Science blogs: ur doin it wrong.

An open access paper just out looks at science blogging. According to the abstract, the paper

… focuses on one of the ICTs [Information and Communication Technologies] that have already been adopted in science communication, on science blogging. The findings from the analysis of eleven blogs are presented in an attempt to understand current practices of science blogging and to provide insight into the role of blogging in the promotion of more interactive forms of science communication.

Bora has a critical look at it, as does Cosmic Variance. Panda’s Thumb is one of the 11 blogs examined in the paper.

One of the main conclusions of the (pretty chancy) analysis is that

To become a tool for non-scientist participation, science blogs need to stabilize as a genre or as a set of subgenres where smaller conversations may facilitate more meaningful participation from members of the public. Science bloggers need to become more aware of their audience, welcome non-scientists, and focus on explanatory, interpretative, and critical modes of communication rather than on reporting and opinionating.

The author goes on to suggest that

An interesting practical experiment would also be to reverse the roles of writers and readers and invite the so called “ordinary persons” to create and publish science blogs, i.e., to engage them in the practices of science blog writing rather than reading or commenting.

Hm? Why would that be interesting? And, for that matter, “ordinary persons” have the same access to blogging software as do scientists; nothing (except disinclination or disinterest) is stopping “ordinary persons” from blogging about anything they wish.

The author clearly has a particular model in mind as a referent, implicit in the title of the paper: “Science blogs and public engagement with science: practices, challenges, and opportunities.” That’s tantamount to “blogs as an extension of science education.” But while many of us are interested in science education, that’s an institutional goal while blogs are, by and large, personal vehicles. It seems to me that institutionalization is not a state to be desired. (After writing this paragraph, I found that Scholarly Kitchen made much the same point.)

(I invite my PT colleagues to comment. This post is based on a fast read-through with contractors waiting to abduct me to force a decision on the color of house siding.)