The blog reviewed here is ‘Blog Around the Clock‘ by Bora Zivkovic (who also goes under the name Coturnix), a chronobiologist with an interest and expertise in science online and is an online community manager at PLOS one. The About section gives a comprehensive biography.
Appearance and Design
The blog features a white background throughout with articles located in the central pane with black text and blue hypertext links. Articles are dated, tagged and comment enabled. The title pane features a playful natural landscape and the title of the blog is related to the theme of chronobiology. The blog is part of a wider group of science blogs which can be accessed through links at the top of the page. The blog also features links to charitable causes on the left hand panel and discrete adverts on the right hand panel and above the title pane. The blog is navigatable through a chronological index on the left hand panel. Recent comments and posts are also highlighted on the left hand panel. At the time of writing the site meter indicates the blog has received more than 2.5 million hits. Post Rank is used to identify top-ranked posts on the blog. Zivkovic also has a presence on other social media forums and links are located on the left hand panel.
Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Unported License. As the blog extends back to 2006, I have not read all of the articles in the blog but instead have sampled a subset. The sampling method involved reading one article from each month. This allowed me to examine a limited amount of content in more detail. However since archive retrieval brings up the last articles in the month first, there is a selection bias in my sampling method towards those articles at the end of the month. I also tended to select those articles with the word science in the title as well as looking at some of the top ranked articles. The blog architecture (common to many blogs) made it slightly more difficult to scan through articles. Thus to read the full article, the reader must click on the ‘more’ ‘read on’ link on the ‘abstract’ of the article that is initially displayed. When reading one article this isn’t too important but on scanning several articles a lot of time is used waiting for the page to load and then navigating back to read the next article. I would like to see a feature on blogs whereby looking at the archives results in all articles being displayed in full on a single (obviously very long) page – this would save a tremendous amount of time in getting up to speed with a blog.
Zivkovic examines different flavours of pseudoscience according to political leanings in this piece. I found a piece titled ‘More than Resistance to Science‘ very interesting particularly as Zivkovic introduces the concept of phatic language, that is language that is used for the purposes of facilitating social relationships rather than imparting information. Zivkovic’s writing on chronobiology is very interesting as in the case of this piece in which he reviews a study providing evidence of peripheral circadian rhythm generators (in the liver) in a murine model. This is a great piece on science journalism and the following quote gives a flavour of the article
‘Journalism is EVERYTHING that appears in the media. And in this sense, we are all journalists. Even if we never break news or do investigative reporting, if we write poetry on our blogs, we are journalists. And the world is our editor‘
Here is another thoughtful piece on blogging. From those articles that I sampled I would group Zivkovic’s writing into three categories. Firstly there are very short pieces of a varied nature which may include comments or references to the literature with excerpts included. The second category would be analyses of chronobiology research. The third category would be commentary on communication of science using social media or what would be referred to as Science 2.0. The process of writing on topics across the breadth of science and reflecting on this means that Zivkovic is a philosopher (as well as a scientist) who is developing a body of work on Science 2.0 which is the focus of some of what I thought were his most interesting pieces.
Zivkovic is a prolific blogger who is focused on Science 2.0 and is quite influential in this area. The blog also features interviews with scientists and would be of particular relevance to those with an interest in communicating science.
Addendum (April 5th 2010)
Bora Zivkovic kindly took the time to discuss aspects of the blog and pointed me to some additional posts which are helpful in navigating the site as well as suggesting a bias towards more recent articles to encapsulate the evolving nature of a blogger’s thoughts on subjects. This post links to a number of interesting articles and is described thus
‘So, I put together a collection of posts that I think are decent under the fold. Different lengths, styles, topics, reading-levels – hopefully something for everyone‘
In this post, Zivkovic notes that there are over 10,000 posts. My sampling method of roughly 1 article per month will result in approximately 47 articles but slightly more as I scanned through a number of additional posts. Let’s say it’s 80. That means that I will have looked at roughly 0.8% of the total number of articles. Zivkovic’s suggestion is to ask the blogger for their favourite articles. The two methods of biased sampling and approaching the blogger offer a potentially more powerful way to understand the ‘essence’ of a blog more efficiently although it may influence the independence of the review unless carried out as a multi-step process. Zivkovic also pointed out a ‘best of March’ post. From these two additional articles I have identified a number of further articles that I found interesting as detailed below.
The ethics of linking to science papers: In his work for PLOS one, Zivkovic is able to see some of the subtler nuances surrounding the decision to link to a source article.
Chossat’s effect: A look at research data on the fluctuation of temperature with time in various species
Darwinian Method: A profound piece on natural selection interspersed with insights from Robert Heinlein such as this
‘The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa‘ (Heinlein 1973)
Beyond the Gene: Zivkovic links to a PLOS one paper reconceptualising the meaning of a gene
Lithium and Circadian Rhythms: An excellent piece on the influence of Lithium on ciracadian rhythms including a look at some data on people with Bipolar disorder
Cortisol and Circadian Rhythms: A look at a paper on cortisol secretion and circadian rhythm with some interesting insights
‘One of the three major hypotheses for the origin of circadian clocks is the need to shield sensitive cellular processes – including cell division – from the effects of UV radiation by the sun, thus relegating it to night-time only’
A Possible Relationship between Malaria and Jet Lag: In this excellent piece, Zivkovic responds to a hypothesis about the relationship between Malaria and jetlag in a tour de force of circadian rhythms resulting in an elegant model and further testable hypotheses. Zivkovic uses a structured method for hypothesis generation which I think should feature more centrally in science (as opposed to an intuitive approach (see also my post In Support of Method).
Melatonin and Immunity: A look at Melatonin and immunity with some comparisons between Serotonin and Melatonin for good measure.
Most Popular Post: …. on sleep
Many of the posts, in the spirit of science, feature a headlining question with a data-based exploration giving the reader a feeling of what science is about. I also got an overwhelming sense from reading the chronobiology posts of just how subtle the biological clocks are across species. The posts above also illustrate just how important the question of circadian rhythms can be in understanding aspects of mental illness. Zivkovic has also received a Research Blogger award for his writing.
You can find an index of the site here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order.
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