2015's Top 10 Websites for Science
Here at RealClearScience, we comb the Internet each and every day to bring you the best, most interesting, and topical science stories out there. The ongoing search places us in the perfect position to gauge the quality of science writing and journalism. One thing we've learned is that the landscape is constantly changing. As writers come and go and editorial practices change, the quality of science journalism rises and falls.
Amidst this constant flux, these are the media outlets that ascended to the top in 2015.
While science reporting is growing stagnant in many mainstream newspapers, Britain's The Guardian bucks the trend with an excellently produced science section. It features a repertoire of well-written blogs, daily news coverage that's generally on point, and a diverse opinion section.
Wired Magazine has long been held in high regard for its business and technology reporting, but the hip periodical is now bringing its style and storytelling skill to science journalism. Wired's editors and writers have a tremendous skill for spotting "what's next." Their reporting imparts awe without embellishing and is highly accessible to everyday readers. Don't forget to check out Wired's science blog section, which has remained strong despite the departure of a number of high-profile writers.
In 1970, Smithsonian Magazine's founding editor Edward K. Thompson envisioned a publication that -- in his words -- would "stir curiosity in already receptive minds. It would deal with history as it is relevant to the present. It would present art, since true art is never dated, in the richest possible reproduction. It would peer into the future via coverage of social progress and of science and technology. Technical matters would be digested and made intelligible by skilled writers who would stimulate readers to reach upward while not turning them off with jargon."
In 2015, Smithsonian Magazine's website is a terrific extension of its print publication. Featuring a marvelous medley of culture, history, nature, and science articles, it's a wonderful place for a curious mind.
In 2013, its opening year, Nautilus earned an honorable mention on our list of top science news sites. This year, it firmly cracked the top ten. With one of the most beautiful and innovative designs of any website on the Internet, Nautilus is easy on the eyes. But the website isn't all style; it's got loads of substance. Featuring an array of academics as well as some of the best science writers out there, every monthly issue of Nautilus is both entertaining and elucidating.
The Atlantic is not typically known for its science coverage, but talented young writers like Olga Khazan, James Hamblin, and Adrienne LaFrance placed the more than 150-year-old publication on our top ten in 2015. Veteran science writer Ed Yong has also recently signed on to augment The Atlantic's coverage. It's heartening to see such a well-known media outlet making a renewed push to publish excellent science content.
Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel's tagline for his fantastic blog, Starts with a Bang!, is "The Universe is out there, waiting for you to discover it." Siegel serves as an able guide on that empowering road to discovery. Each week, he translates the leading space news with depth and grace. He also frequently answers readers' burning questions about the often mind numbing intricacies of the universe and applies needed skepticism to questionable claims. In life, Siegel is delightfully outlandish in personality while remaining grounded in sense. Both Siegel and his blog (now hosted at Forbes) provide a dose of awesome reality.
For well over a hundred years, National Geographic's monthly print magazine has allowed millions of people to explore our breathtaking world in vibrant detail. Its website accomplishes the same feat on a daily basis. For particularly enlightening science coverage, check out Nat Geo's "Phenomena." There, you'll find blogs by science writing giants like Maryn Mckenna, Carl Zimmer, Robert Krulwich, Ed Yong, and Brian Switek. Up-and-comers Erika Engelhaupt and Nadia Drake round out the talented cast.
In an era of digital journalism where outlets leap at low-hanging fruit in the form of click bait and often skimp on accuracy and details in the effort to "get there first," Quanta does exactly the opposite. Focusing on complex topics like mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science, and basic life science, the team at Quanta covers the difficult science others might ignore, translating it with graceful poise and an unrelenting eye for accuracy.
The BBC ranked #1 on our previous list of top science news sites, but their fall to second in 2015 doesn't indicate a drop in quality. Their science coverage is plentiful and regularly sticks to truly relevant stories. For the extra curious mind, the BBC also maintains BBC Earth and BBC Future, two sites which offer extra, fascinating helpings of all things interesting.
No fluff and no BS; Nature News reports what's relevant and reports it right. Their website covers breaking news, puts the latest research in perspective, and offers unbiased takes on the times when politics and science meet.