I was alerted by the Neurocritic to a new paper out in PLoS ONE on research blogs and discussion of scientific information. It's an analysis of researchblogging.org bloggers, who there are, what they blog about, and who is significant. It's an interesting 'state of the blogsphere' type read (though I don't feel the significance of the research is really adequately discussed, what does this mean for both the blogging field and research science? How does it compare to other blogging areas?), and Neurocritic has a good breakdown (and mentioned me for my meta blogging! I am both flattered...I think...and amused, since I was hoping I didn't do that too often. As I am doing it now. Right). The only quibble I have with it is that they use Technorati as a measure of the 'best' science blogs. Guys, that is so 2007. As a matter of fact, many of the research blogs (especially those which have moved, say, since the breakup of ScienceBlogs, etc), are not even indexed on Technorati. That's because Technorati is something that you have to index yourself on, it's not a straight aggregator of hits. As such I think it's probably not the best metric of the 'best' bloggers (looking through the list, a good 20 in the top 200 I was able to immediately identify as defunct). I would think that a careful google search would have been a better metric (though much more time consuming).
But there was something interesting about this paper, and it was this:
The average RB blogger in our sample is male, either a graduate student or has been awarded a PhD and blogs under his own name.
So...I'm not average. Or I'm only 50% of average. The AVERAGE OF AVERAGE!!! YES!!!!
It does make me sad that there are fewer women out there blogging about scientific research. I know many women in the science blogsphere. There are a lot more female pseuds, a lot more women blogging about work/life balance, and so I think it's much more of a question of WHAT women in science are blogging about as opposed to whether they are blogging. Perhaps that would have been interesting to address in the discussion (oh my. Did I just post-peer-review a paper that is in effect a REVIEW of bloggers writing post-peer-review!??! The meta will open a black hole in the universe any minute).
As to WHY women in science blog less about science research? I have some guesses. First off, while the paper states that most real name bloggers see blogging as "if not as a career enhancer, then at least as career-neutral", this seems like a stretching assumption to me. I personally find that attitudes toward blogging as a scientist vary greatly according to field, with fields like exercise physiology being encouraging, psychology being more neutral, and biomedical fields being, in some cases actively hostile (though becoming less so, yay!). Being that women often feel themselves under extra pressure and at a disadvantage in their science training, why take on something that is, at best, neutral?
Secondly, there's this (courtesy of Astrokatie):
(Of course it's from XKCD)
I have seen some truly amazing vitriol leveled at female bloggers, and female science bloggers are no exception. I see far, far less aimed at men. Why would a woman willingly take on something career-neutral at best and which comes with free extra judgements of her looks and character? There are probably other reasons in addition to these two.
...all of this is making me wonder why I'm here. The answer being that I love SCIENCE, and I think you should too!
But the research raises some questions. What makes a science blogger influential and what makes them "real"? There are many people blogging about science who don't use ResearchBlogging as their stamp. I have no doubt that as the blogsphere continues to grow, that will only become more so. But right now it's an interesting picture, and raises some interesting thoughts. At least, enough for me to get super meta for a while. 🙂
*Note: technorati makes you put a little squibble of numbers in your blog so their trawler can find it and confirm you. That's what was here last night. I figured I might as well.