aka Why does the neuroscience blogosphere suck?
Obviously, there are tons of great neuroscience blogs out there – I’m not even going to try to list them because they are numerous and I don’t want to accidentally leave one out. But there does not seem to be a blogosphere. To get all middle school on you, Wikipedia defines the blogosphere as the collection of all blogs and their interconnections, implying that they exist as a connected community.
When I look around at the Economics blogosphere, I see a lot of give-and-take between blogs. One blog will post an idea, another blog will comment on it, and the collective community has a discussion. I see this discussion, to a greater or lesser extent, in the other communities I follow: math, physics, and ecology. Yet missing in all this is neuroscience, and perhaps biology in general. Why is this?
The online academic biology community seems primarily interested in discussing the disastrous state of the profession. This set of problems – the lack of funding, the overabundance of PhDs, etc – has a clearly connected blogosphere. There’s lots of discussion.
Are biologists just less interested in discussing broad ideas? I wouldn’t think so, but I don’t see any equivalent to, say, Dynamic Ecology, where discussions on neuroscience ideas big and small can kick off. I think the closest we get is the Neuroskeptic/critic axis.
Am I missing something? Is there a place that big ideas in neuroscience get debated on blogs? Is there a scientific give and take that I’m missing? Is neuroscience too diverse, or too data oriented?
(1) Too much science communication, not enough science debate. People in the biology blogs seem to want to be science communicators! It’s much easier to do this in a popular field like neuroscience than, say, math. And these bloggers who attempt communication get much more positive feedback than the bloggers who attempt to communicate with the tiny neuroscience blogosphere. I know that my post on Einstein’s brain got orders of magnitude more views than my post on Tony Movshon explaining V2.
(2) Few blogs are focused on individual research themes. It often seems that the most successful blogs devoted to a more academic audience are those with clear research themes (aka, find your niche). But we have almost none of these in neuroscience! I think a lot of this follows from (1). We have blogs like labrigger and Memming, but where are the rest? Visual neuroscience often seems to take up half of the SfN space, but where are the vision blogs?
(3) The blogging community is not used to it. Maybe part of it is that we’re more used to the passive meeting presentation format than the more useful symposia (debate) format, but I think the biology community is not used to this kind of debate over ideas and that uncomfortability has carried over into the blogs. I know when I started taking snips from other blogs and commenting on it I felt…uncomfortable, but it’s something I see all the time in economics/etc.
(4) Data is hard. Let’s just admit to ourselves that biology is more data focused than, say, economics. Economics is very easy to have a semi-informed opinion on than biology.