Bloggers fill important communication niche

Network News Fall 2013, Vol. 26 No. 3
Network News

The evolution of electronic social media has revolutionized not only how many of us receive and exchange all kinds of information, but also how much and in what form. For instance, many of us now get news from Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and various other websites and blogs. Communicating on these new forums is much different than in the traditional types of media. Information conveyed on these sources can be published by virtually everyone, are accessible to millions almost instantaneously, and are often interactive. Within the realm of science communication, these media sources and information repositories can become powerful tools if used appropriately.

Blogging is one of those tools that is increasingly popular in the scientific community. The simple definition of a blog is a website that individuals can regularly record opinions and information that are readily available for free to everyone with access to the Internet. Science blog posts tend to be short stories and opinions about research (often under 500 words) that use informal language and, often, visual aids. These stories can be written, or in more creative cases, done in audio or video formats (i.e. podcasts and vlogs). Five minute physics or this post about fish ear bones are good examples of video blogs.  

Most scientific journals, including Oikos, Journal of Ecology, and others, now run blogs-- a testament to the growing popularity of this form of sharing scientific information. The growing popularity and greater visibility of these media has quickly elevated good blog writing into a marketable and a foreseeably necessary skill for scientists.

Because science blogs are designed to capture both a scientific and non-scientific audience, they often report scientific information in a jargon-free, non-traditional way that is easy to understand. For instance, a blog post titled The zombie killing spree continues on the Oikos blog describes some concepts in ecology thus:

zombies that survived decades of attacks from the theoretical and experimental equivalents of chainsaws and shotguns, only to return to feed on the brains of new generations of students.

While not exactly a statement you would find in serious scientific literature, it nevertheless highlighting the fact that writing blogs does take some creativity. 

LTER scientists may have come late to the party, but they are now at the forefront of this new media movement.  For instance, if you Google “LTER blog,” at least six site blogs will pop up:

  1. LTER: Desert to Tropics, Mountains to Coasts (
  2. KBS LTER blog (
  3. McMurdo Dry Valleys 2011 Season: student blog (
  4. Polar Soils blog (
  5. A Toolik Field Journal (
  6. Wading Through Research (

Building and maintaining these site blogs can really increase the audience for LTER science. For instance, the Florida Coastal Everglades’ student blog, “Wading Through Research,” has had 28,000 unique visitors since its inception 16 months ago. For graduate students, starting or contributing to a blog can provide an easy to access writing sample to show a prospective employer.

Because of these benefits of blogging, I would urge every grad student to pick up their pen and start writing!  If you choose to join a blog or start one of your own, here are a few links to blogs that discuss the do's and don’ts of science blogging.

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