Over at evolgen, RPM is wondering about the disciplinary distribution of bloggers:
I have an intuition, backed up by absolutely no evidence, that my particular area of interest (evolutionary genetics) has more faculty blogging about stuff related to their research than other fields. This is most likely the result of my interest in those blogs, and, hence, my increased awareness of them compared to blogs of faculty in other research areas.
[… list of half-a-dozen blogs…]
That’s not a lot of blogs, but it’s also not a huge field. How does that compare with faculty who blog in your research area?
Well, it’s way more than blog in my research area, a set consisting of, um, me. In physics generally, I think it’s still more than any single research area, but it probably depends on the definition of research area.
Whether RPM’s intuition regarding biology bloggers is correct or not, it’s clear that blogs are not evenly distributed among research areas. I have a theory as to what’s going on that fits the available data in physics, at least.
If you look at physics faculty who blog– the Cosmic Variance crew, Clifford Johnson, Peter Steinberg, Gordon Watts, Tommaso Dorigo, Scott Aaronson, Michael Nielsen, Steve Hsu— the majority of them fall into two groups: theorists or experimental particle physicists. About the only other low-energy experimental physics faculty blogger I know of is Doug Natelson.
The overall number of physics bloggers as a fraction of physics faculty is miniscule, so it’s a little risky to attempt to draw any conclusions, but I think there’s a reason why theoretical physicists and particle experimentalists dominate the physics blogosphere: they’re people whose research is mostly done in offices, at or near computers. Theory is an office-based business in general, and experimental particle physics involves more coding than soldering– most of the business of experimental particle physics is using computers to sift through vast quantities of data to find small numbers of events corresponding to a particular process. In those disciplines, it’s easy to find time to read and write blog posts– you can do it while research processes run in the background.
Low-energy experimental physics, on the other hand, involves physically manipulating apparatus in a lab. It’s much harder to sneak in a blogging break when you’re in another room from the computer, cranking on something with a wrench.
Does this explain RPM’s intuition? I don’t know enough about biology to say, but the name “evolutionary genetics” certainly suggests a field involving more computer data analysis than stomping around in the mud looking for specimens. But I could be way wrong, and people who know something about biology are encouraged to correct me.