Featured Blogger: Sheril Kirshenbaum of Culture of Science | Blogads

Featured Blogger: Sheril Kirshenbaum of Culture of Science

Blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum provides unique insights in the overlap of science with other parts of our lives.  Her blog, Culture of Science, connects wide-reaching science issues to seemingly unrelated topics for her readers. Join her in connecting the dots on Twitter and Facebook!


Culture of Science Blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: November 7, 2006. When I left graduate school the previous year, students I had been working with wanted to continue our seminar on the way science and policy interact. I didn’t know much about blogging at the time, but finally agreed to begin *if* the Democrats took back the House and Senate. I didn’t think this was likely at the time and they remembered the following year. I launched a private blogspot shortly after the election. 

Q: How do you think your blog stands out amongst other science and environment-conscious blogs?

A: One thing that stands out about Culture of Science is that many capitol staffers read it regularly, so I often cover timely policy topics. I have a very unique background with graduate degrees in marine biology and policy followed by working in the Senate on energy, ocean, and environment. From there I joined Duke University’s science-policy institute and now I’m at UT-Austin’s Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. 

My goal is to improve public understanding of science because it’s central to our lives and so I aim to move the discussion past advocacy and lip-service, to get to the heart of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. On the blog highlight practical solutions that involve politics, economics, and most importantly, people. Culture of Science is a forum to explore all sorts of topics, but the primary focus is the interdisciplinary nature of understanding our world.

Q: What does your family think of your blogging?

A: They think it’s great. Blogging taught me how to write for broad audiences, and I’ve gone on to publish two popular books as a result. 

Q: What blogs do you read?

A: I enjoy several blogs on the Discover network (where I used to blog before going independent). Not Exactly Rocket Science by Ed Yong and Bad Astonomy by Phil Plait are fun. Carl Zimmer’s The Loom and Razib Khan’s Gene Expression are some of my favorites because I always learn something new. 

Q: How much time daily do you spend blogging?

A: It depends on the day, if I’m traveling, and whether I’m teaching or writing other articles. I usually post ~4 times a day. 

Q: How many times have you redesigned your blog since it started?

A: After the initial blogspot, this blog has existed in some form at Scienceblogs, Discover, and Wired until I decided to host it independently in 2011. 

Q: How much do you correspond one-on-one with readers?

A: Every day. The aim of Culture of Science isn’t to lecture readers, but rather build a constructive dialog and community through conversation. 

Q: What joys did you not expect when you started blogging?  What pains?

A: I never imagined I’d become an author and travel internationally to speak to audiences about science. Speaking at this year’s TED Global meeting has been a highlight of 2011 so far. 

Blogging can also be challenging at times as a woman because it’s such a public forum. However, I also feel it’s important to continue because we need more visible women in these roles to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While not the central issue of my blog, occasionally I write about it.

Q: What’s something your readers don’t know about you?

A: In my early 20s, I was a radio disc jockey for a cumulus media station. I also played percussion in a few bands over the years. 

Q: What’s your personal favorite blog post?

A: That’s a difficult question and depends on the topic. I’m proud of the way I’ve been able to use blog over the years to do more than share information, but also organize. In 2007, I co-founded ScienceDebate – a non-partisan effort to encourage the presidential candidates to discuss science issues like climate and energy along the campaign trail. While there was not a televised science debate, both President Obama and Senator McCain answered 14 questions submitted about science. Business leaders, congresspeople, university presidents, and Nobel Laureates joined the initiative. And after his election, President Obama used our mission statement “To restore science to its rightful place” in his inaugural address. He also appointed some of ScienceDebate’s biggest supporters like John Holdren, Steven Chu, and Jane Lubchenco as his advisors. It was great to launch ScienceDebate using new media on the blog.


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