I was awfully pleased to learn, late last week, that Scientist Sees Squirrel has won the 2018 People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Favourite Science Blog*. What an honour! The award competition is run yearly by the blogging network ScienceBorealis in collaboration with the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada. There were 9 nominees this year, and readers were invited to vote for three favourites. If you voted for Scientist Sees Squirrel, thank you! And if you voted for three other blogs (as I did), thank you also, because the full slate of nominees is much more interesting than any single winner could have been. I’ll explain.
When Scientist Sees Squirrel was nominated, I was (of course) immediately curious about who else was on the list. Some nominees were blogs I know; some were new to me. Every one was interesting; but what really stood out was the diversity in their approaches to science blogging. Some blogs are solo authored; others are written by teams. Some bloggers are early career; some, like me, are not so early. Some blogs are by academics, others by cooperatives, and one is a corporate blog. Some emphasize more heavily outreach to the general public; others (like Scientist Sees Squirrel) dabble in that and welcome the general reader, but more often target a scientific audience. (I’ve written elsewhere about the distinction between science-outreach and science-community blogs, but I’m happy if Scientist Sees Squirrel sometimes blurs that distinction).
With that in mind, my main purpose with today’s post is to encourage you to explore some of the other nominees. Because they’re great. Yes, it’s too late to vote for them; but it isn’t too late to enjoy them, and learn from them, and to learn from their diversity that there’s no single right way to do #SciComm.
Jasmine is a new Assistant Professor (hooray!) at Vancouver Island University. Her blog features a lot of thoughtful reflection on careers in academia, the grant-funding process for science, and other things too. Her global voice reflects experience in Australia and Canada and her strong interest in how the process of science differs from place to place.
Catherine is a PhD student whose passion is spiders – and whose blog is quite likely to infect you with that passion too (unless, of course, you already share it). One of her biggest blog successes is #RecluseOrNot: a resource for people to identify the much-maligned and misunderstood brown recluse spider. But there’s more, including her own fascinating research on black widows (the spiders, not the comic book character).
Dezene is a member of the faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia. The Boreal Beetle features posts about ecology, environmental protection, the wonders of insects, and more. Among other things, you can see a scientist engaged in his local community.
Peter and Travis are both obesity researchers – but one does research in a university setting, the other as an independent researcher. The blog dives into the science behind medical news – especially, but not entirely, around obesity. It’s engaging and timely.
The CMN is a research network, hosted at the University of Alberta, that brings together universities, governments, corporations, Indigenous groups, and others with shared interests in the landscapes, biota, and people of mountains. The network’s goal is to foster interdisciplinary mountain research; the blog’s goal is to share that research, and thinking about mountains more generally, widely. There’s a lot to explore here.
Agile is a data analytics company specializing in geoscience. Its web site includes a blog, with posts mainly about the geosciences (and the use of machine learning, coding, and other technology in science). I admit to being a little bit surprised by how good the blog is, having naively expected self-promotion and corporate-speak. It’s good to have one’s preconceptions challenged, and Agile’s blogging scientists did that for me.
Lisa is a vertebrate paleontologist at the Peace River Palaeontology Research Centre. She studies “trace fossils” (footprints and so on) of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds, which is of course utterly cool. So is her blog, which is often about dinosaurs, fossils, or animal tracks. And so is her other SciComm, including one of the most creative SciComm projects I’ve run into: Bird Glamour, in which Lisa uses eye makeup to teach about birds.
Palaeocast is a podcast series with an accompanying blog, both exploring the science of paleontology for (primarily) the interested general public. It has a broad diversity of authors, including frequent guest bloggers. Like Birds in Mud, it’s about nothing less than the evolution of life on Earth, and given that, it can’t help but be cool.
So that (plus of course Scientist Sees Squirrel) is this year’s set of People’s Choice nominees. Do yourself a favour – give a few of these blogs a look today; and follow their authors on Twitter. There are worlds to discover. And, of course, this year’s nominees only scratch the surface; it’s easy to think of other excellent blogs that are based in Canada, or have Canadian connections (some of which belong to the Science Borealis network, and some of which don’t). So I have no doubt that next year’s competition will be even stiffer. We should all be looking forward to it – but of course we don’t have to wait for then to explore the world of science blogs.
© Stephen Heard October 8, 2018
*^You will perhaps not be shocked to hear that it has not won the similarly-titled E! People’s Choice Award for movies, TV, music, or pop culture. In fact, I wasn’t even nominated – not even for Most Hype Worthy Canadian. Maybe next year.