I just picked up The Best Science Writing Online 2012, which is just what it sounds like: a collection of blog posts/online articles by a variety of science journalists and professional scientists alike. I ended up snagging the e-book version. It just felt appropriate to read it by the glow of a digital screen.
I first heard of it from a review that mentioned the irony of a best-of-the-webs collection being published in a physical book, but followed it with the observation that that’s kind of the point. (Sorry for not being able to find the actual review…read it last week via a random link, didn’t bookmark it, and now can’t find it again. Blah.). There’s a certain stigma among older academics that if it’s online, it’s fluff. By having a physical published collection, it lends a certain weight to the pieces and says “Hey! You guys! Pay attention, cuz this is where technology is taking us whether you like it or not!” At worst, you might be able to reach audiences that normally wouldn’t even glance at a blog post, and maybe get them to admit that yeah, this stuff is pretty good. At best, they may even decide that they should start dabbling online too.
But that sells the book a little short. It’s not all commentary on where science communication is at. It’s just damned good science writing. Fluid dynamics of the great sperm race, forensic geology (think Holmes and muddy footprints), and why gin and tonics taste good.
Of course, I am interested in the big-picture state-of-science-writing thing too, so maybe I’m biased. I’m really curious to see how science writing, both for academic journals and for public audiences, evolves in the next few decades. Fairly soon, all the experimentalists and big-wig journal editors and lab rats and journalists are going to be people who grew up tweeting and Facebook poking and live-streaming media. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the system.
I’m probably going to have a few more thoughts about the collection as I read more, so stay tuned or ignore me depending on how much you want to hear about popular science writing.