2011 roundup and thoughts on the Canadian science blogging scene

Last year I found about a dozen of us, Canadians blogging about science, and this year (2011) I count approximately 20 of us. Sadly, one blog has disappeared; Elizabeth Howell has removed her PARS3C blog from her website. Others appear to be in pause mode, Rob Annan at the Researcher Forum: Don’t leave Canada behind (no posts since May 4, 2011), The Bubble Chamber at the University of Toronto (no posts since Aug. 12, 2011), Gregor Wolbring’s  Nano and Nano- Bio, Info, Cogno, Neuro, Synbio, Geo, Chem…  (no new posts since Oct. 2010; I’m about ready to give up on this one) and Je vote pour la science (no posts since May 2011).

I’ve been fairly catholic in my approach to including blogs on this list although I do have a preference for blogs with an individual voice that focuses primarily on science (for example, explaining the science you’re writing about rather than complaining about a professor’s marking of your science paper).

Piece of Mind is Nassif Ghoussoub’s (professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia) blog which is largely about academe, science, and grants. Nassif does go much further afield in some of his posts, as do we all from time to time. He’s quite outspoken and always interesting.

Cool Science is John McKay’s blog which he describes this way ” This site is about raising a creative rationalist in an age of nonsense. It is about parents getting excited about science, learning and critical thinking. It is about smart parents raising smart kids who can think for themselves, make good decisions and discern the credible from the incredible. ” His posts cover a wide range of topics from the paleontology museum in Alberta to a space shuttle launch to the science of good decisions and more.

Dave Ng makes me dizzy. A professor with the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, he’s a very active science communicator who has started blogging again on the Popperfont blog. This looks like a compilation of bits from Twitter, some very brief postings, and bits from other sources. I’m seeing this style of blogging more frequently these days.

The queen of Canadian science blogging, Rosie Redfield, was just acknowledged as a ‘newsmaker of the year’ by Nature magazine. The Dec. 22, 20111 Vancouver Sun article by Margaret Munro had this to say,

A critical thinker in Vancouver has been named one of the top science newsmakers of the year.

“She appeared like a shot out of the blogosphere: a wild-haired Canadian microbiologist with a propensity to say what was on her mind,” the leading research journal Nature says of Rosie Redfield, a professor at the University of B.C.

The journal editors say Redfield is one of 10 individuals who “had an impact, good or bad, on the world of science” in 2011. She was chosen for her “critical” inquiry and “remarkable experiment in open science” that challenged a now-infamous “arsenic life” study funded by NASA.

Rosie has two blogs, RRResearch and RRTeaching. She used to say she wasn’t a blogger but I rather think she’s changed her tune.

Jeff Sharom’s Science Canada blog isn’t, strictly speaking, a blog so much as it is an aggregator of Canadian science policy news and a good one at that. There are also some very useful resources on the site. (I shamelessly plundered Jeff’s list to add more blogs to this posting).

The Black Hole is owned by Beth Swan and David Kent (although they often have guest posters too). Here’s a description from the About page,

I have entered the Post Doctoral Fellow Black Hole… I’ve witnessed a lot and heard about much more and, while this is the time in academic life when you’re meant to be the busiest, I have begun this blog. Just as a black hole is difficult to define, the label Post Doc is bandied about with recklessness by university administrators, professors, and even PDFs themselves. One thing is certain though… once you get sucked in, it appears to be near impossible to get back out.

David, Beth, and their contributors offer extensive discussions about the opportunities and the failings of the post graduate science experience.

Nicole Arbour, a Science and Innovation Officer at the British High Commission Office in Ottawa, Canada, blogs regularly about Canadian science policy and more on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office blogs.

Colin Schultz, a freelance science journalist, blogs at his website CMBR. He focuses largely on climate change, environmental research, space, and science communication.

exposure/effect is a blog about toxicology, chemical exposures, health and more, which is written by a scientist who chooses to use a pseudonym, ashartus.

Mario’s Entangled Bank is written by theoretical biologist, Mario Pineda-Krch at the University of Alberta. One of Pineda-Krch’s most recent postings was about a special section of a recent Science Magazine issue on Reproducible Research.

Boundary Vision is written by Marie-Claire Shanahan, a professor of science education at the University of Alberta. She not only writes a science blog, she also researches the language and the social spaces of science blogs.

Eric Michael Johnson writes The Primate Diaries blog which is now part of the Scientific American blog network. With a master’s degree in evolutionary anthropology, Johnson examines the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics both on his blog and as part of his PhD work (he’s a student at the University of British Columbia).

The Atoms and Numbers blog is written by Marc Leger. From the About Marc page,

I am a scientist who has always been curious and fascinated by how our universe works.  I love discovering the mysteries and surprises of our World.  I want to share this passion with others, and make science accessible to anyone willing to open their minds.

Many people have appreciated my ability to explain complex scientific ideas in simple terms, and this is one motivation behind my website, Atoms and Numbers.  I taught chemistry in universities for several years, and I participated in the Scientists in the Schools program as a graduate student at Dalhousie University, presenting chemistry magic shows to children and teenagers from kindergarten to grade 12.  I’ve also given presentations on chemistry and forensics to high school students.  I’m even acknowledged in a cookbook for providing a few morsels of information about food chemistry.

Massimo Boninsegni writes about science-related topics (some are about the academic side of science; some physics; some personal items) on his Exponential Book blog.

The Last Word on Nothing is a group blog that features Heather Pringle, a well-known Canadian science writer, on some posts. Pringle’s latest posting is, Absinthe and the Corpse Reviver, all about a legendary cure for hangovers. While this isn’t strictly speaking a Canadian science blog, there is a Canadian science blogger in the group and the topics are quite engaging.

Daniel Lemire’s blog is known simply as Daniel Lemire. He’s a computer scientist in Montréal who writes one of the more technical blogs I’ve come across and his focus seems to be databases. He does cover other topics too, notably in this post titled, Where do debt, credit and currencies come from?

Confessions of a Science Librarian by John Dupuis (head of the Steacie Science & Engineering Library at York University) is a blog I missed mentioning last year and I’m very glad I remembered it this year. As you might expect from a librarian, the last few postings have consisted of lists of the best science books of 2011.

Sci/Why is a science blog being written by Canadian children’s writers who discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why?

I have mixed feelings about including this blog, the Dark Matter science blog by Tom Spears, as it is a ‘newspaper blog’ from the Ottawa Citizen.

Similarly, the MaRS blog is a corporate initiative from the Toronto area science and technology business incubator, MaRS Discovery District.

The last three blogs I’m mentioning are from medical and health science writers.

Susan Baxter’s blog Curmudgeon’s Corner features her insights into various medical matters, for example there’s her Dec. 5, 2011 posting on mammograms, along with her opinions on spandex, travel, and politics.

Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders co-own two different blogs, Obesity Panacea, which is part of the PLoS (Public Library of Science) blogs network, and Science of Blogging (nothing posted since July 2011 but it’s well worth a look).

I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about the state of Canadian science blogging this year. It does look to be getting more populous online and I hope that trend continues. I do have a wish for the New Year; I think it should be easier to find Canadian science blogs and would like  to see some sort of network or aggregated list.

18 thoughts on “2011 roundup and thoughts on the Canadian science blogging scene

  1. Zen Faulkes

    Wondering what you take into account when deciding a science blog is “Canadian”. The location of the main author? The citizen of the author? The subject matter?

  2. coturnix

    A few more blogs by Canadians (or currently written in Canada) quickly come to mind – I am sure there are many more:

    Carin Bondar: http://carinbondar.com/ and blogs.scientificamerican.com/psi-vid/

    Glendon Mellow: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/symbiartic/ and http://glendonmellow.blogspot.com/

    Jennifer Jacquet: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guilty-planet/

    PsiWavefuntion: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/ocelloid/

    Larry Moran: sandwalk.blogspot.com

    Eva Amsen: http://thenode.biologists.com/ and http://blogs.nature.com/eva/ and http://science.easternblot.net/ and http://scientistmusicians.wordpress.com/

    Bharat Chandramouly: http://oliveridley.org/

    Michael Nielsen: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/

    Sabine Hossenfelder: http://backreaction.blogspot.com/

  3. Pascal Lapointe

    About Je vote pour la science: thank you for mentioning it, but I didn’t realize it was classified as a blog. If the site is inactive, it is because the initiative (to bring the political parties to commit themselves on science) is asleep since our effort during the federal elections. However, the radio show Je vote pour la science is still on, at: http://www.sciencepresse.qc.ca/users/vote-pour-science

    And this last address is not a blog either, but just on the side, you will find a few french-speaking Quebec science bloggers: http://www.sciencepresse.qc.ca/articles/blogue

    None is as prolific as their English-speaking counterparts, but we’re trying to push them. :-)

  4. admin

    Dear Pascal, Thank you for explaining about ‘Je vote pour la science’ and for the link to the radio show which you are still webcasting. I’m really looking forward to checking out the list of French-language science blogs you’ve given me. I wish you and Agence Science-Presse all the best for 2012 and I hope you’ll be here in Vancouver for the AAAS 2012 meeting in February. Cheers, Maryse

  5. admin

    Hi Cotumix! This is quite wonderful. Thank you for dropping by to mention these blogs I notice a few of these blogs are also on the Scientific American network and that further inspires with regard to starting a Canadian network or having some kind of a ‘live’ list/database of Canadian science bloggers. All the best to you in 2012. Cheers, Maryse

  6. admin

    Hi Zen! So far I’ve been pretty liberal in my interpretation of ‘Canadian science blogger’ and after visiting your blog (http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/) I notice that you’re a Canuck who’s in Texas right now so, welcome to my list of Canadian science bloggers. All the best in 2012. Cheers, Maryse

  7. Marc

    Thanks for this summary of Canadian blogs, and for mentioning mine. I look forward to checking these out. And I wish you and your readers a happy and prosperous 2012!

  8. admin

    Hi Marc! Nice to see you back here and I wish you and your readers all the best in 2012. I see your latest posting is about a project you can’t discuss in too much detail so I look forward to hearing more when you are free to include more detail. Cheers, Maryse

  9. BaxDoc

    Thanks, Maryse, for your prolific and interesting commentary on science in general and nanotech in particular – your posts are always fascinating even if I can’t always understand the minutae which are often far, far above my head. I see from your subsequent post that your readership is close to half a million .. congrats! Well, well deserved, your blog is wonderful. Thanks so much for mentioning my curmudgeonly (and pathetically sporadic) comments on health and medicine and all the best to you and your many followers here and on Twitter in the new year. cheers, susan

  10. Pingback: Sarah Chow and science events in Vancouver (Canada) « FrogHeart

  11. admin

    Hi Chuck! Thanks for the links and the heads up about your two blogs. I did take a look at one and noticed you have a piece about a ‘secret’ consortium of research institutions and astronauts from Manitoba while the other blog lists space-related events taking place in June 2012. Great to hear from you. Cheers, Maryse

  12. Pingback: 2012 Canadian science blog roundup and some thoughts on a Canadian science blog network « FrogHeart

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