Welcome to YASBC: Scientific American Blogs

Yet another science blogging community. The more the merrier.

We've had another quiet period in the science blogging universe these last couple of months. It seems that the rapid evolution that kicked off with the founding of Scientopia in the wake of Pepsigate is continuing.

And this is the big one: Scientific American Blogs. This is easily the biggest and most important science blogging community launch since ScienceBlogs itself launched back in 2006.

Of course, it was engineered by the master of us all, Bora Zivkovic.

Here's what he has to say about the makeup of the network:


The vision for the blog network I have is a collection of people who bring to Scientific American a diversity of expertise, backgrounds, writing formats, styles and voices, who will bring diverse audiences to Scientific American. They differ in typical lengths of posts, in posting frequency, in the "reading level" of their work, in the use of non-textual media, and in their approach to science communication. Each one of them will appeal to a different segment of our readership: from kids to their teachers, parents and grandparents, from the hip-hop culture to the academic culture, from kindergarteners to post-docs.

Another thing I was particularly interested in was to find bloggers who in some way connect the "Two Cultures" as described by C.P.Snow. Some connect science to history, philosophy, sociology or ethics. Many are very interested in science education, communication and outreach. Some make connections between science and popular culture, music, art, illustration, photography, cartoons/comic strips, poetry, literature, books, movies, TV, video, etc. Several produce such cross-discipline and cross-cultural material themselves - at least two are musicians, two are professional photographers, several produce videos, two are professional artists, a couple are authors of multiple books, some produce their own blog illustrations. But there are also commonalities - they all have strong knowledge of their topic, they strictly adhere to the standards of scientific evidence, they are all very strong writers, and they are all enthusiastic to share their work with a broader audience.

When I put together this group, with such diverse interests and styles, it was not surprising to discover that, without really having to try hard to make it so, they also display diversity in many other areas: geography, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, personal/professional/scientific background and more. This is something that is important for science, and is important in the science blogging world.

So, as I expect that several of you are already counting, let me make this easy for you. We have 47 blogs with 55 bloggers. Of those, our editors and staff make up 13 people (8 women, 5 men), while independent bloggers make up the difference with 42 of them (25 women, 17 men). That is a total of 22 men and 33 women writing on our network. The age ranges from 22 to 58, with the mean around 32 and median around 31 (at least when including those who are willing to admit their age).

While geographic concentration in New York City is mainly due to the fact that most editors and staff have to come to our NYC office every morning, the rest of the bloggers are from all over the country and the world (see the map of some of their birthplaces) and also currently live all over the place (see the map) and, as academic and other jobs require, move around quite often. Right now, other urban centers with multiple bloggers are Vancouver city and area (4), Triangle NC and surrounding area (4), Urbana-Champaign, IL (3), Los Angeles, CA (3), London, UK (3), Columbus, OH (2) and Austin TX (2). There are bloggers in Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Canada (5) and the UK (6). And the birthplaces also include Trinidad, Hong Kong, Belgrade (Serbia) and Moscow, Russia (two bloggers).

This will take a few days to sink in, for sure. It'll take even longer for us all to ponder the meaning and evaluate the repercussions.

But most of all, I have to say I'm super-impressed about the strength and breadth of the contributors. It's a world-beating bunch with some of the best formerly-independent bloggers on board as well as some very strategic names lured from other networks either moving their blogs outright or starting a new one for SciAm. (Of course, having a librarian in the mix would have been nice too...)

Is ScienceBlogs dead? I don't think so. But certainly we're in an era where ScienceBlogs is clearly only one network among many, each with different traffic levels, different emphasis, different blogger configurations. It's not hard to imagine ScienceBlogs settling in at around 35-40 blogs after the current wave of disruption, especially leading into the merger with National Geographic. That would be around half the number of blogs from the peak and will probably represent around a quarter (or less) of the traffic from that time. On the other hand, it might end up being more focused and start to feel more like a unified community again.

Competition in the science blogging community space is a good thing, it spurs us all on to improve and innovate. A new network doesn't mean that the existing ones are less relevant or that the bloggers at those networks are somehow suddenly inferior to those at the new networks. The grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side of the fence, the new and shiny don't permanently diminish the familiar.

Personally, I don't see a compelling reason to move at this point in time.

We live in interesting times. And that's a good thing for all of us.

Finally, from Bora's post, here's a list of the blogs with authors, where mentioned. There's lots more information about the blogs and bloggers at the original post:

Editorial Blogs

  • @Scientific American
  • Observations
  • The Network Central
  • Expeditions
  • The Scientific American Incubator is a new experiment. The Incubator will be a place where we will explore and highlight the work of new and young science writers and journalists, especially those who are currently students in specialized science, health and environmental writing programs in schools of journalism. There, we will discuss the current state and the future of science writing, and promote the best work that the young writers are doing.
  • Guest Blog

Blogs by Scientific American editors, writers and staff

  • A Blog Around The Clock by Bora Zivkovic
  • Anecdotes from the Archive by Mary Karmelek. You may have heard that Scientific American is almost 166 year old. That is a lot of archives to go through. Mary Karmelek is digitizing all those archives, and while she does that she often encounters interesting old articles and images that make great topics for blog posts: to see how the world has changed since then, and what we've learned in the intervening decades
  • Budding Scientist by Anna Kuchment
  • Degrees of Freedom by Davide Castelvecchi
  • Solar at Home by George Musser,
  • Streams of Consciousness by Ingrid Wickelgren

Independent blogs and bloggers



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Why does "And this is the big one: Scientific American Blogs." link to your own Pepsigate post?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

And by the way, thanks for a nice email-able condensation: Bora Z's version is quite wordy.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink