The Houston Chronicle‘s science reporter, Eric Berger, has been working to expand communications between scientists and readers in his blog’s discussion forum.

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He now has introduced, on his SciGuy blog, a new feature called Atmo.Sphere. Also presented on the Chronicle website’s lengthy list of reader blogs, Atmo.Sphere is billed as a “climate conversation with John Nielsen-Gammon and Barry Lefer.”

Nielsen-Gammon is a faculty member at Texas A&M University and Texas’ state climatologist. Lefer is a professor at the University of Houston, where he teaches classes in climate change and atmospheric chemistry.

Berger says their blog is the first of several that the newspaper will sponsor, covering various scientific fields.

The reporter had told the Yale Forum last December that climate discussions in his blog’s forum often turn politically charged and that he wanted to create opportunities “where scientists and interested lay people can meet in a non-threatening place and discuss.”

Launching Atmo.Sphere on May 26, Lefer said he wants the blog to “present current events in climate change and atmospheric research” and help answer readers’ questions.

Nielsen-Gammon’s introduction was more expansive about the blog’s purpose. He said it was “all about global warming,” but then added several provisos:

  • It doesn’t exist to convince the reader that global warming is a serious problem.
  • It doesn’t exist to convince the reader that global warming is not a serious problem.
  • It doesn’t exist to convince the reader that global warming doesn’t exist.
  • It doesn’t exist to explain global warming.
  • Okay, so it’s not about global warming at all.
  • It’s about the science of weather and climate and climate change, the new ideas and the hot topics, the papers that have turned out to be important and the people who wrote them. It’s about distinguishing the arguments that make sense from the arguments that are valid, about bridging the gap between what people imagine and what people observe.
  • There are lots of interesting blogs out there about climate change. Many are quite good. Some are about science, some are about solutions. What’s missing, it seems to me, are blogs without an axe to grind.

Berger, in a SciGuy post, explained that Atmo.Sphere is the first in the Chronicle’s planned “series of science blogs devoted to specific topics such as space, global warming, genetics and more.”

SciGuy and the scientist blogs will eventually be tied together and presented in a unified format “to provide a neutral space for scientists and the general public to meet and speak on the issues of the day,” he wrote.

He added: “There are blogs by scientists for scientists, and there are blogs aimed at the general public. I’m aiming for a hybrid site where people can get their questions answered by real, live scientists, where scientists can get feedback, and everyone can find a bit of daily zen.”

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