[excerpt from the original article: The 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.
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.
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)
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 3 Topics geobloggers write about and read in other geoblogs; n – number of participants; a – number of answers. See Figure 5 for comparison.
|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).
|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).
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. [...]