I gave a talk on Friday at the 2009 annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Phoenix. As part of the Committee on Education’s session, Teaching the History of Science Using the Web (Kerry Magruder presented on digital collections and Audra Wolfe on using blogs in the classroom), “Your Daily History of Science: Blogging a Discipline” was a way to convey to people the motivations behind those who blog about the history of science, and advantages to their education or career resulting from that blogging. I discussed my own experience as well as information from other bloggers. Here is my PowerPoint (which does not seem to want to embed correctly, just open the link in a new window):
The very informal online survey I did for this talk was minimized in my presentation because of time constraints. Here, then, are the ten questions I asked, receiving 21 responses from 32 inquiries:
1. What is your name, blog name, url, and how long have you been blogging?
Most history of science bloggers have been blogging for three years or less.
2. What is your profession, or if a student, what discipline and what degree?
History of science bloggers include an assistant professor of STS, an assistant professor of history, a professor of physics, another professor of history (and science studies), an associate professor of philosophy, a biology instructor, a research fellow, a postdoc historian, a Ph.D. in history of psychology, a Ph.D. in history of science and medicine, a history undergraduate, and a biology undergraduate. Also, an archivist, curator, two antiquarian booksellers, an accountant, an entomologist, and several freelance writers.
3. Is your blog specifically a history of science blog, or another blog which has history of science content?
Hos specifically: 8; HoS content: 12
4. Initally, why did you start your blog?
Sharing content (8), research (7), science communication (2), political commentary (2), networking (1), online reference (1), “It just happened!” (1)
5. Which category would your blog best fit?
Pedagogical [prof. POV] (4), pedagogical [student POV] (1), departmental community (1), organizational community (1), outreach (2), business (1), hobby/self-interest/research (10)
6. Please describe the types of posts on your blog.
Too varied to describe here.
7. Who is your intended audience?
Historians of science (1), professional academics (2), history of science students (2), anyone – historians, other academics, students, and the public (15)
8. Who reads/participates in discussion on your blog?
Historians (8), other professional academics [museum workers, scientists, etc.] (4), history of science students (6), amateurs/public (9)
9. What does blogging offer that cannot be expressed in other forms of writing?
Rapid development of ideas (5), writing exercise (8), ability to write less formally (4), publishing in a non-university domain (3), easy/quick public access and storage (8), close relationship with readers (2), immediate feedback (7)
10. Do you have any unique experience relating to your education/career path that resulted from writing your blog?
Publications (8), book reviews (1), conf. panel/talk invitation (4), grant panel invitation (1), radio appearances (2), networking (11), faculty award (1), event opportunities (1), job searching (2), changing research plans (1), negative results (1), none (7)
Blog posts/articles I referenced in the talk:
Benjamin Cohen, “Why Blog the History of Science?” Newsletter of the History of Science Society October 2008.
Benjamin Cohen, “Why Blog the History of Science?” The World’s Fair. October 14, 2008.
Will Thomas, “Blogging as Scholarship,” Ether Wave Propaganda. October 24, 2008.
Michael Robinson, “A Blog of One’s Own,” Time to Eat the Dogs, October 27, 2008.
Loïc Charles, “Blogging for what? Blogging for whom?” History of Economics Playground, November 14, 2008.
I plugged The Giant’s Shoulders, the monthly history of science blog carnival. Other online discussion about history of science blogging or relevant topics:
Benjamin Cohen, “What difference does the history of science make?” The World’s Fair, August 4, 2008.
Adam Goldstein, “Blogging Evolution,” Evolution: Education and Outreach September 2009.
Rohit Bhargava, “Manifesto For The Content Curator: The Next Big Social Media Job Of The Future?” Influential Marketing Blog, September 30, 2009.
Science Online 2009 had a session on history of science blogging, “Web and the History of Science.” Go here for commentary from the three participants. Participant Greg Gbur posted about the session in “Science Online ’09: Web and the History of Science” on his blog Skulls in the Stars, and the blog Ideonexus offered thoughts in “The Web and the History of Science.”
This January, there will be a session again on the history of science at Science Online 2010. John McKay (archy) and Eric Michael Johnson (The Primate Diaries) will present the following in “An Open History of Science”:
We will be talking about how the history of science and the history of the open-access movement have intersected. Steven Johnson touches on this theme in his latest book, The Invention of Air, in that 18th century British polymath Joseph Priestley was a strong advocate of publishing scientific data widely in order to create a greater dialogue between scientists. While Johnson only mentions this briefly in the case of Priestley, this theme runs strongly through the history of science and is what makes the debate over the patenting of genes or the availability of open-access journals such important topics today.
A few pictures from the conference are here.