PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Blogging by scientists
A rare and peripheral activity

Yin-Yueh Lo   Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Hans Peter Peters   Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

For a long time, scientists appeared in the public sphere mainly as "media sources" quoted in stories written by journalists. The rise of the new online media, in particular the spread of science blogs, has created more options for scientists addressing a broader public directly, though. While the group of science bloggers has received scholarly attention in several studies already, the significance of blogging compared to other means of public communication, and perceptions, preferences and attitudes towards blogging within the scientific community at large are less well studied. In an online survey of 815 scientists from Taiwan, Germany and the United States the prevalence and practice of blogging among scientists in the respective countries as well as related perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of bloggers and non-bloggers were investigated. Study participants were randomly selected from a list of authors of scientific articles according to a stratified sampling scheme. Response rates were 21-23%. The proportion of scientists reporting active blogging ranged from 4% in Germany and Taiwan to 8% in the United States. Almost 80% of the blogging scientists publish new posts only every few weeks or less often. The vast majority of blogging scientists spend only 2 hours or less per week on blogging. Still, the belief that "blogging wastes time that would better be used for research" is prevalent in all three countries and one of the main concerns regarding blogging. German scientists perceive least often a positive attitude towards blogging of their colleagues and organizational management. Blogging scientists consider members of the public an important audience besides their peers and students. However, the low frequency of publishing new posts and the limited time devoted to blogging activities indicate that blogging remains a peripheral activity for most scientists who blog.

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