[Taxacom] The bloggification of science

Morgan Jackson jackson at uoguelph.ca
Wed May 4 20:13:45 CDT 2011


I think you might be underrating the potential for "bloggified" taxonomy.
While I agree it's a lot of work to maintain a blog and continually grow the
readership (I manage and write the Biodiversity in Focus blog -
http://www.biodiversityinfocus.com/blog), this shouldn't scare taxonomists
away from contributing to the blogosphere. It's been my experience that most
blog authors would be thrilled to host guest posts by researchers discussing
their recent work. I actively encourage other graduate students to share
their published papers on my blog, much as previous generations of grad
students would distribute reprints. A paper review or species highlight post
averages ~700 words on my site, which is only slightly more than the text in
your original email (602 words). With less than an hour's worth of work,
taxonomists have the potential to share their readership with an extremely
broad and interested audience!

There are several benefits to a taxonomist blogging their work: 1)
presenting their work in a "translated" fashion will reach many more people
than normal, potentially increasing collaboration between individuals who
might not have "met" otherwise. The 10th most read paper published in 2010
in Zootaxa had 2053 reads; by comparison, one of my 2010 review posts
received 423 views, and other posts received upwards of 750 hits; 2) the
authors can include other data which may not have been publishable but which
they still find interesting & relevant (eg. stories from field research,
hunches which need more attention, additional photos, etc.); 3) by relating
their research and the organisms on which they work in a more personal
setting, taxonomists can interact directly with amateurs and the public,
increase interest in their organism of choice, highlight issues which may be
threatening the organism, and foster an interest in biology and the science
of taxonomy in the general public; and 4) include a public outreach section
on a CV or grant application, a factor which is becoming increasingly
important to publicly funded research programs.

While I agree that there are a lot of blogs out there which could be deemed
detrimental to science, the same is true in all aspects of media (Fox News
still manages to survive, as does a certain "journal" which has been a hot
topic on Taxacom lately). As far as I can tell, Google does a good job of
bringing the cream to the surface, allowing for a taxonomist's work to be
found at a later date by inquisitive people. Add in social media and digital
word-of-mouth and there is a strong potential for taxonomic blogs to go
viral (we likely won't be the next Star Wars kid however). If you want
science writing online to improve, who better than straight from the
researcher themselves?

I'm sure that there are taxonomists who write blogs on all manner of life,
allowing for any taxon to find an appropriate niche blog which accepts guest
posts. If not, I'd be more than happy to work with taxonomists willing to
unleash their inner-blogger!

Morgan Jackson

Morgan D. Jackson
M.Sc. -- Insect Systematics
Dept. of Environmental Biology
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1
(519) 824-4120 ext. 52582
(519) 835-7907 (Cell)

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