People have been saying “blogging is dead” consistently for the past decade. Yet, fellow readers, here we are, on this blog. Individual blogs retire, yet academic blogs are thriving as much as ever. Blogs have evolved.
Dinosaurs are not extinct, either — we have about 10,000 species of of dinosaurs flying around the planet, though now we call them birds.
What is a “science blog?” I have no idea. If someone calls this site a science blog, I guess that’s fine? But I don’t think it says anything about what you might find on the site. Online writing has diversified so much that the term “science blog” is only vestigially informative.
As I recently shared, a bunch of bloggers who are ecologists teamed up to write about the impact of our blogs. We realized there wasn’t a generally accepted term for what our sites do. We called ourselves “science community blogs,” — which are markedly different from whatever people might call “science blogs.”
I think a lot of folks consider blogs to be a form of outreach — to bring science and the process of science to the public. On the other hand, science community blogs are what I consider to be inreach. We’re not reaching out to the public, we’re reaching in to our own academic community for dialogue. We’re not trying to explain science to the public, but to contribute to the professional growth of our own scientific communities.
In the earlier days of science blogs, many sites were a hodgepodge of outreach, inreach, and nonacademic stuff. The blogging market has fragmented, so that we have clearly distinct 1) outreach blogs, 2) inreach blogs, and 3) personal blogs. (I suppose there are a lot of other ways to classify blogs, but I think most blogs can be tidily lumped into one of these three categories. though of course some defy a simple label.)
Outreach blogs have waned, as science writing for the public can be done online through more journalistic outfits. Personal blogs have retained their limited appeal. (In the sciences, the most enduring personal blogs seem to often involve doctrinal atheism and anti-religious fervor, it seems to me.) I think academic inreach blogs are having their moment, and continue to grow. In my book, the archetypal science community blog is Female Science Professor. She hung up her blogging spurs a few years ago, after inspiring the origin of many newer sites, including the one you’re reading now.
In the era when “science blogging” was emerging, a lot of writers were on the ScienceBlogs network. (That was long, long before I entertained the idea of blogging.) Now, word has recently come out that the ScienceBlogs network is shutting down, with a mere whimper. This is the end of an era, as many highly visible writers were early members of this site. If you just look at the list of archived blogs that used to be on the network, you might notice a bunch of sites that evolved into their own elsewhere, at first glance I see Myrmecos, Deep Sea News, Laelaps, and Not Exactly Rocket Science. Some authors have made outreach a huge part of their academic careers, and others have developed made a career of science communication.
If you’re trying to explain this site and similar sites to fellow colleagues, I suggest calling it a “science community blog,” or “academic community blog.” If they ask what that is, you can say that we do inreach. Writers and readers of academic community blogs have experiences and perspectives that are different from one another, and here is where we can learn from one another. Maybe, just perhaps, this is why the comment sections in science community blogs tend to produce far more light than heat?