The science blogosphere is shrinking and growing at the same time. Today, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) starts a new network called PLoS Blogs. A nonprofit publisher of open-access journals focused on biological sciences, PLoS will fold its three existing blogs under its new network, managed by Brian Mossop (the author of a recent Mind Matters column on fatherhood here).
Consisting of 11 blogs by scientists and journalists (including one by John Rennie, former editor in chief of Scientific American, and Melinda Wenner Moyer, a frequent SciAm contributor), it joins several other relatively small networks launched this summer, including those by the Guardian, Wired and Scientopia. The RSS feeds of these and other science blog networks appear in the aggregator site scienceblogging.org, founded by blog pioneers Anton Zuiker, Bora Zivkovic and Dave Munger.
The new sites have sprouted largely because of missteps at ScienceBlogs, the longtime 800-pound gorilla. In part by building off blogs that grew in response to the Dover creationism trial in 2005, ScienceBlogs, founded in 2007 by Seed Media, became the dominant space for researchers to immediately voice their opinions and spread news without conventional editorial help. At one point, it encompassed upwards of 130 blogs.
Things went south rather quickly in early July, after ScienceBlogs started a nutrition blog written by PepsiCo, which paid to have it posted. Publications, of course, run "advertorials" all the time, but they usually label them as paid content–Seed did not. The ensuing uproar among the network’s bloggers, who felt the posting undermined their credibility, led to several defections and suspensions of posts. Seed removed the Pepsi blog, but the damage was done.
After Pepsigate, or Pepsipocalypse, or whatever you want to call it, the science blogosphere seems to be heading toward smaller, more numerous networks (see BoraZ’s post about it). (A complaint about ScienceBlogs was that it had become too unwieldy to sustain a sense of community.) It will be interesting to see if the reshaped blogosphere could better influence mainstream media—a Pew Research study found that, whereas science is a topic of news coverage in 10 percent of blog posts, it only fills 1 percent of the traditional press’s news hole.
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