2011-10-19

The state of the Geoblogosphere – geoscience communication in the social web

[Un resumen de un artículo que analiza la blogosfera sobre geociencias, hecho por alemanes. Lo creais o no (¿No habrá algún error?), España está en segundo lugar en número de blogs sobre Ciencias de la Tierra]

[excerpt from the original articleThe state of the Geoblogosphere – geoscience communication in the social web]
[...]
Lutz Geißler1, Robert Huber2 and Callan Bentley3     109599 Freiberg, Germany 2MARUM, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany 3Northern Virginia Community College, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003 USA

Our survey shows that a majority of persons writing geoblogs are young, male, and academic. Most live in the USA and Europe. Collectively, their main motivation to blog is to share knowledge and to popularize the geosciences. Blogging is also seen as an opportunity to improve the authors’ writing skills, perform outreach, establish new contacts, and positively influence their careers. The rapid dissemination of news has been cited as an important advantage of the geoblogosphere.
[...]
Geobloggers perceive their activities as building up their professional network, enhancing their scientific eloquence, and generating a useful educational and outreach tool. Geoblogging may have the potential to evolve into an important part of the modern geoscience working environment.

Introduction

[...]
This ease of publication not only resulted in an increase of individuals’ online diaries, but also affected semi-professional and professional blogs, e.g., community blogs, corporate blogs, and scientific blogs (William and Jacobs, 2004). Bonetta (2007) estimated the number of science blogs at 1,000 – 1,200. The actual quantity is much higher with respect to the establishment of large science blogging platforms or “collectives” in recent years (e.g., scienceblogs.com, scientopia.org, Nature Network Blogs).

The first geoscientific blogs were released in 2001 with “Green Gabbro” (Bentley, 2008) and in 2003 with “Andrew’s Geology Blog”. Building on the term “blogosphere”, blogging geoscientists soon established “geoblogosphere” as shorthand for the entirety of the geoblog community, including bloggers and readers.

The first data on geoblogs were collected by Bentley (2008) who conducted a short online survey with 46 participants representing approximately 50 % of the geoblogosphere at that time (Geißler, 2009). Another geoblog-survey was started in August 2009 (female participants: n = 91) to investigate geoblogs as a resource and social support network for women geoscientists (Hannula et al., 2009a, 2009b; Jefferson et al., 2010). This survey included bloggers (n = 36) and blog readers.

The authors extend and reissue the survey of Bentley (2008), supplemented by data from statistical and semantic analysis of more than 200 Earth science blogs. The study presented here is the first comprehensive attempt to characterize the geoblogosphere from the bloggers’ point of view.
[...]

3. Results

The geobloggers

The demographic and social background of the geoblogosphere is quite variable but shows some clear patterns. 57.7 % of the bloggers are 25 to 40 years old, whereas an additional of 30.8 % are geobloggers in their 40’s and 50’s. Minory populations in the geoblogosphere are very young bloggers (18-24: 7.7 %) and older bloggers (61-68 yrs: 3.8 %).

Most geobloggers are male (78.2 %) and live in the USA (51.3 %), followed by Spain and Germany with 11.5 % each, and Great Britain (7.7 %; Fig. 1).

Figure 1 Geographic location of surveyed geobloggers. (n = 78)
Figure 1 Geographic location of surveyed geobloggers. (n = 78)
Most of the geobloggers have an academic background. One-fifth (21.8 %) of the respondents hold Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts as their highest degree. The majority achieved a Master or a comparable degree (35.9 %), followed by 32.1 % of the surveyed bloggers who hold a PhD. Only 9.3 % stated a lower degree, e.g., an Associate in Applied Arts & Science (AAS) degree, or a high school graduation.

Most geobloggers are either graduate students or teaching and researching staff on university faculties (Table 2; Fig. 2). One third work as freelancers, consultants, and in industry. Unemployed bloggers, undergraduate students and educators without research activities are represented in equal shares. Researchers in the public sector (e.g., in geological surveys), post-doctoral researchers who do not teach, and museum researchers are not as represented as their colleagues teaching at universities.

Table 2 Geoscientific affiliation and/or current employment status of the participants; n – number of participants; a – number of answers.
Table 2 Geoscientific affiliation and/or current employment status of the participants; n – number of participants; a – number of answers.

Most of the geobloggers publish a new article (or blog “post”) once to several times a week (35.9 %) or a month (33.3 %). Only 12.8 % publish one or several blog posts per day. The remaining bloggers (17.9 %) publish their articles irregularly (Fig. 2). The geoblogosphere average is 0.37 new posts per day (median: 0.21) or 1 new post every 2.7 days (Fig. 3). This contrasts with the calculation of Bentley (2008) calculated, who found an average of 0.55 posts per day in his survey. The difference may be accounted for by considering some extraordinarily active blogs with an average rate of up to 3.6 posts per day (Bentley, 2008), which did not participate in the current study.

Geoscientific topics

Table 3 Topics geobloggers write about and read in other geoblogs; n – number of participants; a – number of answers. See Figure 5 for comparison.
Table 3 Topics geobloggers write about and read in other geoblogs; n – number of participants; a – number of answers. See Figure 5 for comparison.

Monothematic blogs are rare. Instead, geobloggers embrace a variety of sources of inspiration (Fig. 6). The majority of geobloggers write 91-100 % of their posts about geoscience-related topics (72 % of them exclusively). Only 8 % of the geoblogs contain less than one-third geoscientific posts (Fig. 7).

Figure 6 Sources of inspiration for surveyed geobloggers (n = 78; a = 265)
Figure 6 Sources of inspiration for surveyed geobloggers (n = 78; a = 265)

Figure 7 Variation in the proportion of geoscience-related posts published within the surveyed geoblogs (n = 78).
Figure 7 Variation in the proportion of geoscience-related posts published within the surveyed geoblogs (n = 78).
The statistics of the “Geoblogosphere News” aggregator database (Huber et al., 2009) allow a more specific view on the geoblog topics by analyzing the most used general geologic and stratigraphic terms, and names of locations and countries in the news feeds of 265 geoblogs (Table 4). According to this automated compilation of data, 40 % of the blog posts which contained stratigraphic terms cover the Mesozoic, 34 % deal with the Paleozoic, 25 % are about the Cenozoic, and 1 % discuss the Proterozoic.

Table 4 Number of the 10 most frequently used terms in geoblogs indexed by the “Geoblogosphere News” aggregator (Huber et al., 2009) until January 5, 2010. These keyword terms are categorized in countries, stratigraphy, locations and general geologic terms (n = 265).
Table 4. Number of the 10 most frequently used terms in geoblogs indexed by the “Geoblogosphere News” aggregator (Huber et al., 2009) until January 5, 2010. These keyword terms are categorized in countries, stratigraphy, locations and general geologic terms (n = 265).
[...]
Interestingly, and in contrast to their own writing preferences, geobloggers prefer reading about “hard” geoscientific facts and analysis (e.g., geomorphology, sedimentology, volcanology) rather than reading personal experiences and opinions (e.g., field trip diaries, travel reports). Furthermore, posts about teaching and education or climate change are frequently published but attract less attention by geoblog readers (Fig. 5).
[...]

5. Conclusion

Our survey shows that the geoblogosphere is a topically widespread, fast-paced and growing community without geographic constraints, but with Anglo-American dominance. Geobloggers are highly motivated to educate and inform their readers, and to popularize the geosciences. Geoblogs show the potential to contribute to knowledge transfer from scientists to the general public, though they have yet to establish a reputation as a reliable source of geoscience information. [...]