Category Archives: Scienceblogging Q&As

Scienceblogging: Scientopia – a Q&A with SciCurious and Mark Chu-Carroll

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

Sci: My ‘name’ is Scicurious, and I started blogging in May(ish) of 2008. I have a PhD in Physiology, and I’m currently a post-doc at a rather famous MRU. I got into scienceblogging when I met BORA! I wanted to improve my science writing skills and see how the science writing world looked. My contact told me to talk to Bora. I met him at a coffee shop. The next day, Scicurious was born, first on WordPress, then on Scienceblogs, and now at Scientopia!

Mark: I’m Mark Chu-Carroll. I write the blog Good Math/Bad Math, which is pretty much about exactly what the title says. I write to try to explain good math, and what makes it beautiful and fascinating; and to show how people abuse math to deceive or distort things.

How I got into blogging was by reading blogs. It looked like a lot of fun writing them, but I couldn’t quite figure out an angle – what could I say that people would be interested in reading, that would be different from what dozens of people were already saying?

So I just kept reading. And one day, I was reading one of Orac’s posts about a really stupid vaccination/autism study. Orac had done a typically Orac’ian takedown – that is, remarkably thorough and comprehensive – and yet, it seemed obvious to me, he’d missed the stupidest part of the thing: the whole thing was based on an obviously and deliberately incorrect mathematical procedure. I posted a long comment explaining it – and then said, hey, you know what? I could write a blog about that! And so I started Good Math/Bad Math on Blogger, by copying that comment into the first post.

I thought, when it started, that I’d probably never get anyone to read it, and that I’d probably end up giving up after a week or two. Now it’s been almost five years!

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?
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Scienceblogging: Field of Science – a Q&A with Edward Michaud

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Edward Michaud from Field of Science a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

My professional life is wholly separate from my passion for science and web development, so to best understand who I am and where I come from in relation to Field of Science, it seems more appropriate to tell the story of how I came to found it: ’00-’05: The best science blogger I know doesn’t blog and rarely writes about science. She posts anonymously in a forum that will remain unnamed. Hers is by far the fittest intellect I have ever encountered. I spend the first half of the decade in the online company of this person and others of her ilk (i.e. people smarter and better educated than I). … ’05-’08: I take note that the Internet helps those who help themselves. Given how much I enjoy the medium, I try my hand at it. Soon after I conclude that web development is my cup of tea. … ’08-Present: With tried and tested skill set in hand, I decide it’s time to quit messing around and try to create a space that will hopefully appeal to the people I find most interesting–scientists–all while betting that on the Internet, nobody knows I’m a dog. That space is Field of Science.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

For the science blogger, it truly is a new day (even though it might not feel like it). From idealistic newbie to cynical seasoned pro, if there was ever a time to blog at your best, this next year is it. A new world of science blogging just opened up, so not only is there new territory full of unoccupied niches waiting to be filled, the old world order no longer rules the day.

Competition is key, and in that respect the schism (a mistake) is the best thing to happen to science blogging since, well, ScienceBlogs. My take on where things go from here starts with the new, more diverse science blog network landscape.

I suspect that the sudden valuation of science blogs is a bit of a bubble in that the credibility the corporate publishers think they’re buying with their science blog networks can never truly be quantified, leaving them perpetually vulnerable to the subjective whims and prejudices of the next Owner, Editor, Department Head? I expect to see some of these networks fall innocent victim to buyer’s remorse.

Fortunately for the commercial networks, they won’t be struggling to justify their existence in a corporate echo chamber. In the newly competitive environment: flexibility, freedom to experiment and test new/fresh ideas, and simple numbers give the noncommercial networks a substantial advantage over their more top-heavy, structurally and financially constrained corporate counterparts. The commercial networks that prove the most successful will likely be the ones not too proud to follow the lead of the innovative collectives and nonprofits, because they are the new proving grounds, and where the next “elite” science bloggers will cut their teeth.

At some point during the summer ScienceBlogs stopped being the center of the science blogging universe. That’s a fundamental break from the past, and as a consequence the future of science blogging has been unstuck with the spotlight now on change and innovation. The power is back in the science blogger’s hands. An example of this new power would be supporting the elite science bloggers at their commercial digs by a) reading them and b) linking to them when they’ve said something right, wrong or worthy of note. The reason for this is as I mentioned above, it’s hard to quantify the “authority” a science blog network gains a publication, but traffic and pagerank are measurable, and if the science blogging community supports its lucky elite, then two things happen: those commercial networks grow (read: more room at the top), and presumably scientific literacy increases, which is good in and of itself, but also happens to be the best way to grow the audience for science blogs everywhere.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

I use feedreader because I’m old school like that. I’m also no stranger to Twitter, but because it’s still new school, I can’t really admit to using it just yet.

Where do you see Field Of Science within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what unique service does it provide?

Field of Science is a big tent, from the occasional blogger who wants a larger audience for those rare posts, to the frequent science blogger who has their sights set on bigger things, it exists to serve its bloggers whatever their aspirations.

I tend to order the science blog networks as if I were an upwardly mobile science blogger. From that vantage Field of Science is the lowest rung in the ladder. It’s a voluntary first step for science bloggers interested in exploring the network effect. By raising a science blogger’s profile, Field of Science helps to guard against great content being overlooked. It’s also the case that perceptions play a huge role in the authority readers assign content. The casual reader reads a science blog the same as they do any other blog. Being powered by Blogger, Field of Science is positioned to turn the credibility deficit blogspot blogs suffer by default, into a credibility surplus, without changing the blogging experience for the science blogger one iota.

Personally, I hope to some day see a Field of Science blogger graduate to a paying gig, and to feel like their association with Field of Science played a role in making that happen. If I had one wish for Field of Science, it would be that it become conventional wisdom that a proven route to the upper echelons of science blogging passes through Field of Science.

Otherwise, my vision of Field of Science is always that of a patient and thoughtful science tribe that excels at finding and promoting voices in science.

What is next for Field Of Science?

I’m currently bouncing between redesigning the main page and the standard template for blogs, as we’ve outgrown out last design. I’m looking at the problem from the perspective of future partner networks as well. That is, creating an architecture that can be shared across multiple science blog networks. I’m also working on the problem of preserving a blog’s individual character while still delivering the benefits a network.

Thank you so much for your time. I hope you and some of your bloggers will be able to make it to ScienceOnline2011 in January so we can continue this dialogue in real life.

===========================

Name of the site:
Field of Science (FoS)

URL:
http://www.fieldofscience.com/

Feed URL:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/FoSCombinedFeed

Founder(s):
Edward Michaud

Date of launch:
September 26, 2008

Number of bloggers on the day of launch:
1

Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site:
13

Current number of bloggers:
13

Software/Platform:
Google/Blogger

Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews):
61,132/88,005

Scienceblogging: The Lay Scientist (and The Guardian) – a Q&A with Martin Robbins

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Martin Robbins of The Lay Scientist a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging? Before the launch of the Guardian science blogging network, what did you do?

I am Martin Robbins, I have a background in science and I currently work in a research job which I try to keep apart from my public life due to the nature of some of the people I write about. I’m also a freelance journalist and writer with a column at The Guardian, and a blogger, and at the moment I’m contracted by the Guardian to work on the development of their blogging network, and produce a report on its future (and by extension to some extent the future of science blogging). I got into science blogging though basically annoyance at poor coverage of science issues, combined with a passion for researching things and finding out more about them, and then thanks to some helpful editors and Twitter I ended up where I am now.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

I actually don’t agree. I think the changes have been happening for the last few years, but for whatever reason people didn’t notice them happening, or chose to ignore them. All of the things we’re talking about now – proliferation of competing networks, the commercialization of science blogging, bloggers merging with mainstream media, and issues between business and editorial – are things that people were talking about in 2009. What happened in 2010 with ‘Pepsigate’ and the aftermath was that people finally decided to talk about the elephant in the room, and act on it.

I think a lot of people are in denial about their position too, or cling to labels that are increasingly irrelevant. Once ScienceBlogs started being aggregated by Google News, bloggers there became to some extent subject to the same ethical considerations as mainstream media journalists, whether they are willing to accept it or not. Bloggers will be placed under much more scrutiny as the playing field levels and they become indistinguishable from columnists and journalists

In the next couple of years I think the trends of 2008-2010 will continue. Blogging will become increasingly commercialized and increasingly affiliated with mainstream media outlets. Social media will increasingly act as people’s editor of choice. Networks which thrive will be those who support good writers, and give them freedom and space to explore and innovate, and I expect to see more sophisticated editorial approaches developed in terms of how networks of blogs are developed and managed.

On the downside, I think the issue of editorial control won’t go away. I suspect we’ll see a whole series of battles similar to Pepsigate over the next 24 months as battles which were once fought in print media over things like the division between editorial and business management are refought on the internet.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

Twitter has become better than me at finding interesting stuff to read, and has taken over to a large extent from my news-reader, as there are very few bloggers worth reading every single day. Twitter is like having six hundred and fifty brains filtering content for me, catering to my interests. Social media has transformed the way people access the internet and news websites, and will continue to do so.

That said, I also try to subscribe to other, more diverse sources to try to prevent myself falling into the trap of existing within a news bubble or echo-chamber – Google alerts are useful, and also specialist aggregators like AllAfrica.com.

Tell us a little bit more about The Lay Scientist – it used to be your own personal blog but is now a group blog. How and why did you make the decision to make this change? How did you assemble the bloggers – did they apply, did you hand-pick them, or some other way? What is the goal and vision of the site?

I wanted the site to be bigger and better, but couldn’t achieve that on my own. I could also see that the existing blogging model doesn’t work for a lot of people. There are many people who occasionally have something interesting to say, but who don’t want to start a blog of their own because they’d only write once a month and it’s too much hassle. My aim was to provide some of those people with a platform.

Where do you see The Lay Scientist within the blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what unique service does it provide?

The two sites should work quite nicely together once I can find someone to take over layscience.net and run it day to day. My aim is that the old community site will be an open platform, while the site at guardian.co.uk/layscience will be used to showcase people and issues which I think deserve a wider audience, as well as being a supplement to my own column and journalism. I don’t think it’s particularly unique, but I think I’ve managed to provide a conduit between the wider blogosphere and mainstream media. So for example I’ve been able to help unknown bloggers get issues like ‘bleachgate’ into the mainstream media via The Guardian.

What prompted The Guardian to add a science blogging network to their already prolific and high-quality science reporting? Did #PepsiGate have any effect on decision-making or timing of the project? What is your role, apart from blogging yourself, in the new Guardian blogging network?

My role is initially as a consultant for the launch, and I’ll be setting out how I think the network should develop once the launch is out of the way and the site has settled down. I hope to take a long term role developing the site, but we’ll see. (I’ll leave the rest of the question for Alok to cover as I’m not sure how much I should say).

Do you notice any geographical differences in topics, styles etc. between British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, continental European and other science bloggers? If so, any explanations you can come with?

I think there’s been a disappointing lack of communication and collaboration between especially British and American bloggers, and that’s disappointing because many of the issues we tackle are global or international in nature, and could benefit from a coordinated attack.

British and Australian/NZ bloggers seem much more willing to take things offline and engage in real-world activism, whereas Americans either aren’t bothering, or haven’t managed to convey what they’re doing to an international audience. Certainly getting Americans to take part in or even promote international campaigns like 10:23 was a thankless task.

I wonder if it’s entirely a coincidence that in recent times campaigns on things like the atheist buses, 10:23, libel, science funding and so on have starting in London and Liverpool rather than New York or Boston, and US atheists are relying on Brits like Dawkins and Hitchens to rally the crowds.

Thank you for the interview. We’ll keep being in touch and I hope you can come to ScienceOnline2011 so we can discuss the future in person.

Name of the site: The Lay Scientist
URL: guardian.co.uk/layscience / layscience.net
Feed URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/rss
Owner (if corporate): The Guardian / Martin Robbins
Founder(s): Martin Robbins
Current community manager: Martin Robbins
Geographical location: London, UK
Date of launch: February 2008 (layscience.net) / September 2010 (guardian.co.uk)
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 1 (around 30 by time of Guardian launch)
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: ~30
Current number of bloggers: ~30
Software/Platform: Drupal (layscience.net) Proprietary system (guardian.co.uk)
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews): Only have stats for both sites for September, combined total was ~ 700,000 page views, but probably closer to 200k on an average month, though that’s a complete guess as the Guardian site is so new, and growing.

Scienceblogging: LabSpaces – a Q&A with Brian Krueger

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Brian Krueger of LabSpaces a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

Hello readers! I’m Brian Krueger, I’m a researcher at the University of Florida. By day I mutate important “stuff” out of Herpes viruses to better understand how viral proteins, microRNAs and genetic regulatory regions affect how the virus survives in a host, and by night I run the science news site and blog network, LabSpaces.net. I began my love for science as a young nerd growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. Not deterred by all of the early ridicule, I studied biology at a small liberal arts school and got my bachelor of science degree from Bradley University. I completed my PhD in molecular biology at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2009, and then moved down to Florida to manage the start up of the Herpes virus mutation core facility.

I got into science blogging as a result of trying to create a social network for the scientific community. In 2005, I had just begun my PhD, saw how popular an interesting new website had become (Facebook) and decided I’d try to see how I could spin a “Facebook” into a useful tool for scientists. After years of trying to unsuccessfully promote my social network on a non-existent advertising budget, I decided to change the focus of the network to one of increasing science literacy by getting scientists and the public interacting and talking about science in one place. To best facilitate this communication, I asked a very talented group of bloggers to join the site.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

The falling out at ScienBlogs was definitely important. A lot of great science bloggers have since joined new networks or formed their own collectives. It seemed like new networks sprung up almost over night after the pepsi-gate scandal and I think that this has helped put the spotlight on newer blogging talent. Maybe the best thing that happened was that it opened the eyes of bloggers and showed them that they didn’t have to aspire to ScienceBlogs to have their voices heard. There’s a ton of room for growth in the blog network sector, and we’re starting to realize that.

As far as the future of science blogging is concerned, I think for now things are going to be pretty complicated. We’re trying to figure out what is the best fit for the science blogging community. Niche networks are on the rise and we’re seeing all ecology, geology, marine biology etc networks form. It remains to be seen if these types of networks can sustain a readership, though.

Additionally, how the ecosystem shapes up depends on what bloggers and networks want to get out of their writing. Many bloggers have chosen to stay independent. I know I have spoken with a significant number of bloggers who are content staying at wordpress or blogger and have no intention of joining a blogging network. For some they like having complete control over their bloggy domain or have no desire to make blogging more stressful by having to meet deadlines or posting quotas. Personally, I think things will probably settle back into a normal routine in a year or so. There are going to be great independent bloggers, high profile blog networks like ScienceBlogs, Discovery, SciAM etc, and smaller “for fun” networks like LabSpaces. I don’t see there being “one network to rule them all” though, because each network has different goals in mind.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

I usually read science blogs based on what I find through twitter or through posts made by my own bloggers. I also have a blogroll on my own blog at LabSpaces that lists my favorite blogs that I read on a daily basis. I find new blogs through blog posts by my own bloggers, their blog rolls, and by reading through researchblogging.org every couple of days. There’s a ton of blogging talent out there and you really don’t have to look very hard!

Tell us a little bit more about Lab Spaces. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

LabSpaces main goal is to increase communication between scientists and the public. The bloggers serve a very important role in facilitating the realization of this goal. I have tried to recruit a wide variety of scientists and science bloggers to the website. Most of the bloggers on the site are full time scientists who blog about the scientific lifestyle or interesting new developments in their field of study.

When I first coded the blogging platform at LabSpaces, I thought it would be a great way to try to get scientists to blog about their daily lab lives, talk about experimental problems, or discuss their latest data. Since the website has remained small, the blogging section was unused for at least two years (if you don’t count the biotech spammers…). I decided after my major redesign of the site that I’d try to actively recruit current scientist bloggers to the site to flesh out the blog section. It began almost as a joke on twitter. I asked Joanne Manaster (world renowned Science Goddess, former international model, and YouTube powered Science book reviewer) if she’d like to syndicate her book reviews on the site. David Manly, a recent journalism graduate and animal lover, asked if he could have a blog spot too. This started a small wave of twitter requests from Nancy Parmalee and Evie Marom who also wanted to blog. Since I had at least 4 twitter followers who were interested, I asked a few more of my favorite followers if they were interested in blogging on the website and I ended up adding Catherine Anderson, The ModernScientist, Disgruntled Julie, and the Angry Scientist. From there I have slowly invited other bloggers to the site who I find interesting and LabSpaces currently has 26 active bloggers.

The process of adding people is pretty simple. I let the bloggers nominate anyone they’d like, we discuss them in the forum, and then I send that person an invite to join. I’ll also invite bloggers that I think write engaging and interesting content. We have a private googleDoc spreadsheet to keep track of new talent. There’s no big committee or review board, but I do try to bring bloggers in who I think fit well with our band of blogging misfits. Bloggers are also welcome to audition by posting in the blogger forum and linking to their blog for review.

Where do you see Lab Spaces within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what unique service does it provide?

I think LabSpaces has the potential to become very popular with both practicing scientists and the lay public. The bloggers write on a wide range of topics that are appealing to both communities. Lately, the majority of posts have been focused on the scientific lifestyle and it seems that LabSpaces content is heading in that direction although I am trying to balance that out by recruiting bloggers who write about both lifestyle and scientific research. I don’t tell the bloggers what to write about or put limits on their topics, but I think content diversity certainly is important for sustaining a readership.

What makes the blogging experience different at LabSpaces is that the site was originally programmed as a social network. This means that readers can interact with the bloggers in more ways than just by commenting on blog posts. A few of our bloggers have formed groups on the website where they discuss anything from football to whether we should contact alien life.

LabSpaces has the potential to provide a richer user experience by allowing users to interact in a self contained community. Users can track the activity of their friends on the site to see what their friends are commenting on or discussing. This could help spur further discussion or bring different viewpoints to posts that a reader may have missed or thought wouldn’t interest them.

LabSpaces is also different because it was coded by me and I’m the only person on the back end that runs the site. If things break or stop working, I know where to look and what to fix. If the bloggers want something new or added functionality, they don’t have to find a plugin that only solves half of the problem, they can tell me what they want and I’ll code it in over the weekend. Finally, because it’s just me running the site, things can be changed or updated immediately. We don’t have to hold meetings, ask the editorial board or the investors if it’s ok. We are in a much better position to be innovative and take risks. I hope that we can take advantage of this to bring about changes to how the public interacts with scientists and the news we generate.

What is next for Lab Spaces?

World Domination. Haha, no, I really don’t have a set plan for “What’s next.” We’re going to keep our eyes out for good talent and try to grow the community. I’m always looking for new ideas or suggestions on how to improve the site. So I invite everyone to stop by the site and then send me an e-mail or post in the forum about what they’d like to see changed or improved! Currently we’re working on coming up with some fun ideas to help bring in new readers. Expect to see the announcement of some exciting contests in the future to do just that!

Thank you so much for this interview. I hope you and some of your bloggers will be able to come to ScienceOnline2011 so we can discuss future developments together.

Name of the site: LabSpaces
URL: http://www.labspaces.net
Feed URL: http://www.labspaces.net/labspaces.xml http://www.labspaces.net/labspacesblogs.xml
Founder(s): Brian Krueger
Current community manager: Brian Krueger
Geographical location: Chicago (Server), Me (Florida)
Date of launch: January 2006
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 0
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: 26
Current number of bloggers: 26
Software/Platform: Programmed from scratch
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews): 300,000
Top Bloggers: Doc Becca, TideLiar, GertyZ, BiochemBelle
Key events from the history of the site:
Started coding July 2005
Launch January 2006
Added press releases March 2008
Added blog interface April 2008
Major site redesign June 2010
Actively recruited bloggers June 2010-Present

Scienceblogging: SciBlogs NZ – a Q&A with Peter Griffin

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Peter Griffin of SciBlogs NZ a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m Peter Griffin, former technology journalist for the New Zealand Herald, currently the manager of the Science Media Centre of New Zealand and and founder and editor of Sciblogs.co.nz I used to blog on technology for the New Zealand Herald and saw a need to coordinate some of the science blogging activity underway in New Zealand and help new scientists get into blogging – hence the formation of Sciblogs, which was modeled on Scienceblogs.com

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

The Scienceblogs/Pepsi blog incident was a reminder of how fragile trust is online and the importance of being in tune with your online community and your contributors. It was sad to see a strong and successful platform damaged by something that was so obviously not in the interests of the community or its contributors. I think 2009 will go down as the year science blogs in general really exploded – there is a huge amount of content now available which I think overall is good for science communication efforts. Our relationship with the website of the best read newspaper in the country suggests this type of content is in demand and there is a vacuum that the media isn’t filling.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

Yes, I read widely – I don’t use feeds – I bookmark sites and visit them regularly and pick up suggestions on Twitter and Facebook. I mainly find out about new blogs via Twitter or email newsletters

Tell us a little bit more about Sciblogs NZ. How did it come about? Who started it and why? How many of the bloggers mirror their posts on their own blogs and how many write only for the network? What are the pros and cons of the mirroring setup for many of your bloggers?

Science blogging was very immature in New Zealand before we decided to get involved in this space. A few very good bloggers ran sites but it was hard to find them and there was very little sense of community among science bloggers. We saw an opportunity to do a mini Scienceblogs in New Zealand, nurture some science communicators and get some informed discussion going on science-related issues the mainstream media was constantly missing. These goals fitted with the objectives of the Science Media Centre which is part of a global network that helps journalists gain better access to research and scientists with the aim of improving coverage of science in the media.

Just under half of our bloggers mirror their content on their own websites. The WordPress MU platform makes mirroring very easy and it is generally a very good system. However, comments are an issue – maintaining two separate threads of comments can be frustrating for bloggers and there is currently no system that allows comments across two blogs to be integrated and maintained centrally. The most popular blogs on Sciblogs are exclusive to Sciblogs which suggests people discover bloggers on Sciblogs and quickly migrate to the original blog.

Where do you see SciBlogs NZ within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what service does it provide?

We are very much focused on New Zealand and the Pacific though our bloggers are well integrated into the global blogging community and swap content and ideas. Our bloggers are also very outward looking in terms of the content they generate – they are widely read and follow science developments closely – some of the most popular posts so far have been about issues that do not relate to our geographical area.

We are finding that we are becoming a default service for the science sector for people looking to get into science communication. We travel the country giving lectures and workshops on science communication. All of this came about through our Sciblogs efforts and it has attracted strong support from scientific institutions. We now host two institutional blogs – the Antarctic Research Centre and Genetics Otago.

On the other hand, what is the role of SciBlogs NZ within the science journalism ecosystem in New Zealand?

We are increasingly becoming integrated with the media which I see as a positive development. Sciblogs content is increasingly in demand and we have undertaken to share our content with the media. This is opening up a larger audience for the work of our bloggers. We are also finding journalists are using Sciblogs to gather ideas for stories and several of our bloggers have become very active with the media on the back of their blogging activity. We have not had any feedback so far from the media that they consider Sciblogs a threat.

Thank you so much for the interview. One of your bloggers, Fabiana Kubke, came to ScienceOnline2010 and we hope that SciBlogsNZ will be well represented at ScienceOnline2011 as well.

Name of the site: SciBlogs NZ
URL: www.sciblogs.co.nz
Feed URL: http://sciblogs.co.nz/terms/feed/
Motto, or subheading, or one-line explanation: Australasia’s largest science blog network
Owner (if corporate): Royal Society of New Zealand
Founder(s): Peter Griffin and Aimee Whitcroft
Current community manager: Peter Griffin and Aimee Whitcroft
Geographical location: Wellington, New Zealand
Date of launch: 1 October 2009
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 27
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: 30
Current number of bloggers: 30
Software/Platform: WordPress MU
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews): 39,000 visits 71,000 pageviews
Top Bloggers: Grant Jacobs (Code for Life), Peter Griffin (Griffin’s Gadgets), Shaun Hendy (A Measure of Science), Chris McDowall (Seeing Data)
Key events from the history of the site: Syndication on Scienceblogs, Scoop, Earthquake in Christchurch (huge increase in traffic), joint venture with New Zealand Herald, Sciblogs book project funded

Scienceblogging: science3.0.com – a Q&A with Mark Hahnel

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Mark Hahnel of science3.0.com a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m a final year PhD student at Imperial College studying stem cell mobilisation. I have a strong interest in ‘Science 2.0’ and online science in general. I noticed there was a lot of talk going on about how we could use the web to enhance scientific research on sites such as friendfeed, but not enough action. I found this frustrating. So I set up Science 3.0 as a community where those who share a similar interest can attempt to move science forward in a more efficient manner. The possibilities for scientific research and collaboration provided by web 2.0 are huge, crowd sourcing projects and getting feedback from those who will be using the software is a must. I appreciate we serve a niche group of researchers, but that does not mean that what we are doing is a) not important and b) that it won’t work. Blogging was just a natural addition to the services we offer. Science blogging is an essential part of science online. I provided the option, the people who joined the community took up the option and now we as a community are building a back catalogue of hugely relevant and ever interesting questions, queries and answers via the platform of blogging.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

There has been a power shift in terms of what you can and cannot do with a blog. Bloggers appreciate that networks do increase the reach of your blog, and recently have realised that blog networks are relatively simple to set up. Blogging networks such as Scientopia have made everything a lot more transparent, the goal no longer appears to be commercial success.

Bloggers on Science 3.0 choose exactly how they want their blog, it is their page. Science 3.0 is advert free and operates at a loss, but the bloggers can choose to add adverts or microfinancing links such as Flattr in order to try to monetize their blogs. Knowing this, not one of the bloggers on Science 3.0 has added adverts to their blogs. I think this speaks volumes on why everyone got so annoyed with ScienceBlogs following ‘pepsigate’.

The flip side of this is the spread of blogs. Now users have to look at several sites whereas in the past they just looked at one. This again raises a problem that needs to be fixed. Scienceblogging.org was the first to address this situation by creating a blog aggregation site. Science 3.0 has followed suit with our ‘science blogs’ section. We are now working together in order to optimise this service.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

Before building the ‘science blogs’ section, I accessed nearly all of the blogs I read via twitter. There are a few blogs which I follow via their RSS feeds as well as listening to the recommendations of the Science 3.0 users.

Tell us a little bit more about Science3.0. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

Science 3.0 is a community dedicated to advancing science online. The website is designed to be a neutral, impartial community where people can discuss the pros and cons of each application so that they can be developed in the most efficient manner.

The site is not designed to be a place where all science researchers from all disciplines meet and share results. The site is for those who wish to develop science online, or have an interest in science online. We do not have the answers to all of the problems associated with open access and bringing science to the masses. We are the place where like minded people can collaborate to generate these answers. We truly believe that people-centric communication (social web, web 2.0) and decision support for people (web 3.0, e.g. data mining, reducing information overload) will help us creating better and more efficient science.

Bloggers are members who have signed up to a blog themselves. There is no real recruitment, other than the odd tweet inviting new bloggers to give it a try. The blogs must be related to the goals of the site. They must be science related, online science related or open access related. There are no real rules, we don’t wish for people to blog unless they want to and they get something out of it.

Where do you see Science3.0 within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what is the target audience, what unique service does it provide?

We don’t just blog. Science 3.0 is a place where we can gather information, meet people, and collaborate to push online science forward. We aim to share information openly where possible (open access), and ensure that users know where to find relevant closed information. If there are people out there who have an idea, and want somewhere to test it, we are the ideal location. Science 3.0 offers a lot more than just blogging. For some people this is ideal, others just want to blog and this is why we compliment all the existing blog sites so well. We act as a place where people who do not blog all the time can have a voice. Science 3.0 is where all the action happens after all the talking stops.

What is next for Science3.0 (as far as you are free to reveal)?

We aim to be completely transparent and due to user contributions, we have a million ideas. The advantage of the site is that we don’t need to answer to our superiors before acting, upgrading or developing the site. For this reason we have experimented with many pieces of software to see what works. Because ideas are implemented so fast, our current thoughts on setting up etherpads and a user web activity hub page (using software by ‘thinkup’) may be up and running by the time this is published! We are also open to collaborating with any sites who feel that we can offer something collectively, either from a blogging point of view, a software developing point of view or just an idea generating angle. Hopefully, new users continue to sign up and get some benefit from the site. As with all community based projects, a critical mass of active members is needed in order to survive. Hopefully, we are on our way to reaching this number and will continue to thrive.

Thank you so much for this interview. We’ll continue working on Scienceblogging.org and I hope you and others from science3.0.com will be able to come to ScienceOnline2011 to discuss future strategies.

Name of the site: Science 3.0
URL: http://www.science3point0.com
Feed URL:
Activity: http://www.science3point0.com/activity/feed/
Posts: http://www.science3point0.com/feed/
Motto, or subheading, or one-line explanation: Viva la evolution!
Founder(s): Mark Hahnel
Current community manager: Joerg Kurt Wegner
Geographical location: London
Date of launch: 27.06.10
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 0
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: 13
Current number of bloggers: 13
Software/Platform: WordPress/Buddypress
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews):
June/July ~10000
July/August ~15000
August/September ~20000
Top Bloggers: Daniel Mietchen, Graham Steel, Catherine Anderson (aka genegeek)
Key events from the history of the site:
The name change after a threat of legal action by Hank Campbell.
Live-streaming of Science Online London 2010 (with the help of Graham Steel)
Launch of the science blogging aggregator, archiver and analysis tool: www.science3point0.com/scienceblogs/
Users own developments of the site, such as Daniel Mietchen’s www.science3point0.com/coaspedia