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Your Top 15 in ’15: Most popular on PLOS BLOGS Network

By Victoria Costello, PLOS Senior Social Media & Community Editor


With 2.3 million visitors reading more than 600 new posts on PLOS BLOGS Network over the past year, this last week of 2015 seems a good time to name your favorite science reads on our network – based on visitor traffic. As usual, the best and most read science writing posted on PLOS BLOGS brings a researcher’s perspective to bear on both pure and applied research. And I’m pleased to see that our bloggers are still, more often than not, hitting that sweet spot where their posts can be enjoyed by scientists and non-scientists alike.

Within this year’s freely available archive from the 16 independent and six staff-written blogs and four PLOS-hosted communities that make up our network, you’ll find a wealth of superbly-explained science. There are also healthy doses of humor and personal perspectives on the scientific life, with equal numbers of sober, entertaining and idiosyncratic spins on hot topics in science.

So, without further ado, the following top 15 blog posts are listed in order of their popularity (in single day visitor sessions received), attained over the course of the last twelve months.

Notably, the top two posts of this year came from our Public Health Perspectives independent blog, where epidemiologists Atif Kukaswasdia and Lindsay Kobayashi share weekly blogging duties with science writer Beth Skwarecki. The three keep readers informed on new public health-related findings in medicine, infectious diseases, and disease prevention research while practicing the arts of brevity, clarity and relatability in scicomm.

1) The narrative of privilege Public Health Perspectives 8/24/15

The number one post of the year comes from a guest blogger who startled us with her ability to break down the barriers between practitioner and patient.  The narrative of privilege by “Luckett,” an emergency medicine resident at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, offers a deeply personal and cautionary account on the need for all health providers to resist “the false narrative of choice” in their attitudes towards low income and/or drug-addicted patients.

 ‘Miss,’ she said, as I bit my tongue. I was choking on the worst insult a female junior doctor can bear, ‘I know that crystal meth is really my problem. I’m going to quit the meth.’ Read more

2) How often should you shower?  Public Health Perspectives 1/19/15


In this post, Lindsay Kobayashi examines personal hygiene through the lenses of culture, environment and epidemiological research, to come up with some sound, evidence-based guidance that crosses boundaries.

At first glance, a silly question. Have you ever questioned your showering practices? A shower is taken for granted, a daily or near-daily practice that begins or ends our days. It can be soothing, warm… Read more

3) A tiny start for the giant Saurolophus  The Integrative Paleontologists 10/14/15

Paleontologist Andy Farke, Curator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California (and a PLOS ONE Academic Editor and PLOS Paleo Community Editor), hit a popular peak with this post, displaying his trademark sense of wonder for his field as he explains the awesomeness of a PLOS ONE-published discovery of a rare baby dinosaur fossil.


Gigantic skeletons of dinosaurs often draw the biggest crowds at museums, but the elusive remains of baby dinosaurs are breathtaking in their own way. Beyond the “cute” factor, tiny bones from the youngest animals help… Read more


4) The Outrage Factor – Then and Now Absolutely, Maybe 7/13/15

Outrage-factorIn 2015, PLOS is fortunate to have as its newest PLOS BLOGS Network independent blogger (PLOS Medicine Academic Board member) Hilda Bastian, whose “day job” on the PubMed Health team and as lead for PubMed Commons informs her blogging about “evidence and uncertainties in medicine and life.” In this Absolutely, Maybe post, Hilda assesses the dark and light sides of online issue campaigning, focusing on the social web as a channel for critique and debate around sexism in science. And, she does so with the help of another of her dead-on brilliant cartoons.

There’s a lot of outrage about outrage storming around women in science and science journalism at the moment. And fear of causing it, too. It’s easy to cast outrage as inimical to thinking… Read more

5) Suffering for Science: Balancing the Costs and Benefits of Animal Research PLOS Biologue 6/11/15

Image credit: Flickr user Mycroyance
Image credit: Flickr user Mycroyance

This post by PLOS Biology Associate Editor Lauren Richardson exemplifies a common function for PLOS’ staff blogs – providing a context for new journal publications; in this case two PLOS Biology “perspectives” that look in depth at animal models in terms of research ethics, science communication and transparency, as well as possible alternatives. Such staff-written blog posts provide an important gateway for diverse readers to the more technical journal material.

Think for a moment, if you will, of all the chemicals that you conscientiously and unconsciously are exposed to everyday. Banal, daily-life things like toothpaste, cosmetics, food additives, pharmaceuticals. They are composed of manufactured chemicals… Read more

8) Just Skin Deep: Your Immune System at the Surface, The Student Blog 6/6/15

Photo credit: Skin Microbiome Blog

The Student BLOG is a great place for science undergraduates, grad students and early career researchers to simultaneously hone their science and science communication skills by simply explaining what they know.  In this post, Rachel Cotton,  a PhD student in the Immunology Program at Harvard, joins the microbiome enthusiasts by pointing out that dynamic interactions among microbes and immune cells in human skin have important implications not only for the treatment of autoimmune disorders, skin allergies, and skin malignancies, but also for the creation of better vaccines exploiting skin immunity. Got that? Not to worry. You will after reading Rachel’s post.

The skin is the human body’s largest organ. At 1.8 square meters for the average adult, skin covers about as much area as a large closet, and accounts for 12-15% of total body weight… Read more

If you’d like to join the team of independent writers contributing to The Student Blog, who come from academic institutions around the world, please send an email briefly describing your academic focus and interests and a blogging sample to Sara Kassabian, our Student Blog coordinator, at

9) Is Wayward Pines Genetically Plausible? DNA Science 7/23/15

Wayward_Pines_a.k.a_Agassiz_BCGeneticist and several times-published textbook and popular science author, Ricki Lewis, is always on the lookout for good and bad science in popular culture. In this DNA Science post, she tells readers why one apparently implausible sci-fi series is, in fact, the real deal – genetically speaking.

Tonight is the final episode, ever, of Wayward Pines, the 10-episode FOX television show that’s the best sci-fi I’ve seen since the X-Files. The series, based on a trilogy by Blake Crouch, has a seemingly…Read more

10) When Open Access is the norm, how do scientists work together online? SciComm 4/13/15

Upon launching a new SciComm blog as a place for independent science writers to chart the emerging applied science of science communication, we invited technologist Jon Udell to put the topic of web-enabled scientific collaboration in context. Here is his widely read response.

The Web was invented to enable scientists to collaborate. In 2000 the Los Alamos National Laboratory commissioned me to write a progress report on web-based collaboration between scientists, Internet Groupware for Scientific Collaboration. Blogs, social media… Read more

To contribute to Scicomm blog please contact

11) Uninterpretable: Fatal flaws in PACE Chronic Fatigue Syndrome follow-up study Mind the Brain 10/29/15

Investigating and sharing potential errors in scientific methods and findings, particularly involving psychological research, is the primary reason Clinical Health Psychologist (and PLOS ONE AE) Jim Coyne blogs on Mind the Brain and elsewhere. This closely followed post is one such example.

Earlier decisions by the investigator group preclude valid long-term follow-up evaluation of CBT for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). At the outset, let me say that I’m skeptical whether we can hold the PACE investigators responsible… Read more

12) Amsterdam’s Wonderful Bicycle Culture Obesity Panacea 10/26/16


Obesity, exercise and sedentary behavior researchers, along with ordinary readers seeking positive health and nutrition information, have no more reliable source than Peter Janiszewski. With Travis Saunders, he has succeeded in cutting through hype on the topics of losing and keeping weight off, with as many strategies for staying physically fit through a balanced diet and exercise. In the process he’s made Obesity Panacea the most-read blog on the PLOS BLOGS Network, receiving some 400K visits per year. Here’s one of Peter’s “good news” posts about a place where exercise is part of the national culture.

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid – first a tricycle, then one with training wheels, a couple of BMXs during my teens, and over the past 15 years, mountain bikes…. Read more

13) Happy Fins: Plesiosaurs Flapped like Penguins PLOS Paleo Community 12/18/15

A virtual model reconstruction of the plesiosaur Meyerasaurus. From Liu et al (2015).
A virtual model reconstruction of the plesiosaur Meyerasaurus. From Liu et al (2015).

A  quality I’m now willing to generalize to all paleontologists – especially after attending my first Society for Vertebrate Paleontologists annual meeting this October – is a great sense of humor, on display in this recent post from “fish girl” Sarah Gibson to explain a high-tech study published in PLOS Computational Biology. With her fellow PLOS Paleo Community Editors Jon Tennant and Andy Farke (now moved over from his solo blog The Integrative Paleontologists), Sarah has given this newest PLOS-hosted online community for researchers an excitement-filled lift off on our blog network.

One of the most infuriating things about being a paleontologist is being able to study some of the coolest organisms that have ever inhabited the Earth, yet never being able to see one in life. Read more

If you’re a paleontologist, an anthro-paleo researcher or working in a related field, be sure to join the PLOS Paleo Community Email list to receive a monthly newsletter from this fun group.

14) That All-Nighter is not without Neuroconsequences PLOS Neuro Community 9/29/15


 PLOS Neuro Community Editor Emilie Reas is a neuroscience post-doc at U.C. San Diego working in dementia research who has an amazing ability to translate complex science into easily accessible terms. Which is exactly what she’s done with a recent PLOS ONE study, posing questions to its authors to better explain their findings showing that a night forgoing sleep affects brain microstructure just as it brings about  all-too familiar behavioral changes in the sleep-deprived.

As you put the finishing touches on your paper, you notice the sun rising and fantasize about crawling in bed. Your vision and hearing are beginning to distort…Read more

If you’re a neuroscience researcher be sure to sign up for our PLOS Neuro Community Email list to get monthly news from Emilie and her fellow community editor Giuseppe Gangarossa, plus frequent posts from PLOS Neuro contributors,  Neuroskeptic and Micah Allen.

15) Heads Up! Earliest Decapitation Case Found In Brazil EveryONE 10/30/15

Rounding out the top 15 posts of 2015 comes a science mystery story from Charlotte Bhaskar, a Publication Assistant working on our favorite mega-journal, PLOS ONE. The topic of the archaeology paper in question is pretty creepy, albeit, sadly, also timely: public decapitation.  As regular readers of PLOS ONE and PLOS BLOGS Network are well aware, EveryONE is a place where you can find just about anything explained – and explained well.

Images: S1 Fig, Fig 4, Fig 8, Fig 5

Heads were rolling in the Americas much earlier than previously thought. A recently published study in PLOS ONE  uncovers a case of ritual decapitation that took place over 9000 years ago, in the ancient rock…Read more.

I hope these most-read posts lead you to explore deeper and farther into our PLOS BLOGS Network archive, which dates back to 2010. Other highlights of this year include the following:

  • A six-part series “Talking About Drug Prices…” is a collaboration between PLOS BLOGS and PLOS Medicine with prominent global health leaders and science writers addressing the past year’s spikes in U.S. pharmaceutical prices and the continuing international problem of lack of access to medicines. It takes place in our new dedicated blog for guest posts, “Your Say.”
  • An in-depth interview by Emily Willingham with PLOS BLOGS alum Steve Silberman on the occasion of the publication of his bestselling book, NeuroTribes, The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.
  • The arrival of two new PLOS Staff blogs worth checking out: PLOScasts, a venue for podcasts of talks by innovators and thought leaders on scholarly publishing developments, the future of academia and the changing experiences of scientists; and PLOS Collections Blog, a platform for journal staff editors, authors and organisers as well as the PLOS Collections Team to blog about the research and commentary published in PLOS research Collections.
  • PLOS’ latest experiment in science communication, “PLOS Science Wednesday,” our weekly “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) series on reddiscience, featuring PLOS authors telling the stories behind their research articles. Now 37 weeks on and going strong!

An easy way to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming posts is to sign up for our PLOS BLOGS Network RSS feed, which brings new posts to your email inbox every morning, or however often you want to receive them.

Whether you’re a regular or sometime reader of our blogs, PLOS wants to hear from you. Starting Jan 11, we’ll be inviting you to take part in a PLOS BLOGS Reader Survey — details coming soon! Keep an eye on Twitter for more information.

A big thanks to all our readers!

  1. Hugely grateful to James Coyne for the blog post at #11 in your list, which drew many scientists’ attention to the scandalously poor science in the $8 million PACE trial of CBT and graded exercise for chronic fatigue syndrome.

    Patients have been yelling about the bad science in this for years now but no one has been listening. They are now.

    Thank you, James Coyne and PLOS One Blogs.

    Prof. Coyne has been continuing his pursuit of the problems with PACE on his own blog – it’s fascinating:

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