Why do people read science blogs?

Surprisingly, we don’t have a good answer to this.  There’s a vibrant online community of people blogging about science, and talking about blogging about science, and blogging about blogging and talking about science.  But we don’t know that much about the people that science blogs and bloggers set out to serve.

This is a problem from a science communication perspective, because if we don’t know who we’re engaging, and why they’re engaged, it’s very difficult to communicate effectively.

To address this rather vital knowledge gap, Dr. Paige Jarreau – one of the foremost researchers on science blogging – has a plan.  Working with 60 bloggers, she will be conducting a large-scale survey of science blog readers to map out who reads these blogs, and why.

To my knowledge, it’ll be the largest systematic survey of it’s type, and will provide extremely valuable insights into the effectiveness of science blogging as a way of communicating and engaging on science with non-expert audiences, as well as indicating how science blogging can become an even more effective communication platform.  However, there is a catch.

Research costs money, and this project is no exception.  Rather brilliantly though, Paige is raising some of the money needed for the study through crowdfunding.

What excites me about this is that it gives the online science community the chance to have skin in the game.  It enables community members to demonstrate their support for, and dedication to, the effective communication of science through blogs.  And it enables the data collection and analysis that will help them better-achieve their science communication aims.

And of course, being a science-based community, they understand the importance of data and evidence in guiding decisions and actions, so there’s a rather elegant symmetry to them supporting the work that will generate the data that helps them in their work.

If you blog about science and haven’t yet chipped in to support this project, it’s easy – just head over to experiment.com and make a pledge (even $10 will help).  And of course, if you read blogs and want to help support this study, please do!

Given the number of people who are passionate about science within society, and who want to see better, more accessible and more equitable engagement around science, I’m expecting a real buzz around this project.  Assuming Paige reaches her funding target, stay tuned to find out more about who reads science blogs, why readers engage with science blogs, and what they get out of the experience!

To support this study, please visit https://experiment.com/projects/oh-my-science-blog-who-reads-science-blogs-and-why

Feature image: based on Franklin in London, 1767, wearing a blue suit with elaborate gold braid and buttons, a far cry from the simple dress he affected at the French court in later years. Painting by David Martin, displayed in the White House. Wikimedia Commons.

Andrew Maynard