I’m not a science blogger.

I’m not a science blogger, I’m a scientist-blogger, a professional scientist* who has a blog. So I am not offended by this zinger of a paragraph by Virginia Heffernan in The New York Times:

Hammering away at an ideology, substituting stridency for contemplation, pummeling its enemies in absentia: ScienceBlogs has become Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd. Though Myers and other science bloggers boast that they can be jerky in the service of anti-charlatanism, that’s not what’s bothersome about them. What’s bothersome is that the site is misleading. It’s not science by scientists, not even remotely; it’s science blogging by science bloggers. And science blogging, apparently, is a form of redundant and effortfully incendiary rhetoric that draws bad-faith moral authority from the word “science” and from occasional invocations of “peer-reviewed” thises and thats.

In fact, I kinda think she hit the nail on the head with some of this. ScienceBlogs hasn’t been a source of serious science content for me for quite some time, since many of the best science writers have gone one by one to more science-focused venues. But Virginia, don’t lump all science blogs in with ScienceBlogs — there are some excellent ones written by scientists and science writers.

* For the purpose of this post, “professional scientist” is defined as someone who does scientific research for a living, publishes research in peer-reviewed journals, and is funded by granting agencies to do it. Not just writes about it, or is studying it, or doing some of it as a grad student, or only teaches it. Science bloggers — people who have blogs partly or mostly about science — are not necessarily, or even usually, professional scientists.

[NOTE: Before you post yet another comment about “what about industrial scientists?” or “but not everyone receives grants”, just go to the new discussion here].


10 comments to I’m not a science blogger.

  • B Harpur

    “* For the purpose of this post, “professional scientist” is defined as someone who does scientific research for a living, publishes research in peer-reviewed journals, and is funded by granting agencies to do it. Not just writes about it, or is studying it, or doing some of it as a grad student, or only teaches it.”

    A grad student is not a professional scientist? Do they not meet the criteria? Many graduate students have their own funding (Thank you, NSERC) and perform research for a living. I like to think a graduate student is a professional scientist albeit one in training. Sorry to make so much of an issue on semantics, but surely graduate students can be thought of as professional scientists (perhaps just not master scientists haha).

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    • No, as you correctly noted, grad students are scientists in training (assuming they go on to become professional scientists, which many do not). There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re not a “chef” in culinary school, or a lawyer in law school, or a medical doctor in med school either.

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      • Hi Ryan, I’m a new fan to your website, but I just have to say that your take on the NY Times areticle here makes the most sense out of EVERYTHING I have read on this subject matter.  You are a brilliant writer.  I would love to add a link to your current postings if that is OK on my personal blog.  I always like to ask permission first.  I myself and a hard working student trying to complete my grad degree…and that is just it.  No matter what i write, what lecture I give or whatever I am involved in within my study (paleontology), I always refer to myself as a student or paleontologist in training.  I believe even when I am done with grad school, I would still like to call myself a student of science.  Because there is so much to know in anyone’s field and I would never claim to be a 100% expert.  Learning is the fun part.  That being said, I just think you summed everything up nice and I am a fan of your site.  My passion is natural history and have been working as a student promoting paleontology in my home state and my site at http://www.njdino.com or http://www.dryptosaurus.com is geared toward the general public.  My personal blog is new, but just a place to have fun.  Its by no means meant for science lol…but since I don’t do facebook or twitter and am a bit old fashion, it works.  Anyway, I’m sure you have had enough of my post, but I just wanted to say that although I don’t know much about your field, I enjoy reading you work.  I just was really fired up of the whole science blog thing at hear, so you eased my mind.  I’m not a science writer like I said, but I guess I get bitter sometimes when I see science blogger that is basically written by someone who doesn’t sacrifice professional college study, but has TONS of free time to write work by others.  Basically saying, I enjoy reading science type blogs in my field, but it pisses me off when I’m busting my tail in college and they are just cutting and pasting others work, cutting down others work and all the while they are basically journalist.  Sorry, guess I’m bitter lol…

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  • It always sort of amuses me that the bloggers/authors from academia (PZ, Dawkins, etc.)  that make the most noise about being self-styled defenders of science tend to be the types that ditched the whole actually doing science thing. Maybe doing research was just too boring for them.

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  • John Mulligan

    I do not agree with the “funded by granting agencies” part of the definition.  Lots of interesting, published, peer-reviewed science is done with other funding mechanisms.  A professional scientist does original research for a living and publishes it in a way that contributes to the body of scientific knowledge.

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  • RKN

    <i>* For the purpose of this post, “professional scientist” is defined as someone who does scientific research for a living, publishes research in peer-reviewed journals, and is funded by granting agencies to do it.</>
    Pretty odd criteria.
    I’ve worked with very capable scientists in industry who actively did none of those things.

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    • “For the purpose of this post”. That is important. I was talking about science blogs and the apparent assumption that most should be written by academic scientists implied in the NYT article.

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      • RKN

        Yes, I noted “For the purpose…”, but didn’t understand what purpose could be served by positing a definition for “scientist” that excludes a sizable number of professional scientists.

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  • MadraghRua

    So where do industrial scientsts fit into this picture? We don’t rely on grants – success is measured by successful porjects that evolve into products. We don’t frequently publish in public journals but we do have to publish, report and have to go through all the rigour of a paper to meet internal development specifications in order for a porduct to be launched. I know that my colleagues in the drug development world have to go through tremendous amounts of rigour.
    As a final point industrila scientst do have to have a distance between the public persona of a blog and the professional persona of working for a company. We all get to sign fairly weighty legal documents describing our ability to speak and communicate outside of our companies. Frequently there is a significant barrier to such communications. I would hazard that the scientific blogosphere is in fact itself biased to academics who do not have these legal constraints and that an entire part of the scientific community is absent.

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