What do science bloggers blog about

By Razib Khan | August 30, 2010 12:51 am

What do science bloggers blog about? My study of the Wikio Top 100:

As a former scientist, I like evidence-based blogging so I needed a dataset to test my theory that ‘all top bloggers are biologists’. To get a randomish sample of big science bloggers, I did a dodgy analysis of the blogs in the Wikio Top 100 science bloggers ranking.

Here’s the breakdown of bio bloggers topicality:

The large number of neuroscience bloggers has always perplexed me. Any idea what’s going on there?

A minor note: could someone at Wikio update my blog’s address? I tried to do it let myself but it wouldn’t let me. Would be nice to get that before I drop off the list of top 20 science blogs.


Comments (13)

  1. Hi Razib,

    Your blogs address has been updated.

    Best regards,

  2. It is a bit sad that the number two science blog is dedicated to promoting anti-science.

  3. John Emerson

    The large number of neuroscience bloggers has always perplexed me.

    They’re wired for neuroscience blogging, whereas evolution bloggers have a genetic predisposition to genetics blogging.

  4. Ari

    Why are math blogs included in the science blog category?

    Also, are popular blogs really a good representation of what is being blogged about? Isn’t it a better representation of what people are reading?

    As can be seen by the UK degree numbers presented, there are more biologists out there, so there are probably going to be more people capable and interested in reading biology. New biology is also more accessible to people without the appropriate degree, compared to new chemistry or non-astronomy-based physics.

    What would be more interesting is to see how many blogs there are on a given topic as compared with professionals in the domain. I imagine that neuro, climate, and astro would still be overrepresented, and chem under, but I’d be interested in what else might pop up.

  5. Nemesis

    Are you calling evolution pseudo-science?

  6. The large number of neuroscience blogs could be because, in the eyes of many, neuroscience is now its own separate discipline, on an equal footing with biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and so on.

  7. Hi Ari,

    I’m interested primarily in public engagement so my first thought was to find out if the popular blogs over-represent biology. These are the blogs likely to be reaching the wider public.

    I’ve since realised by talking to chemists on my blog that there are many chemists blogging for other working chemists. These blogs exist, but they’ll never hit the top 100 because they’re too technical/specialist. My next question is, therefore, why aren’t there people writing for the public about everyday chemistry? But working chemists may have other questions about blogging in their field.

    I don’t think accessibility explains the popularity of new biology because I’m a former environmental scientist and you can’t get more everyday and non-technical than the environment. The UK graduate figures show there must be a significant number of environmental scientists, but environmental science (outside climate change) blogs don’t reach a wide audience.

    I’m now curious to find out why there are no ‘popular’ blogs in certain subjects. Do working condensed matter physicists who want to engage with the public write about astrophysics? Or are astrophysicists the only physicists who want to blog for the public? Or does the public only read astrophysics blogs?

    Or perhaps is this a skills question? I’m trained as a journalist, which means I know various ‘tricks’ to make inaccessible subjects interesting. Working scientists won’t necessarily know those tricks, which may limit the subjects that can be blogged about for a lay audience. The solution to this might be running courses for inorganic chemists who want to share their work with the man in the street.

    As yet, I don’t know the answer to these questions… I welcome suggestions for how to find out.

  8. Ari

    NOTE: I have also posted this comment on Razib’s most recent response.

    Hey Vivienne,

    There are a lot of facets here, but only one really matters:

    A connection to humanity.

    While geology might be as accessible as climate science, I have a pretty good hunch that the public is less interested in how the Maldives were created than how the Maldives are being destroyed. On top of that, the people who go into climate science are involved in their work because they want to promulgate a human narrative, not just do the science.

    You might say that the opposite is true for chemists. Chemistry and physics are more selfish sciences, where truth is the goal and objective validation is the reward (or at least validation by one’s peers). On the other hand, for example, objective truth is a consequence of good medical research, not the goal, and the value of the reward is predicated on the approval by others or the greater community’s benefit, not simply that your research was true.

    Here at GNXP, the pieces are about humans, culture, and history, and not genetics. Genetics is simply a medium Razib uses in his evaluation. I do not remember when he last discussed genetics to no end other than more genetics.

    As long as humanity is a facet of the field, then a group of scientists who want to convey that message will develop, and then the public will see themselves in the science and listen.

    Some sciences have to try a lot harder to weave this narrative. Sagan’s genius was his ability to do this with a subject matter seemingly as far as possible from the human touch.

  9. Wikio’s categories can skew things a bit. My site is generally thought to be the highest-traffic chemistry blog, but since I talk about drug discovery, I’m in the “Health” category instead of “Science”.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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