After eight brilliant years, the Guardian’s science blog network comes to a close today
Eight years ago, something special happened at the Guardian’s science desk. A group of carefully chosen scientists and science writers were given the keys to the website, and told that they could write about whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The idea was to expand and enrich the newspaper’s science coverage by getting people with a keen understanding of state-of-the-art research, and a flare for engaging writing, to talk about the things that really made them tick. No editorial control, save for when they wanted advice now and again. An exploratory experiment, if you like, to see what would happen if excellent science blogging was cultivated at an international newspaper.
Today, the experiment comes to an end. Nothing lasts forever, especially in these uncertain times we find ourselves in. As the network matured, gained new writers and lost old ones, it gradually became more and more subsumed into the newspaper’s wider website. Science blogging and more traditional science journalism aren’t so different from each other, and the science blog network here often found itself walking a very difficult line. On the one hand, complete editorial freedom meant the ability to write about anything and everything, from the most niche of interests to the most serious cases of scientific malpractice. On the other, to an outside observer there was no difference between a science blogger and a standard journalist – and as a result, by necessity we had to (rightly) adhere to the same journalistic guidelines everyone else does. It was inevitable then that over time, the network would become susceptible to the same forces that drive decisions made more broadly across the newspaper.