January 8, 2014 | 8
With a new year comes new beginnings, and today I am thrilled to take the helm of the Scientific American blog network. Home to more than 40 blogs and 60 bloggers, it is a federation of some Web’s most creative science communicators, who encourage daily discussions of the many ways in which science influences our lives and shapes our world.
More than anything, though, it is the strong sense of community among science bloggers that has always impressed me. Ever since their craft caught on in the early years of the new millennium, they have worked together to share news and stir important debates. I enjoy the many wonderful group blogs, of course, from The Panda’s Thumb to The Last Word on Nothing, but more recently I’ve seen a proliferation of blog collectives hosted by science magazines, journals, and even a newspaper.
Scientific American’s network of journalists, scientists and artists, launched in 2011, reflects the size and diversity of the scientific enterprise itself, covering all manner of inquiry and experimentation, as well as angles related to politics, the economy, arts and culture. The insights and observations that emerge from bringing together such eclectic and intelligent contributors are extraordinary. From current events and the latest research to quirks and curiosities, these bloggers now lead their readers on an unparalleled exploration of the sciences, inspiring them to think about and engage with the world around them like never before.
As a staff writer for Columbia Journalism Review from 2006 until 2013, I watched as science blogs “won a place at the table” in the media world and helped compensate for the decline in coverage at traditional print and broadcast news outlets. Blog networks can be collegial and quarrelsome, sober and breezy, but one thing they have in common is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Yes, there have been concerns about bloggers operating in a ghetto, or an echo chamber, or a silo, or whatever metaphor you choose for a small, secluded space. And, yes, there are probably still a lot of people who should know better that aren’t even sure what blogs are, or think they’re something new. While we should always be mindful of these issues, however, as time goes on, they seem less and less severe. In fact, it’s reasonable to posit that more science information is being consumed and shared today than ever before thanks to the online community’s ability to engage audiences.
Scientific American’s bloggers have broken out of the box in a number of ways. They have cultivated community discussions around major editorial projects such as our annual Food issue and past single-topic issues. They have written books for our imprint with Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. And they have taken part in “tweet ups” with us at esteemed institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History. Today, many publishers clearly recognize the value that bloggers add to their organizations, and they vie to attract the best and brightest to their networks.
The bonds that these groups create between media outlets and audiences are durable. The foundation of Scientific American’s community was shaken last year, but it proved to be sturdy and resilient, and I am extremely proud to be working with a talented and committed group of communicators. I am eager to get to know them better in the coming months, and with their help, to build a more dynamic and enlightening network than ever.