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Blogging is one of several innovations in science communication and has had little impact on science writing so far, argues academic and writer Alice Bell.

Online communication technologies open up new possibilities for science communication, says Bell, and there are areas where practices could change. But blogging could end up as one of many innovations that have not changed science communication substantially.

Bell points to three misconceptions that suggest the impact of the web is overstated. For example, the perception that bloggers and science journalists are in conflict is simplistic — many believe that there is no clear distinction between the two groups. But while some feel they are both journalist and blogger, some bloggers pride themselves on being informal science writers and resist sponsors or working with mainstream media.

Publishing anonymously or with a pseudonym is viewed as a sign of being unreliable, says Bell. But this is not necessarily negative or exclusive to the online community, while "social media can be very powerful in the building of trust".

And hypertext, "part of the craft of modern writing", is underused and has not transformed science writing. For example, a recent BBC survey concluded that more than half of science stories failed to link the reader to related stories within the BBC site.  

Bell suggests some areas where the web could change science journalism, including more public critique and debate about the methods used in science writers' work; the ability to connect with niche audiences; and the challenge to make science communication as widely accessible as possible — not just target specific audiences.  

Link to full article in Journal of Science Communication [148kB]


Journal of Science Communication 11(01) (2012)