UK Blog Awards voting season has officially started, and this very website is in the running. You can vote for easternblot.net in the culture or education categories, but not in “science”, because that category does not exist.
Whenever a science blog is included, it’s always in a vaguely related category. The Cancer Research UK blog is running as a corporate blog in the health & social care category, where it is competing against fitness professionals and snack companies. Soph Talks Science, a science blog by a PhD student, is also running in the education category, but chose Social Influencers as her second category. (You get two votes, so you can vote for both of us!) We’re all over the place, but shouldn’t we be in a category of our own?
Science is a category at the Webby Awards, and nine years ago, when I was still in Canada, I was a finalist in the science category of the Canadian Blog Awards. But science is not a category at the UK Blog Awards.
Still, science blogging is an established kind of blogging – perhaps even one of the oldest subject-specific kind of blogs out there. Back in 2007 there were already enough science bloggers globally to warrant science blogging conferences. Tim O’Reilly’s Sci Foo unconference has been inviting science bloggers to the Googleplex in California for the past decade. Media companies have invested in science blog platforms – both in the UK and abroad. At the moment, The Guardian hosts several amazing UK science blogs. You’ve probably read them and just not even realised it because they look so much like The Guardian‘s newspaper content.
Science blogs can carry out a lot of influence. Scientists have found collaborators and job opportunities through their blog, which in turn has led to new scientific discoveries. Science bloggers debunk bad science. Just recently, Sally Le Page got national media coverage for revealing that almost all UK water companies use dowsing rods. Science bloggers have written award-winning books. I take great joy in walking through the science section of a bookstore and seeing so many familiar names from the science blogging world. There are even books about science blogging. Science bloggers are educators, researchers, and curious fans of science of all walks of life.
So why is this influential blog community not a category of the UK Blog Awards? I don’t know, but I have a few guesses.
First, it’s worth noting that science blogs have often acted on their own, separate from the broader blogging community. Earlier this year I spent some time on various Facebook groups for bloggers, and out of thousands of bloggers each group would have just one or two science bloggers. There are also Facebook groups for science bloggers, but many of their members are not in those general blog groups. Science bloggers are isolated from other bloggers, so it’s very likely that the organisers didn’t really know about the massive science blogging community. The fact that only three science blogs seem to be in the voting round suggests that many science bloggers didn’t know about the award either.
Another reason could be that science blogs don’t have a lot of marketing potential. Big brands rarely look toward science blogs. Maybe they think readers of a science blog don’t overlap enough with their brand’s audience. Whenever a science blog is supported through a partnership or sponsorship, it will usually be a scientific organisation looking for a blogger who aligns with their message, not a major brand aiming for numbers. Likewise, science bloggers want their readers to know that they are editorially independent and not driven by a brand. When blogging platform ScienceBlogs hosted a blog by Pepsi, many bloggers left the platform. This loyalty to editorial independence is great, but avoiding brand deals does mean science bloggers can end up a bit further from the wider blogging community, where monetisation – rather than writing itself – is sometimes the reason behind forming a blog in the first place. The UK Blog Awards themselves state on their About page that “the awards are more than an event, but a digital outreach platform that connects blogs with brands.” That’s a big step from PepsiGate.
Maybe it’s just that science blogs are on their way out? After all, science blog networks are falling apart, and many people who used to write blog posts are now making videos, just using social media, or doing science stage events. That may be true, but that’s equally true for tech and education blogs, and those are still categories in the awards, so that can’t be the reason for the exclusion.
Science blogs can still participate in the UK Blog Awards, of course, but they have to find another category. Maybe science will become its own category in the future if more science blogs were nominated or submitted. Or maybe just creating a science category would encourage people to nominate other science blogs. Until then, this science blog is running in the culture and education sections, and you can vote for it here.