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Science writing I’d pay to read – January 2012

It’s time for December’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. There are two ways to help. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

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Science writing I’d pay to read – December 2011


It’s time for December’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. There are two ways to help. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

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Science writing I’d pay to read – November 2011


It’s time for November’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. There are two ways to help. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

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Science writing I’d pay to read – October 2011

It’s time for October’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. There are two ways to help. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

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Science writing I’d pay to read – September 2011

It’s time for September’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. There are two ways to help. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

  • Alice Bell for beautifully telling the story of how the fridge got its hum, and what it means for the history of technology. Also for this post on why worrying whether people like science or not is probably the wrong concern.
  • Martin Robbins for his analysis of Nautilus, the software that apparently predicted where Osama bin Laden was, but, like Nostradamus, proves to only really be successful in hindsight.
  • Frank Swain for a witty and important post on five iconic science images, and why they’re wrong.
  • Anne Casselman for her wonderful account of Patrick Keeling, who teaches his students to make their own DIY microscopes.
  • Kate Clancy for her eye-opening post on “menotoxins” and how culture biased science towards the acceptance of “menstrual toxins”.
  • Sean Carroll for his mind-expanding list of ten things that everyone should know about time
  • Eric Michael Johnson for a tour de force essay on the evolution of collective violence.
  • Arvind Pillai for his epic primer on Jawless fish and the birth of back-boned animals.
  • Jen Gunter for a personal and touching story about her own son Victor, and his struggles with cerebral palsy. A stunning closing line.
  • John Hawks, for using his blog to launch a new open-science project where he and colleagues will try and reconstruct 2-million-year-old hominin skin in public view.
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Science writing I’d pay to read – August 2011

It’s time for August’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

  • Jennifer Ouellette for her joyous paean to yodelling, featuring the Sound of Music, Tibetan monks, the Pavarotti robot, and the “yodellumpet”.
  • John Wilkins for his response to the species-counting study that made the headlines: “It’s hardly an objective fact about the world. We may as well be cataloguing toys.”
  • Rachel Nuwer for two great posts: one on the threat to rhinos including Irish horn gangs and “shaving alive technology”, and another on the pandemics waiting to happen among Asia’s wildlife markets.
  • Erika Check Hayden for her scathing analysis of the IOM’s report on vaccine safety and why we have “lost yet another battle in the war over vaccines.”
  • The Neuroskeptic for two great posts on whether sleep give us a chance to defragment out brains, and how random chance acts as our third parent.
  • Ann Finkbeiner for a beautiful post on resonance.
  • Vaughan Bell for his look at riot psychology in the wake of the UK riots, and why crowd behaviour is a complex area that’s surprisingly poorly researched.
  • Jerry Coyne for thoroughly fisking the idea that epigenetics is a big scientific revolution. Says he: “I know scientific revolutions; scientific revolutions are friends of mine… epigenetics is no scientific revolution.”
  • Phil Plait for a lovely post on why there have been so many quakes of late, with gems such as “Having a restless planet is a consequence of having a habitable one.”
  • Brian Switek for his take on a one of a kind fossil – a fish within an amphibian within a shark, or “the Permian, freshwater lake equivalent of a turducken”
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Science writing I’d pay to read – July 2011

It’s time for July’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

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Science writing I’d pay to read – June 2011

It’s time for June’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

And for interest, the tip-jar initiative has raised US$900 since its inception. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

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Science writing I’d pay to read – May 2011

It’s time for May’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

And for interest, the tip-jar initiative has raised US$650 over the last two months. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

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Science writing I’d pay to read – April 2011

It’s time for April’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important.

I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

And for interest, the tip-jar initiative has raised US$350 over the last two months. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

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Science writing I’d pay to read – March 2011


It’s that time of the month again – time to select ten blog posts for my Science Writer Tip-Jar initiative. For those new to this, here’s the low-down:

  • Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work, or at least that people should be willing to pay for good writing. I am.
  • Every month, I choose ten pieces that I really enjoyed and donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important. Pieces where writers were paid for their work are excluded.
  • There are buttons on the sidebar for you to contribute too if you wish. The “Support Science Writers” button goes to the writers. At the end of April, the chosen ten will get equal shares of the pot. The “Support NERS” button goes to me; I’ll match a third of the donations and send that to the chosen writers too.

So without further ado, here are the picks:

And just in case people are interested, last month, the tip-jar initiative raised exactly US$200, which I have split among the writers I chose in March.

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Puny Banner and tip jar

A couple of house-keeping things.

Firstly, if you cast your eyes a few pixels upwards, you’ll notice the snazzy new banner. All the Discover blogs now have them to give us a bit more of an individual feel. I love mine/them. The designer’s done a great job with reconciling the “rocket science” bit with the fact that I write almost entirely about biology. You can see the rest of the logos on the sidebar, and I’ll probably be doing a Cafepress store at some point.

Secondly, you might have noticed that there’s also a “Support Science Writers” box in the sidebar. I’ve added this in light of my new initiative to voluntarily pay for the best science writing that I read. In the comments, people suggested various ways that these micropayments could be done easily, but all the best suggestions involve adding some sort of code to one’s site.

While a simple solution may take some more work, I’ve implemented these Paypal buttons as a temporary fix. The top one goes to the writers I pick every month, distributed equally (any donations this month will go to February’s picks, and so on). The bottom one goes to me and I’ll match a third of the donations and send that to the chosen writers too.

Both go to my Paypal account but they’re tagged differently so I can sort through all the donations and distribute them easily. This isn’t ideal by any means, but like many things on the Internet, I thought I’d give it a go and see what happens. So if any of you would like to support NERS or any of the other great blogs that I link to, please feel free to contribute. There is, of course, no expectation to do this.

For reference, here are the people who I’ve donated to this month:

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Science writing I’d pay to read

“That’s brilliant. I’d pay good money for that.”

I’ve been saying this a lot recently. My RSS reader, Twitter stream and other sources of incoming goodies have been chock-full of stand-out pieces – posts that are long, thorough, beautifully written, and most of all, unpaid. Have a look at Greg Downey’s opus on the biology of holding your breath, or Delene Beeland’s piece on Ethiopia’s church forests, or Brian Switek’s post on human origins, or Bora Zivkovic’s tour de force on clock genes, or Steve Silberman’s… well pretty much everything by Steve Silberman.

I read these pieces in amazement that their writers should stick them up for free, when so many others pen far lesser works for a salary. Clearly, the writers are happy to provide free content and they get various advantages out of it. But I absolutely believe that good writers should be paid for good work. I read these pieces and think, “That took a lot of effort. It’s a shame they didn’t get paid for that. I’d pay good money for that.”

And then, last week, I thought, “Hey, why don’t I pay good money for that?”

So I’m going to. As of this month, I am putting my money where my mouth is and trying to set an example. The basic idea: every month, I’m going to choose ten pieces that I really enjoyed and  donate £3 to the author as a token of my appreciation.

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