Our Seed Overlord: Interview with Virginia Hughes

When you hear SciBlings mention "our Seed Overlords", they are talking about Ginny, our new Commander-in-Chief and Royal Cat-herder. At the Science Blogging Conference three weeks ago, she herded (almost) 20 of us in Real Life to take the famous group photo.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your background? What is your Real Life job?

i-bf285ce25a4daa094cb44efb13fc9149-Ginny interview pic.jpgI'm Ginny, a 20-something NYC science writer, low-traffic blogger, and the new Community Manager at ScienceBlogs. I did neuroscience research in college, decided--after a six-month stint studying art history in Paris--that the lab life wasn't for me, and got my Master's in science writing. I wish astrobiology and science missions in general were higher priorities at NASA. I'm recently obsessed with home decorating. (Last night I installed bookshelves on my wall--by myself!) I grew up with two shetland sheepdogs, and miss having a dog around.

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at
the Conference?

I was a web news intern at Seed Magazine, and fell in love with a few of the bloggers at ScienceBlogs.com (it probably wouldn't be appropriate to name names here...). Luckily, anybody who strokes the sciblings' egos enough is allowed into the clan. Since the conference, I've been reading The Other 95%, Inverse Square, and Confessions of a Science Librarian.

There is a rumor that you have read every post and every comment ever posted on Scienceblogs.com. Is that true? Humanely posible? I don't even read my own posts half of the time (and it shows, I'm sure). Hmmmmm, where was I going with this question....dunno, but you can answer something impressionistic!

Bora, you know that you're the only one who actually reads all of the blogs. (Actually, a little bird told me at the conference that you monitor more than 1,500 (!!) blogs. Are you human?) I do read almost all of the ScienceBlogs.com posts, so that I know what's new and super in the world. I must confess, though, I usually skip over your ClockQuotes and Picks From Science Daily.

When a journalist starts writing a blog, the tone is often different than when a scientist writes one. What are the pros and cons of journalistic background when one enters the blogosphere?

I think journalists tend to do more fact-checking. That's a plus. And they're usually more on-topic because they're used to the proverbial editor's chop. But I don't think most journalists understand that a blog post is not just a sloppier news article. It's rare to find a blogger-journalist who keeps up with the blogosphere "conversations"--the comments, the back-and-forth linking, etc.--that make the genre truly new. John Tierney at the NYT does it well, as does ScienceBlogs' own Carl Zimmer.

Is there anything that happened at the Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

A couple of researchers from The Beagle Project were there, and hearing about that huge, smart, creative science project made me go, "Whoa." Yet another example of the expanding field of "alternative science careers." I was blown away, too, by the poise and courage of the young panelists of the Student Science Blogging session. Blogging is the future, man!

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview.


Check out all the interviews in this series.

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I think journalists tend to do more fact-checking.

Than scientists? Um... I don't read enough blogs by journalists to make a strong counter-claim, but that sounds like an odd assertion to me. One of the strengths of science bloggers is that they tend to treat everything like science -- that is, they tend to look for empirical data and ask how well those data can be verified. I'd be interested to know what you mean by "fact-checking" and see some examples of journalists doing more of it (or scientists doing less of it) on their blogs.

I'm loving these interviews, Bora!

Virginia Hughes interviewed me for Page 3.14 back when I first started my blog. She was great, and gave me a real boost to move forward publishing my art in front of scientists and science enthusiasts. One of the highlights of 2007 for me.