Guest blog post by Paige Brown, SciLogs.com blogging manager and Ph.D. student in the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University.
The SciLogs blogging network is committed to transparent science storytelling that provides us with new knowledge about the world and ourselves. Today, we’re introducing a new experimental concept to SciLogs – OpenSciLogs, or “open notebook” science blogging that lives beyond the individual blog and the individual blogger.
As we write this, science blogs and other new digital and social media platforms for science writing are exploding while in-depth traditional media coverage of science, especially investigative science journalism, suffers. Unfortunately, many science bloggers and science writers for new digital media outlets go unpaid or underpaid. How can we support high quality science reporting “from the ground up,” in a way that prompts scientists and science writers in digital and social media environments – including the science blogosphere – to participate collectively in creating more in-depth science journalism across the web?
With OpenSciLogs, SciLogs.com blogging manager Paige Brown (@FromTheLabBench) and the SciLogs’ blogging community are taking a stab at answering this question. Each month (or so), an OpenSciLogs story project, led by a selected SciLogs.com blogger, will be introduced here and on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. If and once funded, the selected blogger will lead his or her OpenSciLogs story project with open participation from other science writers and readers, with regular blog updates, social media conversations, and most importantly a public and editable Google Doc. Each story project will be a living, breathing investigation into an important topic in science or science communication, published under a Creative Commons license.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, April 16), SciLogs.com will be unveiling an Indiegogo (crowd-funding) campaign for our first OpenSciLogs story project, The Evolution of Popular Science. SciLogs.com blogger Robin Wylie wants to trace the history of popular science to reveal how the modern form of science reporting evolved, and OpenSciLogs hopes to make that happen in an open source, participatory, crowd-sourced way. In a quickly changing media landscape, we think there has never been a more important time to explore the forces of change upon popular science and science storytelling across time and across media.
OpenSciLogs is unique from other crowd-funding science journalism initiatives in being more focused on today’s science storytelling that starts in social media (blogs, Twitter, etc.). It will be focused on giving participants ownership over the story, and taking an “open notebook” approach that makes all reporting and storytelling materials open, visible and 100% usable by others. I believe that stories about science, just like the science itself, should adapt and evolve over time. In this vein, social networking sites have facilitated a 24-hour news cycle, where audiences are familiar with stories that continuously evolve and are updated in real-time. And yet, many stories about science in traditional news media, and often even in newer digital media, treat scientific issues and research findings as if they were isolated events, and not part of a process of discovery. The “open notebook” and participatory approach to science reporting adopted by OpenSciLogs will hopefully facilitate living, breathing in-depth science stories that travel from a single platform, the science blog, to different locations in the digital science news landscape. OpenSciLogs’s commitment to the exploration of open access scientific research, as well as to the publishing of story content under a Creative Commons license, will also help facilitate an ongoing process of science storytelling.
Popular science journalism platforms often pay for “in demand” topics such as paleontology, astronomy and “fuzzy” mammal research. However, there are many unconventional or underreported investigative science story pitches that despite having the potential to yield compelling results and taking the field of science journalism in new directions, are often relegated to the rejection pile. OpenSciLogs offers the advantage of bringing such projects to the forefront of science writing in the blogosphere. It bypasses traditional methods of paying for science news content and appeals directly to the interested, scientifically engaged public, including other science writers. In the process, OpenSciLogs offers intellectual flexibility and investigative science reporting opportunities to newcomers who have visionary goals.
Here is the design brief for OpenSciLogs Story Projects:
Target Audience: Readers generally engaged with science; other science bloggers and journalists
Tone: Open to new ideas and directions, transparent, participatory
Platforms: SciLogs.com blog posts for updates and final story; Google doc or other document file sharing for raw materials, notes, references, links etc.; Social media for engagement
Content: In-depth, critical analysis of a science or science communication issue or topic that deserves more attention, that readers express an interest in, that the blogger expresses a passion for, etc.
Conversation: The goal is to spark conversation and participation in the ongoing story, not to keep materials, quotes, or story ideas close for fear of ‘scooping.’ The conversation is open, and other journalists and bloggers should feel free to take the story to their own blogs, news sites, etc. By engaging readers and taking the story in directions that interest them (getting input via social media, Google doc, etc.) the blogger will hopefully motivate the readers to participate actively in the story. The reader who contributes funding via Indiegogo, or the reader who participates in telling the story in any way, should feel ownership over the story. The reader should feel to take the story anywhere else on the web to reproduce it, re-tell it in his or her own way, extend upon it, etc.
So there you have it. We hope you follow our first OpenSciLogs project on Indiegogo, on Twitter (hashtag #OpenSciLogs), on SciLogs.com, on Robin’s blog Super Terrestrial, and anywhere else you see fit!