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On the chemical blogosphere

Posted 07/07/2010 by RoseS

In a footnote to a front page story in The Guardian earlier this week concerning the Climategate affair, Oxford science philosopher Jerome Ravetz is reported as commenting on the growing role of the ‘blogosphere’ in scientific discourse. ‘The radical implications of the blogosphere need to be better understood,’ he is quoted as saying, pointing out the importance of the medium in revealing the important issues buried in the University of Anglia’s leaked emails.

C&I’s own weekly blog – observant readers may have noticed – has been up and running since January, and has covered topics from energy policy, multinationals and generics to eco-buildings and transparency. But while it would be nice to be able to report on the level of interest, the truth is that most C&I blogs have received very little feedback. At last count, our efforts had generated just a handful of responses posted online.

In an attempt to understand the problems, I decided to trawl the internet to discover more about the competition, the network of chemistry-related blogs and their interconnections making up the chemical blogosphere at large. I started, I confess, with a fair degree of scepticism. Given the abundance of chemical news and information sites already available, how much more was there to find out that you might actually want to know?

While I wouldn’t claim it as a comprehensive survey – there is, after all, now a blog site for almost every chemical title you can think of, as well as a new science feed on twitter – it did throw up a couple of observations.

First, there are several useful sites that genuinely do contain novel and interesting insights – now added to my bookmarks. And secondly – which maybe is something of a relief – none of them seemed to be generating very much feedback either.

Curiously, one of the most lively debates I came across was at a site called simply Chemistry Blog where, among postings on ‘Puzzling polymorphs’ and ‘where has all the (-)-sparteine gone?’, I happened upon a discussion of the chemistry work ethic, apparently sparked by a letter from US chemistry professor Erick Carreira to his students concerning their failure ‘to show up in the evenings’ and at weekends in the lab. Although, since the alleged letter reproduced on the site is dated ‘July 27, 1996’, one wonders how relevant it still is.

Cath O’Driscoll-Deputy Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    30/07/2010 01:44

    With 165 comments I would say the issue of excessive work hours in academia is still relevant. On a different topic. Your problem of a lack of comments can be attributed in part to a lacking in your blog template. The content is too narrow and there are no images in your stories to make for a more pleasant reading and commenting experience. Also, there is no place for me to add my email in order to be notified if you ever reply back to me or if you wanted to contact me for a follow up.