Discussing WordPress for Scientists

Regular readers of this blog know about my current interest in WordPress as a tool to create scholarly content. In the last few weeks I have released several WordPress plugins for reference management and to create ePub files. Obviously I’m not the only person having this idea. Some interesting projects are:

  • Knowledge Blog – a JISC-funded project for light-weight scientific publishing
  • Code4Lib – a journal that provides practical solutions for technologists working in libraries, using WordPress as publishing platform
  • My obsession with WordPress – Peter Sefton’s thoughts on WordPress as a scholarly publishing platform
  • Mendeley Related Research – a plugin that finds academic research related to your blog posts
  • Annotem – an open-source journal authoring and publishing platform based on WordPress

WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform, and many science bloggers (including us here at PLoS Blogs) use WordPress. And science bloggers have some specific requirements, e.g. easy to use tools for linking to scholarly papers or aggregators of blog posts about a particular paper (ResearchBlogging) or science blogging in general (ScienceSeeker). A number of people use WordPress as a lab notebook (e.g. Carl Boettinger). There is no clear difference between WordPress as a scholarly writing tool and WordPress as a blogging tool, and I expect that the amount of scholarly writing done with WordPress will only increase.

Two days ago Ed Yong published an interactive timeline of research into reprogrammed stem cells. John Rennie yesterday cited Ed Yong and this post as a wonderful example of the future of science news. The future of science news depends on many things (not least brilliant writers such as Ed and John), but I think we also need better tools to make science writing fun and exciting.

In the hope that this will improve WordPress as a science writing platform, Mark Hahnel from the Science 3.0 blogging network and me today created the WordPress for Scientists Google Group. We invite developers who are working on scholarly plugins and themes for WordPress to join this group, but also researchers that need specific WordPress tools (e.g. to hook up their lab equiment to WordPress), and science bloggers that have cool ideas on how to improve WordPress for their needs.

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21 Responses to Discussing WordPress for Scientists

  1. Dave Munger says:

    Thanks for starting the WordPress for scientists group, Martin. I’m curious what the basis for the “WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform” statement is, though. I don’t have access to the numbers right now, but IIRC ResearchBlogging users are roughly equally divided between WordPress, Blogger, and other platforms.

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Dave, I could also have said that WordPress is a very popular blogging platform, both as hosted service and for self-hosting. WordPress.com is the most popular hosting service (40% of all hosted blogs in the Technorati 2010 State of the Blogophere Report). I think you have to start somewhere when you want to write plugins/extensions for a blogging platform, and WordPress seems to be a good choice for that.

  3. Dave Munger says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I was mainly curious if you knew of data showing WordPress surpassing Blogger/Blogspot — looks to me based on the Technorati data that the two platforms are still roughly on par. I agree that developing for WordPress is a good place to start, given its open-source roots.

  4. It was confusing to me what’s the best? now it’s not, I asked a questions What is the best blogging service for scientist. blogger, wordpress, hubpages, etc.? And Why? via linked in answer check the answers http://www.linkedin.com/answers/technology/blogging/TCH_BLG/779726-78228261?browseIdx=0&sik=1296873218208&goback=.amq

  5. Dan Lurie says:

    WordPress really is a great option for Scientists, and not just for publishing, my lab is actually using it to do science and collect data. Excited to see a place I can connect with other people doing similar things.

  6. Christopher Leonard says:

    We are looking at using WP for a full workflow from authoring to peer review and production/hosting and have been inspired by many of your posts Martin. One journal you haven’t mentioned yet is the Australian FibreCulture journal, which is impressive – although still not quite there yet in terms of all required functionality for STM journals: http://fibreculturejournal.org/

    It’s a rapidly moving space and one which I think will bear fruit very soon.

  7. Martin Fenner says:

    Dan, I would be very interested in your experience using WordPress in the lab. If you want, please post a comment here or in the Google Group.

    Chris, thanks for the link to the FibreCulture journal, I’m always looking for use cases. What I would really like to see happening in the next 12-24 months is that WordPress becomes good enough as an authoring tool and publishing platform to be a serious alternative for authors and publishers. And some things will be easier (cheaper and faster) with WordPress. I would for example think that a (paid for) language editing service works well with the WordPress platform.

  8. I think, WordPress is a great tool for science blogging. Because: it’s simple to install, use and for linking between blogs. There are many PlugIns for all situations and needs, also many themes to desing the blog. Laymen and expert can use it for sience publishing.

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  14. Hi everyone,

    I’m a WordPress-for-scientists addict. I discovered it by exchanging with Dave Lunt and decided to experience it for my own works. I started a project, as freelance, covering supramolecular chemistry, and needed to build an environment for collecting my data and research notes.

    I would like to have advices on several points :
    * should I stay on my local server (on my laptop) or should I install it online too ?
    * is there a script that is able to synchronize easily a distant and a local wordpress blogs, so that I can work even if i have no internet access or by accessing on an another computer ?
    * Do you use wordpress blogs associated with a wiki or any other knowledge base management system ?

    Thanks in advance for your help

    Best Regards,

    Roland Haroutiounian

  15. Martin Fenner says:

    Roland, I would recommend using WordPress installed on a server, not your local computer. This gives you much more flexibility in writing and reading. If you want to have both a local and distant installation, you can also automatically copy your posts from one blog to the other – search the WordPress Plugin directory for “syndication” and XML-RPC. I don’t use WordPress together with a Wiki.

  16. We’re now also running WordPress, even with our own “WP4Scientists” plug-in, called WP4Labs:



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  18. I would like to know which solution you found for your project management: using WordPress (with plugins like posttabs and subpage lists, using one post for each task) or another application like, for example, TaskFreak.

    I would like to have your feedbacks, which would help me a lot.

    Thanks a lot and have a nice day,


  19. Roland, I don’t use WordPress for projecct management, but rather the commercial web-based service Basecamp.

  20. I took a look at basecamp’s website. It seems quite complete. The concern is the price, as I work on personal projects. I was planning to take a look at dotproject which covers nearly the same functionnalities.

    What I wanted to know is how you organize your work between WordPress and Basecamp. The concern is about the fact that an ELN must keep all the working notes, so it can be doubled by the logs’ tracking system of a project management application like basecamp. Do you have an automatic posting system from basecamp to wordpress or do you simply copy the logs in your ELN ?

    Thanks for your precious help.



  21. Roland,

    I don’t think I can be of much help here. Although I use both Basecamp and WordPress, there is little overlap in how I use them. I also don’t use WordPress as an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN). Maybe someone else has an answer to your questions.