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Can science blogging save scientific communication?

This was one of many questions debated at the Second Annual Scientific Blogging Conference in North Carolina this weekend which I attended together with over 200 other folks who work in scientific communication.

When I told my friends I was going to North Carolina this weekend to attend a blogging conference they either said, “cool – why?” or “you’re weird – why?”.

To those that know me and understand something of today’s media scene there was no mystery. Blogging is gaining ground on every level – audience popularity; ability to delve in depth into specific areas of science; reputation for transparent discussion; opinion from experts on today’s most pressing issues.

Another important reason to attend was to claim my free bag of science schwag. This sounded intriguingly similar to the bags of free goodies that make celebrities salivate, except that I rather doubt they would have been as pleased as I was to receive freebies such as a cool calendar featuring not different Harley Davidson motorcycles or the stars from Grey’s Anatomy but Coral Reefs.

Something that did surprise me though was the fact that so many of the mainstream media were represented, I heard from folks who develop content for NewsHour, Discovery channel, MSNBC to name but a few.

A common theme of this event was the way that the lines between different content delivery channels – tv, film, newsprint, web, blogs – are becoming blurred. Each offers a different audience, author voice and level of objectivity but at the end of the day all need to work together in order to really speak to the public on the power and importance of scientific discovery and thinking.

Another topic which inspired some quite heated to and fro was the lack of debate about scientific issues in the current US presidential campaigns. It was good to learn more about Science Debate 2008, a campaign aimed at stimulating this much needed debate.

Finally, the collective voice rose up against the proportion of media coverage devoted to Britney Spears mental well being (or lack thereof) vs issues of importance in science. Human nature being what it is, there was no obvious solution to this problem save for continuing to strive to de-mystify science and make it relevant for as broad a range of the world’s population as possible.

Blogging can certainly play a huge part in that – putting scientists and scientific communicators in touch with their audience and giving them a right to reply like never before.

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