More on Geobloggers

Anne Jefferson from Highly Allochthonous pointed me to a new essay from Geoscientist Online, the member magazine of the Geological Society (UK). That essay points both to the survey of women geobloggers (previously mentioned here) and a survey done by Lutz Geissler, Robert Huber, and Callan Bentley. (probably haven't mentioned before).

In the Geoscientist essay by Michael Welland, he discusses his own slowness in taking up blogging, but also his enjoyment of the geoblogosphere and the community he finds there. He learns of new things he wouldn't come across in his other readings and he engages with the 'interested public'... this quote is nice:

I subscribe (largely online) to several professional journals, but, for sheer breadth of supplementary coverage, the geoblogosphere is unequalled.

He also praises blogging - that is, the act of blogging - as a learning tool. This also came up in my qualitative study.

I have a much more selfish reason for investing my time in writing a blog: it makes me a better scientist. I have discovered that my thinking about science - my research, the work of others, basic concepts in our field - becomes much more coherent after I have been forced to properly articulate it.....writing regularly for my blog has greatly improved my communication skills in the conference hall and the lecture theatre

On to the survey done last fall by Geissler, Huber, & Bentley. A few interesting things:

  • in the GSA abstract for the women geoblogger work, they quote an article (~700kb pdf) that has 45% undergrad geosciences degrees earned by women and 14% of tenure track faculty in geosciences are women. This survey finds that about 20% of the geobloggers are women. Are women participating at a greater rate, are women with different degree levels participating more? hmm.
  • the biggest two groups are grad students and faculty - no surprise there. Seems like industry scientists in all areas of the sciences do not blog as much.
  • it's fascinating that 59 out of 78 respondents say that >70% of their posts are on geosciences. In my study there were a lot more hobby posts mixed in. Likewise, my participants mostly did not blog about their own work, whereas 73% of these bloggers do.
  • the respondents complained that there were too few geoblogs and no good way to keep up with them (or get an overview). maybe the societies should have blogging 101 sessions and have some post-genomic type of blog aggregator? (I also suggested this in my qualitative study - darn, i really need to publish that somewhere)
  • a bunch of the bloggers started in feb 2008 - what happened then?
  • the blog posts typically don't get a lot of comments - are they uncontroversial? are the comments on twitter or friendfeed or in person/offline?
  • as was found elsewhere, almost half the women post anonymously whereas few men do. definitely worth more study.

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I think the way they framed and wrote their survey may have inadvertently discouraged participation from some of the women geoscientists who blog. First, the survey was a survey of geobloggers - people who blog more about hobbies or about life as a scientist may not have felt that the survey was aimed at them. Second, the questions made it possible to link personal characteristics to a specific blog. I felt uncomfortable taking the survey, like I didn't want to tell a bunch of strangers the answers to them. And I blog under my own name. I don't know how the pseudonymous women bloggers felt about taking the survey.

Wow, that's good to know. I don't think I saw the survey instrument and invitation. Even if you make some effort to anonymize the results - there are only so many geobloggers so it would be fairly easy to identify someone. If any of the pseudonymous women bloggers want to respond either in the comments or to me privately at cpikas at, I would be interested in hearing it.

Thanks for the comments on my Geoscientist piece. Part of it was contributed by Chris Rowan (of the Highly Allochthonous blog), and, when it was first published, disappeared quotation marks meant that where his comments ended and mine recommenced was not clear - the words about the "act of blogging" are from Chris. Just wanted to point this out for the record!