Why are academics so snotty about blogging?

Apparently many academics in biology and astronomy discourage blogging because it has no reliability or prestige .

Huh? Well both of these things are true, to some extent, of course; but isn’t this also true of dissemination in traditional peer reviewed scientific journalism too? Even peer reviewed published papers can be bad and maybe even unreliable, as I blogged about before here, though admittedly this is rare. And peer-reviewed publications really don’t usually bring you prestige – I have never for instance been stopped on a plane and been asked for my autograph because of some paper I have published in Angewandte Chemie.

Ok so maybe the criticism of blogging being unreliable is almost understandable, you can blog about anything (as is obvious from this post) and it may not be ‘reliable’, you can blog about aliens in your closet too! But this wouldn’t be unreliable it would just be weird. What the academics surveyed likely mean is that non-scientific ‘science’ might get put on the web and be an unreliable source. On no! Shock, horror, you don’t need a blog to do that, it already happens all of the time in the media.

The ‘no prestige’ argument, though, this is just silly – I guess there are a random few that go into scientific research for ‘prestige’, but I bet not most of us.

I think most of us go into science for a desire to understand, or create, or learn about the world around us or even to teach. The prestige might be a nice side value for some (not me) but is that really why you are a scientist in the first place? Maybe so but I would not think that is true for the majority. And it certainly can’t be for the money.

To my mind, these views are a bit snooty and a bit ,well archaic. The Nature article quite rightly points out, given that most surveyed scientists state they think its important to engage with the public – blogs do make sense.

Personally, I think blogging about science is great – obviously because I do it. But reading science blogs also helps me to look at things in a different way and gather other information in scientific fields I don’t spend much of my day thinking all that much about. On top of this, most bona fide science blogs – such as nature.com blogs and scienceblogs.com, actually include links to the research they are talking about, I can read the original peer-reviewed papers the articles are based on. What’s not to love?

Stop being so snobby fellow academics – embrace the future

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain used to be an academic, but now is trying to figure out what's next. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @DrSylviaMcLain and Instagram @sylviaellenmclain
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2 Responses to Why are academics so snotty about blogging?

  1. Ted says:

    Yup. even in the social sciences this is the case. I just wrote a review essay for an upcoming (September) issue of American Anthropologist where I look at social science bloggers working on climate change issues. Sadly, there isn’t a lot there. (See, though, http://savageminds.org/, http://adamhenne.wordpress.com/, etc.) What I have heard said (that may apply to physics, biology, and other sciences) is that blogging scores no points in the CV equation, so does not help move faculty toward tenure. That said, I like to think that if Galileo or Copernicus were alive today they would be blogging…

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