Should, could, and do societies support science blogging?

I’ve been saying for a while that professional societies have an important role in science blogging (see here, pdf) and I really believe it. Of course, others have been skeptical (*cough* Michael Nielsen *cough*) and for good reason. The major societies don’t have a really good track record in this regard. They’ve resisted, talked them down, and provided a platform for members to talk down science blogs.

So why should professional societies support blogging? Well, their main purpose is to support scholarly communication and the advancement of their types of science, right? I mean, the lobbying against libraries is really just a bonus feature. The scholarly communication comes with getting scientists together at meetings and having member magazines, newsletters, and peer reviewed journals. Some societies have also taken as part of their mission that they will advance their type of science in society – to recruit youngsters, to advance policy and funding, and generally to share the love. For both of these missions, if you can successfully argue that blogging is useful for communicating either among scientists or with the public, then it’s a no brainer that societies should support science blogging.

What’s successful in communicating?  Mutual understanding? Getting the message across? Reach or audience size? Seems like we have all of this going on.

Could societies support blogging? I’ve suggested before several steps they could take:

  1. articles in society magazines or on society websites about member blogs
  2. sessions at conferences (formal or informal) to provide how-to information
  3. listing member blogs and encouraging experienced member bloggers to mentor other members
  4. society staff using blogs to communicate to the membership, policy makers, and the public

Do societies support science blogging? I have to say it was a slow start out of the gate, but I’m super impressed with what AGU is doing right now. They’ve blown my suggestions out of the water and are now going to be hosting a few established blogs from their members.

Other societies have tried facebook replacements and certainly IOP has had a few articles in their member magazine about blogging, but nothing like what AGU is doing. Bravo AGU!

10 responses so far

  • Great post, Christina. I think for most societies, just a little bit of exposure to science blogs would go a long way - I really believe much of the pushback to science blogging within academia results from simple ignorance. That's why I really like suggestion #2 - provide a session at the conference. Along with my blogging partner, Travis Saunders, we did a similar session in our dept when we'd only been blogging for a few months. We kept the presentation short on technical details (as we ourselves were newbies) and instead emphasized the tangible benefits of engaging the online world - visibility, networking, knowledge translation, etc. Most of the people in attendance really got on board with our efforts - our faculty homepage had a very prominent link to our blog during our tenure there as grad students. Many of the staff members signed up for our RSS feed. And to top it all off, the dept launched its own collaborative graduate student blog.

    Education goes a long way.

    • Christina Pikas says:

      Thanks Peter! I'm glad your experience with your colleagues has been so positive. I don't know how common that is.

  • APS has finally started a blog extension of their monthly magazine: - right now, mostly just explaining articles from the society's journals. Since they have a so-called "official blogger" ( and they haven't done much about promoting or mentioning members' own blogs, but its a start!

  • Christina, this is a great post. I think that small steps by a professional society can go a long way. Official conference bloggers is another useful strategy for a society, EMBO did this for their annual meeting in September.

  • Yes, I'm excited by what AGU is doing, but I'd also like to point out that the Geological Society of America is pretty good at recognizing and supporting blogs. They've started an offical GSA blog featuring guest posts from different members, consistently mentioning blogging in their monthly email newsletter, promote a blog and twitter roll at meetings, have hosted sessions on digital geosciences that have included blogs and bloggers, etc. Perhaps the geo-type professional associations are just ahead of the curve here.

  • Grant says:

    While not really society blogs per se, is backed by the Royal Society of New Zealand. (Disclosure: my blog lives there!) Gossip I've heard is the RSNZ pulling back, distancing itself from our lot, which is very disappointing. (Apparently this has something to do with denialists rallying swords and creating a fuss.)

    The Royal Society of London has some blogs from memory, including a history of science blog.

    • Christina Pikas says:

      I didn't realize that (or I had forgotten). Too bad they're pulling back, since it's such a useful service for the science community and people of New Zealand.

      • Grant says:

        Oh, sciblogs will still be around 🙂 (At least, as long as other funding is coming in.) Just not with the RSNZ’s ‘official’ backing, their name won’t be associated with it. At least that’s the gossip I’m hearing.

        Sigh. That should be *rattling* swords, not rallying. Might be a slip from coming to here from Jennifer Rohn's stuff about the rally in London…!