The Structure of Scientific Blogolutions!

Christina Pikas gave an interesting talk recently with the title: Detecting Communities in Science Blogs:

What she did was perform an analysis of link connections between science blogs to see if any clusters form. After some prompting, she wrote a blog post to explain the study a little more: A Structural Exploration of the Science Blogosphere: Director's Cut:

The clusters were related to subject areas - very broad subject areas. One question in my mind was how much people would be outside of their home discipline in their reading/commenting... based on this network, certainly outside of their particular speciality, but still in the neighborhood with the exception of a few "a-list" science bloggers who everyone reads.

What was interesting - and most definitely worthy of further investigation - is this cluster of blogs written mostly by women, discussing the scientific life, etc. The degree distribution was much closer to uniform within the cluster, and there were many comment links between all of the nodes. This, to me, indicates other uses for the blogs and perhaps a real community (or Blanchard's virtual settlement).

Very interesting - so, my reading is that biologist bloggers sorta, kinda tend to read other biologists, physicists may prefer other physicists, etc. In other words, the science blogs cluster by broad discipline (but not narrow discipline as much), the only exception being women bloggers who link to each other irrespective of scientific discipline and also tend to comment much more on each other's blogs which indicates a different type of 'community'.

I do not know if blogs within networks (e.g., scienceblogs.com, Nature Network, Discover...) tend to link preferably to each other within the network and to comment more on each other's blogs (I would think so, as it's easy and fast to see what the neighbors are doing) than to blogs on other networks and how would indie blogs fare in that.

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This was originally posted 1/9/2009 on my old blog. Due to popular demand (well 3 requests :) ), this is a commentary and additional information for my conference paper and presentation: Pikas, C. K. (2008). Detecting Communities in Science Blogs. Paper presented at eScience '08. IEEE Fourth…
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I asked about networks as well - see the comments in Christina's blog post.

I'm encouraged that there isn't any strong structure - I might have expected the blogosphere to self-organize into smaller groups. It suggests that the denizens have quite a wide range of interests.

"the only exception being women bloggers who link to each other irrespective of scientific discipline and also tend to comment much more on each other's blogs which indicates a different type of 'community' "
not surprised
1) there's so few women in each STEM discipline
2) the rarity makes them vulnerable online, easy to figure out who's who with little details
3) it's a community of support outside the scientific level and beyond things like research papers and methods, and includes gender issues, child raising, hot shoes...
4) we can learn from each other's experiences and help each other because mentoring in meatspace is lacking, but really lacking for women overall
5) despite different disciplines, we all experience the same issues, which include being token female, being dismissed, given more service activities, having to work harder to get half as far, maternity leave... sharing these stories helps us not feel alone

I agree and am not surprised at all. It is more similar to feminist blogosphere - the science is just something that is common to all, and provides a particular set of challenges not always the same as other professions. It is not really about science in the sense of "the latest cool paper", but about the social net.

just something that is common to all, and provides a particular set of challenges not always the same as other professions. It is not really about science in the sense of "the latest cool paper", but about the social net.

hrm. i feel i've been missing out on something important all these years: i am NOT a part of the female science blog writing community at all. i think this is because of the "kids" issue (don't have them, don't want them, don't want to read about them when there's so many other topics to read about). unfortunately, i also do not feel a part of any other community, nor even of the SB community, really. is this due to long-term unemployment? dunno. i often think this is a feature of being dismissed by the world in general because i i am not useful and because i don't neatly fit into any recognizable category.