Science Blogging is Not Blogging on Peer Reviewed Research

I hate when people tell me what to blog (and not blog). I blog what I want, you read what you want. When the two coincide, wonderful.

Bayblab, which is apparently some kind of science blog mostly written by anonymous bloggers, has a post critical of certain areas of science blogging.

Mostly it is whining wannabee dribble, sour grapes, and all that, and I couldn't care less about it. But BB makes a deeply disturbing error in conflating science blogging with blogging about peer reviewed reserach. Nothing else is considered "true" science blogging.

Here is my comment on BB's post:

Interesting post, but I think your point of reference, or approach to measurement, could be different.

For example, you note that Pharyngula is not that much about science (or imply it, anyway). But if you take the Pharungula posts that are explicitly science, count them, and count the number of what I think you would call science posts on the typical science blog, you'd find that Pharngula is more productive than average, or at least average.

Also, you explicitly conflate blogging on peer review research and real science blogging. A lot of my posts are not on peer reviewed work, but they are still on science. Sometimes it is my own research. Also, I provide commentary on science news items.

Finally, the political side should not be discounted. Posts on evo-creo and such are posts about science. Scientists ignore the political side of what we do at our peril.

Have a look at Science or Nature .... is every word they print either peer reviewed research or about peer reviewed research? NO. Is it all about science? Yes.

Oh, they also call PZ Myers, of Pharyngula, an 800 pound gorilla. Well, I know PZ Myers and, well, that's pretty much accurate, I must say.

BB's attitude that attacking creationists is a waste of time is exactly the attitude that many scientists have had for decades, and it is an attitude that has contributed to the current state of affairs. It is an utterly irresponsible attitude.

BB points out that we sciencebloggers get paid. Yes, we do. And the rate at which I am paid, if prorated over the hours I spend brining my readers this stream of blogstuff would be illegal in Indonesia.

I should also mention that the reason that "" is the elephant in the room is simple: A blogger does not simply set up an account on Sb, as one might set up an account on, say, blogspot. Rather, we are recruited. Make no mistake: There are many outstanding and popular (not always the same thing) blogs out there that are not on Sb. It is not the case that Sb is the cream of the crop. But it is a selected group (selected by the Seed editorial team with some input from the Sb bloggers). But it is important to note that the criteria for selection are not about popularity. Rather, the editorial staff seems to select to develop a representative sample across the sciences, and to promote diversity in the science blogosphere.

As to BB's suggestion that we are incestuous: We are a little. But as far as I know, all of us avoid cross linking to Sb to the exclusion of other blogs. Before becoming an Sb blogger, I had a blog ( That blog was linked to by Sb bloggers then at about the same frequency as my blog on Sb is linked now. Joining Sb got me about week or two of "welcome to the team links" but otherwise, I get no special treatment.

We coordinate and collectively act via our Sb link on very few things, and these things are virtually always about actions in support of worthy causes (like raising money for teachers). For my part, I communicate "off blog" with other science bloggers at a rate independent of any linkage to Sb. My interaction with other bloggers is more about common interest in scientific and, yes, political issues.

Go read the post and the comments.


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That's a good question, I'll have to think about it. Maybe, in fact, I can blog about it!!!


You missed the main criticism I had of BayBlab, and that was why should scientists who blog be singled out for criticism for blogging about things other than science, and particularly
peer-reviewed research ? Scientists will have interests outside of science, such as you do in Linux and Open Source. BayBlab seems to be assuming scientists who write blogs should write science blogs, rather than being scientists who blog. All of the blogs I read on SciBlog (with some exceptions, and they are not actually scientists anyway (and besides I nearly always think they are wrong)) do blog about science, but not exclusively, and I have no problem with that. It tells me more about them as people, and about what makes scientists tick.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 27 Feb 2008 #permalink

"Rather, the editorial staff seems to select to develop a representative sample across the sciences, and to promote diversity in the science blogosphere."

I would have to complain that there are no chemist bloggers other than Molecule of the Day and Adventures in Ethics and Science. With all due respect to them, I don't think they represent all that is exciting and vibrant in chemistry, in the same way that the biological sciences, and some areas of physics and astronomy are represented on SciBlogs I think chemistry as a science is under represented on SciBlogs, so I'd have to question the extent to which they are promoting diversity in the blogosphere.

Chemists are under-represented, I agree. Physics improved its standing significantly with the signing of Dave Bacon, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. With Mark Chu-Carroll rather quiet these days, and Jason Rosenhouse even quieter, mathematics isn't showing up too strongly either.

Of course, the technical infrastructure for talking about math here isn't really in place, either.

Matt: Absolutely.

Propter, Blake: I assure you that the editors really do want to strive for diversity. You may be right that chemistry is underrepresented, however. These are really useful comments and I'll pass them on to the editor right away.

How big a bucket do you need to brine your readers?

Ahem. Sorry.

Talking only about peer-reviewed research would limit your opportunities to connect to your readers. If I know you well enough through your blog to think we may be interested in some of the same things, I'm more likely to read your PRR reporting on topics I wouldn't have been gung ho about on my own. Perhaps they should look to their methods if they want to change their results.

And yes, I'll post this over there too. Without the brine.

By Stephanie Z (not verified) on 27 Feb 2008 #permalink

Science Blogs needs more botany. I'd love to see more plant biology and other greenery goodness somewhere amongst the squids, old bones, and fancy stones. I do read your blog regularly, Greg.

As for the BayBlabbers...I had some sympathy, if only for their evident gauche youth, until the second part was posted. Sorry, BeBes, even if you did intend a clumsy social experiment, no one is likely to believe it.

"Rather, the editorial staff seems to select to develop a representative sample across the sciences, and to promote diversity in the science blogosphere."

Got supporting data for this statement? It seems to me that they select dominantly American left-leaning politically aware young scientists.

Even the non-Americans who have been recruited have started chiming in on US culture/politics since joining. Of the two non-American* science blogs that I read semi-regularly, I didn't read Deltoid pre-recruitment, but I can't recall him posting anything on Australia or the Pacific region. All Us stuff. And Chris Rowan has posted increasingly on US topics, less on British stuff, and not at all** on South African culture (scientific or otherwise). So it appears to me that Scienceblogs reduces diversity.

In fact, I suspect the true stamp of quality would be those people who have transcended scienceblogs. Frinktank was awesome, before they quit. And Rob Knop and Kevin Vranes are still good reads.

*I'm not counting resident aliens working in the US.

**In the posts that I have read, which are most, but not all.

Lab Lemming: Well, you are asking me to provide you with evidence (meaning verifiable reification of prior events) of private meetings, so no, of course not. The statement I made is true, and I know it is true because of the conversation that is ongoing between editors and bloggers. Not even my fellow blogger know what goes between editors and me, and I do not know what they speak of. Part of this is private one-on-one, partly private in the group.

So you just have to trust me.

However, I can say with perfect certainty that the small but steady number of conversations I've been involved in are about subject matter, quality of blogging, gender, ethnicity and geography. Political left-right status has not come up in this conversation as far as I know. Nobody has asked me about that.

I don't think the Sblings as a group are very different than scientists as a group.

Bee: More plants good, I think. Yes

"Propter, Blake: I assure you that the editors really do want to strive for diversity. You may be right that chemistry is underrepresented, however. These are really useful comments and I'll pass them on to the editor right away."

I think she's definitely right. As far as I'm aware, there's only one chemistry blog. Janet of Adventures in Ethics and Science was trained as a chemist, but neither her career nor her blog is really in chemistry. That leaves just Molecule of the Day, I think.

I've noticed that, in general, the physical sciences are underrepresented here, but that may be a product of the make-up of the overall blogosphere.

The physical sciences have been under-represented, but recent additions have ameliorated this to some extent.

Recent additions have ameliorated the underrepresentation of physical sciences to a point. That is true. MRW - while the underrepresentation of the physical sciences may be a product of the make up of the blogosphere, I'm not sure that should necessarily be reflected in

And I'd have to agree with lab lemming, with all the posting on topics like the US presidential science debate theme, I do feel that a lot of the writing is very US-centric. Even although there are some non-US bloggers, there is very little about non-US science politics and science in general. I suspect that the majority of the readership is American so topics of interest to those groups will of course generate more traffic and interest. At the end of the day, science is a global endeavour, and fair and true representation of science and scientist cannot be achieved by 71 blogs mainly written by Americans. (I can't face going through and counting how many Americans, British, etc by virtue of residency. I went through looking for chemists a week ago, and it took some time)