Over the past two years, as part of our mission to lead a transformation in science communication, PLOS has nurtured a stellar network of independent science journalists and scientist-bloggers. Several PLOS bloggers have published notable books and won top science journalism prizes. Through their writing, as media critics and as early social media adopters, our bloggers, past and present, set standards for the broader field of science journalism. And, from the continued surge in our PLOS BLOGS Network site metrics, we know that many of you avidly read their blog posts.
Earlier this year, PLOS made a commitment to expand the size and scope of our external blog network, with the initial results of this effort debuting today.
In Mind the Brain, VA psychiatrist Shaili Jain tackles the U.S. Veteran suicide crisis. She includes her own very personal perspective as a clinician who works on a daily basis with Veterans experiencing the traumas of recent service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, along with an assessment of the current literature on suicide. Future posts in this blog will feature other Mind the Brain team members, including neuroscientist and addiction specialist Marc Lewis, and two PLOS ONE academic editors, the noted bloggers, psychologist Jim Coyne and neuroscientist Fabiana Kubke.
In her new PLOS blog DNA Science, geneticist and author Ricki Lewis, PhD reports on a patient undergoing rare stem cell therapy, while providing an in-depth perspective on the challenges faced by researchers and trial subjects participating in this emerging field.
Lastly, with the help of visual artist and British Library science engagement officer Johanna Kieniewicz, PLOS BLOGS Network enters new territory (new to us) with At the Interface, a blog devoted to the intersection of science and art.
In her inaugural post, Kieniewicz writes that “scientific imagery, in itself, is not art,” while stating her intention to “introduce readers to the world of art inspired by science.”
Why Bigger is Better
As we more than double the ranks of our PLOS BLOGS Network, we’re keeping a keen eye on how this growth can assist us in becoming more responsive to the needs of the broad community of authors and readers we serve. For example, we’ve asked all of our PLOS bloggers to prioritize, whenever possible, open science research (over proprietary research that resides behind a pay wall) as source material for their posts, whether that research is published by one of our seven PLOS journals, or by any other OA source.
On other fronts, we’ve encouraged our new bloggers to give their blogs self-explanatory names in order to help readers more easily find the information they’re seeking. We’ve also asked them to share the network “real estate” and writing workload by working as blogging teams – in effect, moving away from the “auteur school” of blogging to more of a group think approach, albeit with individual authors penning most posts — and always without pre-screening or editing by PLOS. This creates room for many more perspectives on matters of importance to the academic research community, which makes up a quarter of the more than 250,000 readers who visit our blogs on a monthly basis, and to the 20 per cent of our visitors who describe themselves as simply “interested in science.”
Finally, in tone and content, we continue to encourage contributors to our PLOS BLOGS Network to use their posts to build bridges between the scientific community and the general public. In striving to do a better job of communicating science to non-scientists, we find inspiration from a post by one of our founding PLOS bloggers, the Pulitzer Prize- winning Deborah Blum, who wrote recently about “the importance of writing in terms of familiar objects and everyday lives…” as she reminded us “that science is about our world and ourselves.” We couldn’t agree more.
More to Come
In the coming months, PLOS will introduce several more new blogs and bloggers devoted to other science disciplines including: science education, paleontology, citizen science, public health, ecology, climate science, and the history and philosophy of science. Please let us know what you think of our new blogs by leaving comments. You can also follow our bloggers and get updates on the network on @PLOSBLOGS and @PLOS on Twitter. You can also find PLOS on Facebook.
Victoria Costello is PLOS BLOGS Community Manager and Social Media Manager. Previous to joining PLOS, she wrote articles for Scientific American Mind and Brain World magazines, blogged for PsychologyToday.com and PsychCentral.com, and published six popular science and health books, including A Lethal Inheritance, from Prometheus Books (Jan/2012). Email Victoria at: email@example.com