of the renown science bloggers of the time. It looked like an impenetrable community of top-notch science bloggers. As a young science blogger, I could only aspire to such quality of science writing but could not identify myself with those bloggers. Yes, they were science bloggers just like I was but they were blogging on Scienceblogs.com! They were unreal, untouchable… I did not feel part of the same community even though I too was a science blogger.

When Scienceblogs.com broke apart, those great bloggers started blogging elsewhere on networks that included lesser-known science bloggers and that was when it hit me. Even though there is a gulf in quality between those renown bloggers and myself, we are all doing the same thing here, we are in the same boat: we all want to spread our love for science. So no matter how young or inexperienced I might be, the thing that mattered the most was my enthusiasm for communicating science. This was when I started to take my blogging a little more seriously.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

I use RSS feeds for a small number of blogs. But mostly, I don’t read blogs, I read blog posts. I end up at many interesting blog posts every day through Twitter. Which is great because I’m always reading from new people all the time so I get exposed to many different views and interests.

Tell us a little bit more about Scitable’s science blogging network. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

Scitable is an endeavour of Nature Education, the educational division of Nature Publishing Group. Scitable offers a great number of high-quality articles, easily accessible for undergraduates especially. In addition, Scitable also hosts a network of science blogs. The network is a place for students, budding researchers, scientists and anybody with an interest in science to come together and share their views about anything science.

Scitable bloggers are students (from high school level to postgrad level), post-grads, lecturers and scientists, each with a different passion and interest. This diversity ensures that different members of the science community are represented on the network.

We love student science bloggers and we want to help in promoting these young voices. Student Voices is always accepting new bloggers, plus it publishes a number of guest posts. It’s as easy as emailing us if you want to do some science blogging on Scitable.

Where do you see Scitable’s science blogging network within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what is the target audience, what unique service does it provide?

The focus of the Scitable network is very much, but not restricted to, students. We want to push the voices of students to the foreground and we want to engage and motivate our student readers and hopefully get them as excited about science as we all are here.

Our bloggers can blog about anything science they like or are interested in. There is only one rule and that’s to have fun. If you have fun when you’re doing something, the end-product is nearly always great.

What is next for Scitable’s science blogging network (as far as you are free to reveal)?

We are working on giving the network much more exposure on the Scitable website to make sure that bloggers reach as many people as they can with their blog posts. We’re also working on some new stuff which will be great for both our bloggers and readers. Can’t say much more at this point though!

Thank you so much for this interview.

 





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