A survey on "science blogs"

March 16, 2010

After I read the now-infamous paper by I. Kouper, entitled “Science blogs and public engagement with science: practices, challenges, and opportunities“, I was left in some confusion as to how the author selected 11 blogs to study. I was also curious about what my readers thought of when asked to generate a list of “science blogs” so I asked them. I left the request as general as possible because I was interested in what “science blog” meant as much as in specific examples.
For your entertainment and edification, I tabulated* the results from the 31 answers supplied as of this writing.

I sorted the 101 mentioned blogs by the number of mentions and then alphabetically for ties. As you can readily see, there would appear to be effects obviously attributable to my specific audience. Namely those who are interested in the conduct of science, the Tribe of Science (as Janet Stemwedel coined it) and academic careerism. I was sort of fascinated to see that my personal take / approach in thinking of just-the-papers-ma’am type of blogs was not how my readers were reacting. It was also pretty cool to see some blogs mentions that I’m not familiar with, some new reading if nothing else. Ok, on to…

The Results.
DrugMonkey 20
Female Science Professor 13
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess 13
Pharyngula 11
Not Exactly Rocket Science 10
Neurotopia 9
Adventures in Ethics and Science 8
Respectful Insolence 7
White Coat Underground 7
Effect Measure 6
Bad Astronomy 5
In the Pipeline 5
Terra Sigillata 5
The Loom 5
Thus Spake Zuska 5
Blue Lab Coats 4
Obesity Panacea 4
Professor in Training 4
Uncertain Principles 4
Chemical BiLOLogy 3
Comrade PhysioProf 3
Cosmic Variance 3
Gene Expression 3
Laelaps 3
Medical Writing Editing & Grantsmanship 3
Neurologica 3
Prof-like Substance 3
Young Female Scientist 3
A blog around the clock 2
Ambivalent Academic 2
Applied Statistics 2
Candid Engineer in Academia 2
Cocktail Party Physics 2
Deep Sea News 2
Exponential Book 2
Flowing Data 2
Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) 2
Mike the Mad Biologist 2
Real Climate 2
Scientific Misconduct Blog 2
Tetrapod Zoology 2
The Frontal Cortex 2
The Science Insider 2
Aardvarchology 1
Adolescent Risk Behavior 1
Aetiology 1
Backreaction 1
Bench Marks 1
biocurious 1
Bitesizebio 1
Cognitive Daily 1
Confessions of a Science Librarian 1
DamnGoodTechnician 1
Depleted Cranium 1
Dispatches from the Culture Wars 1
Dot Physics 1
Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde 1
Ecce Medicus 1
Eruptions 1
erv 1
Fat Nutritionist 1
Flying Flux 1
Genomics, Evolution and Pseudoscience 1
Greg Laden’s Blog 1
Highly Allochthonous 1
Incoherently Scattered Ponderings 1
Insigulo 1
Inverse Square 1
Janus Professor 1
John Hawks Anthropology 1
Language Log 1
Learning Curves 1
Marginal Revolution 1
Mommy / Prof 1
Neoformix 1
Neurocritic 1
Neurophilosophy 1
Neuroskeptic 1
Not Even Wrong 1
Now, what was I doing? 1
Open Mind 1
Pharmagossip 1
Revolutions 1
ScienceNOW 1
Skeptical Science 1
Slacker Astronomy 1
Some Lies 1
Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science 1
Swans on Tea 1
Tales of a Genomic Repairman 1
The Clade 1
The Great Beyond 1
The Intersection 1
The Mind of Dr. Pion 1
The Primate Diaries 1
The Pump Handle 1
The Science of Sport 1
The Tree of Life 1
Thoughtful Animal 1
Urban Science Adventures 1

I also had left the door open for mention of blog collectives or aggregators because the Kouper paper seemed to mix-n-match. The number of mentions of a group of blogs are ranked in this table.

Collectives and Aggregators
scienceblogs.com 7
Science Based Medicine 4
Nature Networks 3
researchblogging.org 2
The Panda’s Thumb 2
scienceblogs.de 1
Psychology Today 1
Discovery Blogs 1

*I did one quick run-through. It is possible that I missed a blog mention or miscounted here or there. If anyone spots an error try to be as specific as you can and I’ll correct it.
Note: In case any of you are HTML idiots like me, I found a neat hint to turn Excel columns into HTML table entries here.

No Responses Yet to “A survey on "science blogs"”

  1. antipodean Says:

    This isn’t a survey. It’s a straw poll and it’s qualitatively every bit as scientifically indefensible as the original sampling method you’re criticizing.


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    Congratulations on not missing the point, antipodean…


  3. antipodean Says:

    The point I’m missing is why you and your mates, who are so big on giving good career advice (which I certainly appreciate from your quarter), are ripping shreds off some poor graduate student?


  4. DrugMonkey Says:

    Do you moderate your critique of any papers in your area because you happen to know the first author was a grad student instead of a postdoc? or because you suspect the PI wrote it instead of the postdoc / grad student?
    What does the author have to do with it?
    Unless I missed where this was the Journal of Trainee Research (Just Practicin’ Please Don’t Hurt Us)?


  5. antipodean Says:

    You made your substantive criticism as a scientific reviewer in the first post. Fine, I certainly have no problems with a legitimate response especially since you were a subject in the paper (which must feel weird as an imaginary monkey suddenly popping up in the peer-reviewed world). The peer review and academic supervision systems have clearly missed this one.
    On the other hand if a tree falls in the woods…
    So my question is how many blog posts by how many different bloggers about the same graduate student before this constitutes academic bullying?


  6. PalMD Says:

    Academic bullying????? Ferrealz????
    If you present your ideas publicly, you better be ready for serious criticism. If all of the criticism is ad hominem, then you may ignore it as content-free (and try not to be hurt by it).
    Bullying is a whole different animal.


  7. DrugMonkey Says:

    Do you think that perhaps this question of whether or not some subset of science blogging types accomplishes goals X, Y or Z is of more than passing interest to some subset of bloggers?
    Do you understand the way that bad data and/or bad papers have a tendency to gain currency (by lazy abstract reading) if not countered?
    Can you imagine that sometimes when you stick your nose in about how someone is doin’ it rong you might generate a few questions and launch a couple of pilot queries?
    Let us return to your critique of my methods at #1. The advantage here (apart from the fact that I’m not submitting this for peer review and publication) is that the process is entirely open. The methods are there for you to see. The data are there. (The only thing you have to trust me on is that these are independent suggestions and not the work of one person via sockpuppet) My interpretations of the meaning of the data focus on the bias inherent in the sampling procedure. So you are quite wrong. My “study”, if you want to view it as that, may not be ready for publication but it has some features which compare favorably to the Kouper paper.


  8. antipodean Says:

    Bullying is about power structure.
    What do you think the power structure in this situation looks like, Peter? Bloggers who claim to be PIs (and as far as I can tell are) are devoting multiple posts to demonstrating they know more than a grad student. I think this grad student may have been let down by poor supervision, poor peer-review and possibly by having english as a second language. How does hammering away on her, day after day, help as a training exercise or help improve academic discourse?
    How is this not bullying?


  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    Do you think that if someone takes a really bad shot at an answerable question that all subsequent investigation into that question, in whatever shape or form, is bullying that initial inferior attempt?


  10. Lab Lemming Says:

    Is there anyway to normalize that list by traffic and/or impact (assuming you don’t have everyone’s traffic data)?


  11. ginger Says:

    I would buy your righteous defense of this “poor graduate student”, antipodean, except that you already tipped your hand in the other DM thread by talking about criticism of non-American science. That objection made no sense, of course, because even if the doctoral candidate herself isn’t American, her institution sure as hell is. You have some axe to grind here, but it’s a noble defense against bullying.
    Besides, she’s studying science blogs and the associated discourse. She’s better prepared to handle being talked about in science blogs than someone studying frog chromosomes.
    (Note: I am not wholly certain the person in question is female – “Inna” is a female name in some places, so I went with it. I want my comments to apply equally if Inna’s male.)


  12. antipodean Says:

    Ginger and Pal you’re right. Somebody send her the links and she can get on here and defend her work herself- the fact that she writes about science blogs in the peer-reviewed literature means she should.
    Ginger- Her CV photo appears female to me, unless I’ve gone to the wrong place somehow. Her training before coming to America appears Russian.


  13. If I’m (a grad student) first author on a paper you have every right to hold me to the same standard as you would a postdoc, a research scientist, even a PI for the paper’s content. I want feedback and not the watered down shit because I still have the stink of the FNG. If I can’t take the heat the maybe I should get the hell out of the scientific kitchen.


  14. ginger Says:

    (Of course, that should have read “it’s *not* a noble defense against bullying”. And antipodean’s right, although I didn’t go so far as to dig up her CV, the bio at the end of her paper says she’s female.)
    Maybe it’s just the field I’m in (epidemiology) and the corners of the internet I frequent, but it’s not that big a deal to me to have work discussed critically online by lay readers or even experts. I don’t go out and defend it on every blog that picks a hole, because I lack the time and energy, and because there’s really not a lot of point. But where the criticisms are reasonable, I use them the same way I do comments from reviewers – I try to improve the thinking for next time.
    Honestly, though, I don’t see how someone who studies science blogs and new-media science communication could possibly think that her work wouldn’t be discussed on science blogs. Having this much attention paid to one’s first first-author in-discipline paper is all to the good: number of online mentions is a metric of (lay) impact, which in science communications is probably pretty important.


  15. Moses Says:

    Damn, but I had a lot of the “1’s…” lol


  16. Anonymous Says:

    You omitted this blog from your list:


  17. DrugMonkey Says:

    No, I included that one anon. Unless there is more than one “scientific misconduct blog”?


  18. Jojo Says:

    It looks like you have Neurologica listed in both the 2 and the 1 list.


  19. DrugMonkey Says:

    Yep, Neurologica scored 3 nominations, I’ve now corrected the table. Thanks Jojo.


  20. Isabel Says:

    “My “study”, if you want to view it as that, may not be ready for publication but it has some features which compare favorably to the Kouper paper. ”
    My one complaint would be that it is unclear whether you are asking people to list 11 objective sites that they would consider representative of science blogging, or their 11 favorites, which is how many seemed to interpret it.
    The author clearly wanted to look at science-blogging reaching non-scientists. I wonder what would be an appropriate way to sample for that purpose?


  21. DrugMonkey Says:

    Isabel, one of my goals was to see what definitions emerged. This is kinda like the brainstorming or hypothesis generating stage. One could move on from this to try to identify how people were attacking the question and then refine the definition in subsequent surveys to answer different aspects. “most influential”, “most science-y”, “your favorite”….etc. Also, of course, to underline the fact that the original paper did not appear to do this sort of cleaning-up of the methods at the front end of her study.
    LL@#10- I don’t have everyone’s traffic so normalizing would be impossible. From my seat-of-pants estimate, however, the sample bias of those who read my blog (which is on SB, another critical feature to the sample bias) is so strong that it would appear to wash out any general effect of traffic.


  22. Anonymous Says:

    “No, I included that one anon. Unless there is more than one “scientific misconduct blog”?”
    You sure did. My bad!


  23. DrugMonkey Says:

    Good gravy. Focus people!
    YFS has concluded that the fact that her blog was mentioned only 3 times in my little survey is some kind of disrespect for her blogging.
    Can we make this point any clearer? ANY sampling procedure that does not go to some serious pains is going to be skewed by the way the participants were rounded up. The way the questions are asked changes the outcome. The less well specified the question, the greater the variance. This is not getting at some generalized truth about what is and is not a good “science blog”. Not. Not. NOT!
    You should take no pride in your blog being mentioned, nor should you feel any disrespect for it not being mentioned.
    and I have to confess I find myself a little disappointed that nobody took up a similar call to their own readerships (and NatNet I’m looking at you) to show just how different results could be…


  24. becca Says:

    shorter DM:
    “I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you! that navel-gazing bloggers (doing what navel-gazing bloggers do best) took my highly unscientific bloggy popularity contest poll and took that as a measure of bloggy popularity!!! SHOCKED!”
    You really should have seen that coming DM. For serious.


  25. If that poll were correctly normalized to the sheer magnificence of my blog, it would be number 1.
    And, yeah, YFS complaining that this poll means no one respects her blog totally cracked me the fuck up!


  26. Anonymous Says:

    dude, you have way too much time on your hand, probably way more than your trainees.


  27. Grant Says:

    Oh, rats, I didn’t realise you had the results already up. I added a few not in your list, in particular:
    sciblogs.co.nz (collective, where my blog is hosted)
    Mystery rays from outer space
    Mind the Gap
    You can make HTML tables from columns in a number of text editors too, by using replacements anchored to the start/end of lines.


  28. I was higher on the list than CPP. That made me really motherfucking happy.


  29. “I have to confess I find myself a little disappointed that nobody took up a similar call to their own readerships (and NatNet I’m looking at you) to show just how different results could be…”
    Sorry sir, the LOLcats ate my homework sir.
    Personally I don’t think it would be all that constructive or interesting to repeat this exercise elsewhere (although maybe one of the other NN bloggers might want to have a shot – I’ll send them a link to this post); we’d get distinct but overlapping lists, thus predictably proving a point that’s already been made. Meh.


  30. Jason Says:

    You should take no pride in your blog being mentioned, nor should you feel any disrespect for it not being mentioned.

    Well, I, for one, am quite thrilled to be mentioned among such esteemed company! (even if mentioned by only 1 person)


  31. Jason Says:

    …and to be mentioned by the domestic and laboratory goddess herself. I can now die happy.


  32. I was higher on the list than CPP. That made me really motherfucking happy.

    That’s just cause the fucking shit wasn’t properly normalized.


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