Something is wrong on the Internet! What does the Science Blogger do?
Paige Brown Jarreau is a biological engineer turned journalist and science communicator. She has an M.S. in Biological & Agricultural Engineering, but is now getting her PhD in mass communication. She conducts research at the intersection of science journalism, science communication and new media. She is also a science blogger at SciLogs.com. Talk to her on Twitter @FromTheLabBench.
Science blogging is one of those curious social media phenomena that has moved mainstream in the science news ecosystem. Once known as ranty opinion forums, blogs have become one of the best resources of science and science communication online. Science blogs have spread their influence into the worlds of scientific publishing, science journalism, science policy and popular science. But as they have, we could argue that science bloggers themselves are becoming more accountable to the broader science news ecosystem, even more professionalized. What do modern science blogging practices and values look like? How are science bloggers deciding what to cover, and what impact are these decisions having? What does the modern science blogging network look like, and how are bloggers being rewarded for their dogged fixing of science on the internet?
This is, in a nut graph, the subject of my PhD dissertation in science communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University. But the phenomenon of using social media to communicate science goes beyond the subject of my research – it is increasingly becoming a way of doing my research as well. Over the past few months, I’ve been using the Twitter hashtag #MySciBlog to collect data from science bloggers, recruit them for in-depth interviews, and share excerpts from interviews. And on Saturday, October 25, I launched my first Experiment.com project for crowd-funding my scientific research, with a commitment to publish my results open access.
The goal of my research project at Experiment.com is to understand how science bloggers choose what to write about. The role of science blogging and science bloggers is expanding and diversifying. More Americans get their science news online and via social media than ever, and much of that is now coming from science blogs. And yet, relatively little research has targeted the practices, routines and values of science bloggers. Traditionally, science bloggers have been the champions of fighting bad science on the internet. But today, they are so much more. Who are science bloggers? What do they do? How do they decide what to blog about?
I’m conducting a large-scale online survey to answer these and other questions, following over 50 in-depth interviews I’ve conducted with science bloggers so far for my dissertation. My upcoming survey of science bloggers includes over 70 intriguing questions. But I need to offer a small financial incentive to help science bloggers, who often make little money despite their important task in the science news ecosystem, complete my survey. A goal of $1,000 for this project will allow me to give a $5 incentive to at least 200 science bloggers.
That’s where Experiment.com comes in. It’s a digital science crowd-funding platform with excellent past success in bringing research to life, and users can decide what research they want to see funded.
“Experiment is a platform for enabling new scientific discoveries.”
You can visit my Experiment project, and share it, here: https://experiment.com/projects/something-is-wrong-on-the-internet-what-does-the-science-blogger-do. Please share this project with science journalists, professional science communicators and other science and social science researchers you think might be interested in the results. If you are a science blogger wanting to get involved in my research, you can sign up for my survey and to receive further notifications here: https://t.co/dt6EoMyIAh
I’ll be publishing the results of my survey open access. My Experiment page also allows me to update you with lab notes as my research continues. I recently published a lab note inviting others to give input into my science blogger survey questions, so please feel free to give me feedback. Here’s to a new future in conducting and sharing science online. I hope you join me!
Finally, follow my hashtag #MySciBlog for interesting quotes from science bloggers, culled from my research interviews
“the two things that get me really interested are, if it’s science that I find really interesting, or, if it’s something that’s really, really wrong.” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
“I think that… your gender definitely has a factor in terms of what you choose to write about.” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
The issue of open access: “I’m thinking more and more […] as to whether to only write about open access articles.” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
“There’s no, ‘how to blog’ guidebook…you have to just watch…what are the people…considered to be the best at this doing?” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
“Some of these science bloggers […] they’re basically doing what a journalist doesn’t even have time to do anymore.” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
“It’s basically a place where I can keep different components of my intellectual content…” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog
“It’s really just more of a compulsion, where I’m like, I want to have a voice in this discussion.” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog #SomethingsWrongOnTheInternet
“And as long as I’m adding a little bit [emphasis] of knowledge to people, that’s all I’m looking for…” – Science Blogger, #MySciBlog