Science Blogging Beyond The Constraints Of Different Languages

9 November 2012 by Khalil A. Cassimally, posted in Science Blogosphere, SciLogs

This blog post was originally published on the SpotOn London 2012 conference's website in line with the session, Challenges in science communication in Europe.

The science blogosphere is made up of an international group of science bloggers who share the similar aim of promulgating science. An unfortunate side-effect of this internationality is the fractured ecosystem created by blogging in different languages. Languages create barriers to science communication and potential collaborations. In an attempt to bridge the divides between bloggers who blog in different languages and audiences, the German publishing house Spektrum der Wissenschaft, part of the Scientific American family, is spearheading the SciLogs initiative, a network of science blogging networks of different languages.

The blogsphere is not just English

The language of science is the scientific method, a series of logical steps taken to unravel the mysteries of the natural world. The scientific method is a universal language. To communicate science to peers or the masses though, the scientific method has to be translated into people’s languages. Be it in English, Spanish or German, languages are simply a medium which allow for the communication of science amongst people.

Communicating science is important because it allows people, from scientists to policy makers to the masses, to disseminate and discuss science. Communicating science in different languages then means that science has the potential to spread throughout the Earth’s entire population. But what about discussion and exchange of ideas? Communicating science in different languages favours dissemination but not discussion because once the science is disseminated, say in English or German, any ensuing discussions will respectively be restricted to English- or German-speaking people.

This restriction of discussions beyond languages scuppers the global potential of science. Different languages are fronts to people diversity, that is a diversity of cultures. Different cultures mean different perspectives, expertise, etcetera. Tapping into this diversity should surely lead to better science and ideas that will benefit everyone, irrespective of the languages they use. Therefore, discussions between people fluent in different languages must be promoted.

The SciLogs initiative is attempting to do so in the science blogosphere, the entire population of science blogs. Science blogs are an increasingly popular avenue of science communication and have done a marvelous job disseminating science. Science bloggers also elicit much discussions although those too have been bound to languages. The SciLogs initiative is coordinated by Spektrum der Wissenschaft and is the only one of its kind. It is a collection of science blogging networks which hosts bloggers hailing from different countries, having different cultures and speaking different languages, but grouped by the same enthusiasm and love for science communication.

Currently the SciLogs initiative regroups networks in four languages: English (SciLogs.com), German (SciLogs.de), Spanish (SciLogs.es) and Dutch (SciLogs.be), with more networks of different languages in the works. The German, Spanish and Dutch SciLogs networks are editorially run by Scientific American’s respective international editions while the more recent English network is run in association with nature.com.

Regrouping science blogging networks of different languages under a same umbrella allows SciLogs to push science to a diversity of people fluent in different languages. And as the initiative matures, the dynamics between the SciLogs networks will increase, leading to inter-network discussions. Cross-posts between the networks, guest posts by bloggers fluent in other languages, to give but a snapshot, are strategies that should promote discussions.

SciLogs hopes to promote science to and elicit discussions between a truly international audience of scientists, science enthusiasts and the masses. If it succeeds, it will have created an international community of bloggers and readers bound, not by the languages they are fluent in, but exclusively by their passion for science.

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Pascal Lapointe, science journalist and editor of Agence Science-Presse, Québec, gives a good introduction to the French subset of the science blogsphere over at Scientific American.

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