Big Changes at the Scientific American Blog Network

News Brief

Scientific American posted an announcement Dec. 15, stating that editors will be “reshaping” the Scientific American Blog Network and releasing new editorial guidelines for the network. What wasn’t entirely clear in the post, titled “A New Vision For Scientific American’s Blog Network,” was that a number of blogs on the network have been eliminated.

The Dec. 15 post does not say that any blogs have been cut, but as soon as the post was published a number of announcements began appearing on the blog network’s homepage and social media, making clear that many blogs will no longer be posting new content on the network.

I’ve reached out to Curtis Brainard, editor of the Scientific American Blog Network, for more information on both the cuts and the future of the network and will update this post as more information becomes available. (Update 4: Full Q&A with Brainard below.)

The blogs that have been confirmed as being cut include Judy Stone’s Molecules to Medicine; Christina Agapakis’s Oscillator; Carin Bondar and Joanne Manaster’s Psivid; Bonnie Swoger’s Information Culture; Hannah Waters’s Culturing Science; and Janet Stemwedel’s Doing Good Science. (Update 1: other blogs I’ve confirmed as cut after my initial post include — Psi Wavefunction’s The Ocelloid, David Bressan’s History of Geology. Hilda Bastian’s Absolutely Maybe, S.E. Gould’s Lab Rat, Shara Yurkiewicz’s This May Hurt A Bit, and Princess Ojiaku’s Science With Moxie.) (Update 5: Detailed breakdown and analysis of the blogs staying and going can be found here.)

In addition to its staff blogs, one person familiar with the changes told me that the following blogs will still be part of the Scientific American Blog Network: Extinction Countdown, Running Ponies, The Artful Amoeba, Tetrapod Zoology, Beautiful Minds, Dog Spies, Illusion Chasers, Not Bad Science, PsySociety, Cocktail Party Physics, Life,Unbounded, Roots of Unity, Food Matters, Plugged In, Rosetta Stones, Anthropology in Practice, Budding Scientist, Compound Eye, Cross-Check, Frontiers for Young Minds, Symbiartic, and The Urban Scientist.

Update 2: I have seen a lot of questions online about what the male/female ratio will be on the network. If the list of ongoing blogs is correct, I count there being 12 men bloggers, 20 women bloggers, and one blog that is attributed to an organization (the Frontiers for Young Minds blog). Many blogs have multiple authors, and I counted each listed author (not including guest bloggers). I don’t know what the male/female blogger ratio was prior to the cuts.

Update 3: In a comment on the Dec. 15 announcement, Brainard writes that “The reduction in the size of the network is not a statement about the quality of bloggers’ work—any more than any periodic update in any magazine’s content offerings is such a statement. Our decisions involved a variety of factors, including frequency of posts and traffic. With deep fondness for all of our bloggers and respect for those whose service is now concluded, here is a list of current blogs…” The list includes staff-written/house-run blogs and the list of blogs I included above.

Q and A with Curtis Brainard, editor of the Scientific American Blog Network

Communication Breakdown: How many blogs are being cut from SciAm Blogs, and how many blogs will that leave on the SciAm Blog network? And is there a public list of which blogs were discontinued?

Curtis Brainard: We’ve reduced the size of network by about half. I’ve just posted a list of the blogs that will remain in the network in the comments section below this morning’s announcement. I would emphasize that this reduction is not a statement about the quality of bloggers’ work—any more than any periodic update in any magazine’s content offerings is such a statement.

CB: What was the rationale for cutting the blogs?

Brainard: Periodically, all media outlets reshape offerings to better serve their audiences, and blog networks are no different. Our decisions involved a variety of factors, including frequency of posts and traffic.

CB: Will the discontinued blogs be archived? i.e., will readers have access to posts that were already up after the blog has been cut?

Brainard: Yes.

CB: When and how were bloggers notified if their blogs were cut?

Brainard: I tried to give everyone a few weeks to a month’s notice and told them they could blog as usual during that time and post farewell posts today.

CB: Will SciAm be bringing new bloggers on board? And can you announce who those bloggers will be?

Brainard: Yes, but we don’t have any announcements at this time

CB: If the overall number of bloggers is declining, will the remaining bloggers be paid more?

Brainard: Yes, but we don’t discuss the details of bloggers’ pay.

CB: The announcement also includes extensive new editorial guidelines for bloggers. How would you characterize the new guidelines, and what was the impetus for the changes?

Brainard: We wanted to lay out the basic operational principles and protocols of the blog network for our readers.

CB: How would you characterize the new, overarching vision for SciAm Blogs?

Brainard: It will still be a forum for a diverse set of expert voices to share news and opinions about science, but there will be more internal communication and coordination around upcoming content as well as more editorial feedback and collaboration on things like effective-headline writing, creative use of multimedia, reporting and writing strategies and developing bloggers’ unique voices.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it’s worth noting that Communication Breakdown is part of the SciLogs blog network. SciLogs, like Scientific American, is part of the Nature Publishing Group.

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8 thoughts on “Big Changes at the Scientific American Blog Network

  1. Paige Brown

    “Our decisions involved a variety of factors, including frequency of posts and traffic…” I don’t think this is completely transparent. Or at least, to me, it doesn’t make sense at all, for example, for Janet Stemwedel’s “Doing Good Science”, which from my estimation got plenty of traffic and was updated very frequently. Is this a matter of subject? Or someone who regularly tackled controversial issues? I don’t agree personally with that cut, especially.

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