Welcome Scientific American Blog Network!

There's some big news in the blogosphere this morning from Blogfather and Scientific American Blog Editor, Bora Zivkovic, and Scientific American Editor-in-Chief, Mariette DiChristina.
We have an exciting announcement to make this morning. Our new blog network has launched! To our existing line-up of eight blogs you are all familiar with, we have added another 39. There are now six editorial blogs, six personal blogs written by our editors and staff, and 42 independent bloggers who will write on our platform starting today. Bookmark the new Blogs Homepage and read the official press release. Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina, has written a welcome post, explaining what the network means to Scientific American. And I have written an introductory post in which I introduce all the blogs and bloggers on our brand- new network. This is a stellar lineup of bloggers. Give them a hearty welcome in the comments of their introductory posts, and keep coming back to read their amazing writing.

Nearly 166 years after its launch, the oldest, continuously-published magazine in the United States now has a blog network.

With my experience writing on three blog networks over the last five years - ScienceBlogs, CENtral Science, and PLoS Blogs - I can say that SciAm Blogs is a truly major addition to the science outreach mission of blogs, not just among scientists but to the general public as well. We're more sort of a niche network here at CENtral Science, really tailored to the chemistry audience, so I don't view SciAm as competition but rather as a great addition to the community. Global public affairs expert David Wescott noted at his blog, It's Not A Lecture, that Bora was supremely clever in assembling the SciAm network - although I disagree with David's contention that all other blog networks are second to the SciAm network (of course I disagree!). David specifically cited this passage from way, way down at the bottom of Bora's explanatory post on how the bloggers were selected:
Another thing I was particularly interested in was to find bloggers who in some way connect the “Two Cultures” as described by C.P.Snow. Some connect science to history, philosophy, sociology or ethics. Many are very interested in science education, communication and outreach. Some make connections between science and popular culture, music, art, illustration, photography, cartoons/comic strips, poetry, literature, books, movies, TV, video, etc. Several produce such cross-discipline and cross-cultural material themselves – at least two are musicians, two are professional photographers, several produce videos, two are professional artists, a couple are authors of multiple books, some produce their own blog illustrations. But there are also commonalities – they all have strong knowledge of their topic, they strictly adhere to the standards of scientific evidence, they are all very strong writers, and they are all enthusiastic to share their work with a broader audience. When I put together this group, with such diverse interests and styles, it was not surprising to discover that, without really having to try hard to make it so, they also display diversity in many other areas: geography, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, personal/professional/scientific background and more. This is something that is important for science, and is important in the science blogging world.
David noted there that this might thin the herd of science blog networks, particularly since some bloggers are old ScienceBlogs folks or have come from other networks to establish a second or revived blog. There's certainly only so much one can read each day - heck, I couldn't even get through half of the new blogs during lunch today. But I'm not concerned about us here at CENtral Science - many of the SciAm bloggers are friends and supporters and routinely comment here. I only see one major writer with a true chemistry background: Winthrop University chemistry grad, NYU SHERP grad, now digital and TV producer, Cassie Rodenberg, at her blog, The White Noise. However, Cassie will be writing more about addiction and mental health - exceedingly important topics that I often cover here. So, I don't suspect that she'll be doing much hard-core chemblogging. [I honestly haven't had a chance to run through all of the blogs so if you see any others that might be more chemistry related, just drop a note in the comments below] As for other blog networks, PZ Myers of ScienceBlogs has marked the launch of the SciAm Blog Network as the death of the network whose traffic he has sustained for five-and-a-half years:
I hate to say it, but there's no avoiding the stinking corpse on the living room rug: Scienceblogs.com is dead. It might be twitching still, but that's just the biota working beneath the skin, and soon they'll erupt and start looking for new hosts. Many already have. Scientopia was one of the early products of a Sb diaspora, and now Bora has announced the Scientific American network, which also has a swarm of very good bloggers, some formerly of Scienceblogs, but also some new and interesting faces. Scienceblogs won't be competing with SciAm; it can't, and there's a lack of interest in doing so.
At the end of the post, PZ notes, "I think I'll be flying away soon, too, but that's a different announcement that will have to wait a little longer." Now THAT will kill ScienceBlogs. PZ keeps his SiteMeter information public and you will be astounded to see numbers in the range of 3 million visits per month. In my day, PZ's traffic accounted for 60+% of the network traffic, probably more today. But on a more optimistic note, hearty congratulations to all of my friends at the Scientific American Blog Network. This is simply great news for science. And on a personal note to my dear old friend, Bora: Well done, my good man. Bora's roundup post lists all the blogs with short descriptions. And here's the frontpage for the network.

How many of you love chemistry *this* much?

Updated 5 July 2011, 9:30 pm - Oooh boy, am I embarrassed. I completely missed that San José State University professor, Dr. Janet Stemwedel, has a blog at SciAm called Doing Good Science (as she kindly pointed out in the comments). This is a very offensive oversight on my part for many reasons. Janet was on of the 14 original writers at ScienceBlogs and essentially the den mother of the blogging class when I joined the network in June 2006. In my induction ceremony, Janet bestowed upon me the nickname, "Exit 153A," to denote our common upbringing in Bergen County, New Jersey. She has also become a dear friend and colleague over the years but the SciAm blog lineup was so underwraps that I had no idea she was launching there. And for me to overlook her chemistry background? Janet holds two PhD degrees: one in physical chemistry and one in philosophy. But perhaps most importantly, she literally has chemistry under her skin as evidenced by her tattoo of a woman chemist with a bubbling Erlenmeyer (detailed here at Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium). My sincerest apologies DrDr. Stemwedel.

Author: David Kroll

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  1. Scientific American and P.Z. Myers – like peas in a pod. I’ll never understand how that guy can spend so much time NOT blogging about science and still pretend that he is.

  2. David,
    In my reading of your comments here, you see no concern for CENblogs that Cassie is the only chemist in the mix. (Of course, this is just my perception of your words.) I very much am in disagreement with this. Scanning through the list there are plenty of voices from bio (mostly) and physics and some of the social sciences. Even Cassie’s blog is (seemingly) largely influenced by neurology and psychology. It is a great shame that we don’t have more voices from the world of chemistry in a place as visible as SciAm. As I’m sure that your writing at PLoS does, more visible chemistry writers would surely bring traffic to the fantastic writing at CENblogs. Also, SciAm is missing a great swath of current research by not looking to find other chemistry writers.

    That being said, I’m very excited to continue reading all of the wonderful bloggers that Bora has assembled. I just hope that the future of that network, and other networks that are more visible to non-scientists, will include more people writing about chemistry.

  3. There might be a few more of us over there with a chemistry background, although I did note in my kick-off post that I’m a chemist of the non-practicing variety these days.

    Still, it’s an interesting question why, proportional to the science-y blogosphere, there aren’t more folks blogging about chemistry. Maybe some social scientist can get on that?

    • Oh. Dear. Bad me, Janet. I’ve put an update at the end of the post indicating in painful detail why I am so embarrassed for overlooking that you joined the SciAm network.

      All I can say is that I don’t believe that anyone at CENtral Science or in the C&ENews offices has a similar tattoo.

      And indeed, we have much to discuss as to why there aren’t more blogging chemists.

      • Dude, with that number of blogs in the SciAm network, I’m not sure my blog would have jumped out *to me* if I hadn’t known to look for it there! No need to apologize.

        On the issue of blogging chemists (or blogging members of any scientific discipline X): a further question to explore, beyond who’s blogging and who isn’t (and why that might be), is who’s blogging as a chemist versus who’s blogging about chemistry. (Undoubtedly, this would prompt further discussion about what exactly counts as “blogging about chemistry” — the whole current peer reviewed research versus life in the tribe of chemists versus musings on chemistry in everyday life line-drawing. Because we seem to like line-drawing for some reason.)

  4. Ahhh, yes, yes, Matt – I see your point. I had only been looking at SciAm as potentially drawing eyeballs away from CENtral Science. But from the standpoint of capital-C-Chemistry, yes, the paucity of chemists at SciAm is very much dismaying. Just as we have seen from the “chemical-free” nonsense, the discipline does need more platforms for connecting with the general public.

    I’ll have to ask Bora about this but I wonder if the lack of chemists at SciAm is due to the lack of chemists blogging, the lack of chemists willing to start a new blog, and/or Bora’s own biology orientation.

    Sounds to me like there’s a ScienceGeist post in the making…

  5. I may not have a chemistry background, but I do have a chemistry, err, foreground. I have a feeling that as I am exposed to more and more chemistry, I’ll want to blog about it.

  6. @Janet, a glaring omission on my part!! Will be amended in that post that David is telling me I have to write! 😉 btw – say hi to my friend, Lionel Cheruzel, who is on faculty in chemistry at SJSU.

    @Michelle, I certainly do hope that’s the case. Chemistry (with a capital C) is better with more wonderful voices talking about it! Also, Go Bucks! (I’m from Dayton)

  7. Ha! Thank you. All the good chemistry bloggers are here on CENtral Science!

    I did struggle about it. People with chemistry background whose blogs I like (and think they fit in my network vision) tend not to blog about chemistry much. Or are taken by other networks, or unwilling to join one. But majority of chemistry bloggers write for each other, very inside baseball I cannot understand, thus not really fitting my vision (or SciAm focus on broad audiences).

    But with two bloggers with background, and one with foreground (plus some of our editors), I hope we can cover chemistry sufficiently, at least for the time being. If a fantastic new chemistry bloggers emerges, please let me know…

    • Thanks for taking time from your amazingly busy day to come over and comment, Bora. It seems that we’ve definitely hit on a good question for the chemblogging community and it’ll be great to investigate some of the questions that Janet has raised below.

      I think that you’ve made a reasonable generalization: that many chemistry bloggers write more for the local community and less so for the broader public. Rachel is doing a great job here of cultivating younger talent (i.e., Christine Herman) but you’re going to have arm-wrestle her for them!

      And in all seriousness, buddy, heartiest and well-deserved congratulations.

    • My belated congratulations, Bora! I can appreciate that setting up and running a network is no easy task, but you’ve assembled a terrific ensemble.

      But I have to disagree that we here at CENtral Science have nabbed ALL the good chemistry bloggers. I’d certainly love to say we’ve done that. For a variety of reasons, however, there’s only so much room here at CS, and there’s more talent (as Matt pointed out in his post this morning) than we can comfortably fit. So I would just as equally love to see the addition of a chemistry blog or two on the SciAm network in order to give both Chemistry and chemistry bloggers more exposure. Although David is right, there will be arm wrestling involved. 🙂

  8. No offense intended, David… 😉

    there are some interesting points here, however – things I’m reasonably certain Bora will address.

    • Ha ha, David – thanks for providing the stimulus to post. You totally nailed the idea of why Bora himself nailed the concept. Great post – your analysis is always valuable.

  9. janet! well, so many of you guys changed your names from what i’m expecting.

  10. I’m late to the party but so glad to see this discussion happening here. There are lots of “big picture” chemistry issues that someone in the blogosphere could be writing about for SciAm– like how do we strike the right balance between incorporating nano-innovations into everything and making sure they’re safe, energy questions like building better batteries and the pros and cons of solar/wind/biofuel/what have you, even a voice of reason to explain what’s behind extreme coverage (from both extremes!) of things like bisphenol A or formaldehyde in hair straighteners.


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