Say ‘Hi’ if you see him running – Interview with Dave Munger

Dave Munger is part of the numerous North Carolinian contingent here at Scienceblogs.com. He writes the Cognitive Daily blog and runs the ResearchBlogging.org blog aggregator. At the Science Blogging Conference two weeks ago, Dave led a session on Building interactivity into your blog.
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?
Hi, I’m Dave Munger. My background is in writing, editing, and publishing. I’ve written several textbooks, most notably, Researching Online, and I have had a blog of some sort since about 2002. I also have a degree in Science Education and taught high school chemistry and biology for a short time. My real life job is creating a new non-profit organization called ResearchBlogging.org. All your readers should go visit and sign up. And if any of your readers happen to represent grant-making organizations, they should send me an email.
What do you want to do/be when you grow up?
I’m pretty much doing it. It would be nice to make a little more money at it, though!
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while following the Conference?
The first science blog I discovered was Chad Orzel’s Uncertain Principles. I’m still a huge fan. I can’t tell you how I discovered it — probably via the litblogging community, since Chad’s just as likely to write about fiction as science. I was a litblogger before I was a science blogger (and still am, sort of, on wordmunger.com). It’s hard to identify particular favorite science blogs — I do most of my reading via aggregators (I’ll refrain from plugging my own) like ScienceBlogs.com. I know there are lots of great blogs out there, I’m just not very good about reading all of them. I can say that I am especially impressed with the many blogs devoted to combating pseudoscience, from Orac’s Respectful Insolence, to Panda’s Thumb, to Pharyngula. Their patience in explaining science, over and over, to people who never quite seem to get it, is inspiring.
Your wife, Greta, and you write Cognitive Daily together. How does that work?
It works great! She’s the expert, so she finds new journal articles about cognitive psychology, and I write about whatever she finds. We meet once a week for coffee to discuss plans for the blog. It might seem a bit strange to have to set up a regular meeting with your spouse, but it’s an absolutely essential part of the blogging process. Otherwise the blog would get lost in the day-to-day craziness of raising two teenagers.
Your blog is famous for its series of Friday “experiments” where you ask your readers to participate. Can you explain how this works? Do you have a good example where it provided some really interesting and useful data?
We use this to answer fun questions that we haven’t seen addressed in the literature (it doesn’t mean they haven’t been addressed — we just haven’t seen them). The first one, for example, addressed the question of who says “hi” to you when you’re out exercising (http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2006/01/do_we_tell_the_truth_about_how.php). I’m a runner, and I had noticed that other runners seemed to say hi to me much more often than walkers. We were able to confirm this hunch, as well as come up with a potential explanation. Is it useful? Maybe not, but it’s interesting and fun. As the feature has gotten more popular, readers have come to start criticizing our research methods. This is a little unfair, since we never claim our results are scientifically valid, but I think even this criticism serves an important purpose: readers learn what it takes to run a scientific study of behavior.
You are the power behind ResearchBlogging.org (formerly known as BPR3). Can you explain what it is about and how it differs from Postgenomic, for instance?
Dave%20and%20Greta%20and%20SteveSteve.jpg
Dave and Greta with Professor Steve Steve
ResearchBlogging.org is a site that collects blog posts about peer-reviewed research in one place. Most science bloggers will write about more than just research — they might discuss politics, or their hobbies, or rant about the latest Britney Spears fiasco. We wanted to create a place where people could find all the serious, thoughtful posts from scientists and others interested in scholarly research.
When they’ve written a post that meets our guidelines, they fill out a form on our site (usually just one line), and paste the code we provide back into their blog. This creates a properly formatted formal research citation for them and alerts our indexing system to add their post into our database.
This is different from other aggregators like PostGenomic because our site only includes thoughtful posts about peer-reviewed research. Most other aggregators collect any link to a journal article — but most of these posts turn out to be just lists of references, or cut-and-paste versions of the abstract. That can be extremely useful too — and we plan on working with PostGenomic in the future — but it serves a different purpose from our site.
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?

I think I was most impressed in my conversations with Jennifer Jacquet, who’s behind the Shifting Baselines blog and who’s passionate about conservation in the world’s oceans. I will certainly think a lot harder about the impact I make when I eat a fish. And I might start eating more sardines, which I love, and which Jennifer says is one of only ten species that aren’t currently threatened by overfishing. I’m not sure I’ll bring that to my blog, because it has such a narrow focus. Though maybe we could do a Casual Friday about seafood eating behavior….
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. Say Hi to Greta – we missed her this year!
You’re welcome. And thank you for the wonderful job you’ve done with the conference, this blog, PLoS ONE, and the science blogging anthology!
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Check out all the interviews in this series.

3 responses to “Say ‘Hi’ if you see him running – Interview with Dave Munger

  1. Dave, I love your idea for a casual Friday on seafood eating behavior. We can plan one soon (during Lent) and talk about religion’s role in fish eating…

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