Signal to Noise and the Chemistry Blog

December 04, 2007

Chemistry World is running an article in its December issue titled Surfing Web2O that briefly touches on the subject of chemistry blogs. From analysis to commentary to news gathering, blogging is changing the way large numbers of people relate to each other and the world around them. Why should chemistry be immune to this phenomenon?

One thing that is clear is that scientific blogging, in contrast to traditional scientific publication, is a much more fluid and engaging medium. Roald Hoffman, in his recent Boston ACS talk used the term "ossified" to describe the current state of chemistry publication. Although he went on to talk about how Angewandte Chemie was different, for a split second I though he might start talking about chemistry blogs.

Every new medium has its problems - and chemistry blogging is no exception. First, there's the credibility problem - the perception that the information content of chemistry blogs is somehow innately lower than print journals (a problem that every new medium faces). But beyond this are the much larger problems of understanding how this new medium works, what it can offer you as a participant, and what you might be giving up by participating.

Recent Depth-First articles have touched on some of these subjects:

You may be curious about starting a chemistry blog of your own, but what makes a good one? There are dozens of styles that seem to work, but for me the key qualities come down to a clear purpose (high signal-to-noise ratio), consistency, and attention to detail. Here are some (but by no means all) that I think work especially well:

New media never succeed by trying to imitate the content or form of established media; they succeed by doing what established media can't. The same is true for chemistry blogging. The established peer-review, publisher-controlled system of scientific communication does many things poorly. Look to blog-like online chemical resources to exploit these weaknesses and thrive.

Image Credit: altemark