Is this blog too technical?

From Bugs ‘n’ Gas Gal’s Lair:

…the paper in Neuron discussed how transgenic mice that stopped producing prion protein several weeks after being infected with abnormal (infectious) prions had a significant level of their normal behavior restored. The work indicates there’s reason to hope that someday we may have a cure for vCJD. However, the transgenic mice stopped producing the protein while their brains were still growing, so it remains to be seen what kind of benefit might be seen in adults. The technical audience will enjoy the writeup from the Neurophilosopher’s Blog. For the lite version, there’s New Scientist or Nature News.

Bugs ‘n’ Gas Gal isn’t saying that my blog is too technical. She’s saying that it’s more technical than Nature and New Scientist. Or that the specific post she refers to is more technical than the related articles in those publications.

I do occasionally write quite technical posts, and I like the fact that this blog is considered quite specialist, and that I have at least some expertise in its subject matter. But I often try to write posts that I think are easily accessible to people without a scientific background. I do this because I don’t know who the majority of my readers actually are. And whether or not you find this blog too technical depends, of course, on who you are.

Some of my readers may know that I worked for a short time as a science teacher in a secondary school in Croydon, south London. One of the difficulties of being a teacher is knowing the level at which to “pitch” a lesson. The age of the students is usually a good indicator of academic ability (I taught 11-16 year-olds). But within a class, there will always be a range of abilities, with some students being brighter than others. Hence, there is a need to “differentiate”; in other words, to ensure that the brighter students don’t get bored and that the less able ones don’t get left behind.

I don’t know what proportion of my readers have a scientific background. I’m sure that my readership consists partly of academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students (not necessarily in scientific disciplines) and other science bloggers. but what about the others? By varying the level of technicality in my posts, I am differentiating for my readers.

Comments, suggestions and clarification of academic credentials are welcomed.

7 thoughts on “Is this blog too technical?

  1. I know you’d like to hear from others here but if you don’t mind me clarifying…I did mean that particular post was more detailed than the short articles in NS or Nature news. Your posts vary in technical content and of course, that perception will depend on the reader’s background. I just have a B.S. in biology, and am currently one class short of a M.S. in strategic intelligence (doesn’t have much use here). I have no neuroscience education but I keep up with developments in a range of biological sciences for both work and personal interest. The general audience versions (i.e., NS) are often all I need, but sometimes I will dig a little deeper. Your posts usually dig a little deeper, and I appreciate that. So here’s one reader’s opinion!

  2. I am a college professor of philosophy, but know about neuroscience, psychology, etc. from reading and study after receiving my degree. For what it is worth, I don’t find the site too technical. It seems to me to be on a par with the level of writing in Scientific American or SciAm Mind, say. I generally listen to podcasts from Nature and Science. I generally understand what is going on in these podcasts, but sometimes the discussions of quantum mechanics or geology are not for me.

    I don’t read all the posts, but that is perhaps just to say that I am not interested in exactly the same topics you are. This is just as with Science and Nature podcasts. That’s fine. I think the writing is clear and straightforward. In addition, I think the many posts to outside sources and the inclusion of YouTube videos is especially valuable.

    If your target is roughly the Nature/Science podcast crowd, then it seems to me things are fine.

    best wishes,
    Ken

  3. I’m half way through my undergraduate computer science degree, so I have no formal education in any of what you write about, but I don’t have any trouble following your posts. I do follow science news, and enjoy learning about new topics from Wikipedia and other internet meanderings, which I think gives me the background needed to enjoy your posts. Another factor is that if you (or anyone) make reference to a concept that I don’t know about, that seems important to a post, I’ll go look it up. So for me, posts of a technical nature are less of a barrier to enjoyment, and more of an opportunity learn about interesting things. That said, I enjoy the level of detail that you present, and hope that you continue to do so.

  4. Definitely don’t go dumbing things down.😉 (Not that you would.)

    I’m a lazy reader when I can get away with it. But despite my background in neuroscience, I have trouble when I try to quickly skim your science posts on my feed reader. It’s good for me to have to commit my full attention and actually think the science through; the way you write forces me to do that. I don’t think you could balance precision with clarity better than you already do.

  5. Now I’ll be the odd bunch out by saying that I have no academic background in Science. I am currently a Political Science major and I have not touched Science for four years (high school). But I have stumbled across your blog because of my developing interest in Neuroscience, and although some of the stuff you write is technical, I think you have enough articles for layman and that the balance is good enough to not turn on non-Science majors such as myself.

  6. It’s not at all too technical.

    I do not have a science or technical background, although I work in a research environment. I’m an editor, more or less. With a degree in linguistics.

    I like what you’re doing. As noted above, your writing is clear and precise and enjoyable to a wide variety of readers. I recommend your blog frequently to folks who want to know what good science writing looks like.

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