60-Second Science Blog's favorite medium — the science blog, of course — is getting some props this week as a public service from some folks who have a vested interest in the enterprise: scientist-bloggers themselves.
A new essay in PLoS Biology notes that the estimated 1,000 to 1,200 science blogs on the Web "have carved out a small but influential niche." Some of that is in the form of scientists scooping each other on their blogs; why wait for a research journal to cross the T's and dot the I's if you can self-publish?
Since scientist-bloggers have the chops of legitimacy to make science accessible to the public, academia should promote the blogs as Stanford has with its blog directory, the authors say. That kind of promotion not only makes science relevant to non-scientists, but provides a kind of online salon where researchers can bounce ideas off of one another, possibly leading to unexpected academic collaborations.
But as part of the self-absorbed mainstream media -- you know, the one in those endless MSM vs. blogger debates of a few years ago -- we were more interested in what science news blogs like the 60-Second Science Blog might bring their readers. Here's what Nick Anthis, a.k.a. the "Scientific Activist" and a co-author of the PLoS Biology essay, had to say.
"One of the most important roles of science blogs is to communicate with the public, and those attached to the mainstream media do a pretty good job of that," Anthis told us.
So far so good.
"They're quite valuable. I imagine it gives these writers the opportunity to write on topics that due to constraints of the publishing world, they might not be able to."
He must have meant Bigfoot and the chupacabra.
"And they are interactive, provide instant feedback and spark conversations that might not have happened."
True enough. Even if some of those conversations can get a bit, well…strident.
Anthis, a grad student in structural biology at Oxford who co-authored the essay with Shelley Batts of the University of Michigan and Tara Smith of the University of Iowa --all three are bloggers, of course -- offered an example on the lighter side: a cyber-call by science writer and blogger Carl Zimmer for science-related tattoos. With the feedback, Zimmer ultimately created an emporium of tattoo photos for all of cyberspace to see.
Who says scientists are stuffy?
(Image from iStockphoto/Lisa Gagne)