2010: The Year in News

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

A tag cloud of the top 100 Google searches that brought people to the NCBS news site in 2010. Data from Google Analytics was exported to the tag cloud generator Wordle.

The NCBS news site has just celebrated its first year of existence, so it is time to take a closer look at what was achieved in 2010. The interest in the news site has been much greater than I would have ever expected. We have been monitoring its access using Google Analytics, which tells us that overall there were 95,007 pageviews in 2010, from 28,704 visits. The average visit lasted 3:24 minutes and perused 3.31 pages. Visitors logged in from 115 countries including such exotic locations as Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati and Côte d’Ivoire. The cities tally was even more remarkable - 1,518 - and many of the place names also tantalise as travel destinations: San Cristobal de la Laguna (Tenerife), Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine), and Steamboat Springs (USA). I see there is an obvious need to extend the evaluation of our reader base by some on-location reporting!

Still mostly India, largely Bangalore

The access is nevertheless still predominantly from within India, as the data below show.


The percentage of news site pageviews per country. Data from Google Analytics

And within India, most of the traffic came via Bangalore, no doubt much of that from NCBS staff and students. Combining all the figures, however, we find a healthy 51% of all pageviews came from outside of Bangalore, indicating a goodly amount of outreach.


The percentage of news site pageviews per Indian city. Data from Google Analytics

What were people reading?

NCBS published 75 stories over the year spread across the site's five categories as shown below:
NCBS News Site Category Number of stories

NCBS Research 22
Bigger Picture (India and Worldwide) 10
Team Talk 25
Campus Life 15
Opinion 2
Total 75
The most read story of the year was a very sad one, Vijay's elegant remembrance of the life of Veronica Rodrigues. Of its 6,896 pageviews, over half came from outside India, demonstrating Veronica's extraordinary international impact. The powerful impression Veronica made on scientists and non-scientists alike is evident in the 70 comments that people have added to the story. The average time people have spent reading the story and comments is 5:24 min.

The 10 most read stories of 2010 are shown in the table below. It's a curious mix, with entries reflecting all aspects of NCBS life. One of the runaway successes of the year was the photo competition that we hosted. The two stories that reported the results ranked very highly, and the various image galleries of the web site garnered 9,206 pageviews.
Story Pageviews in 2010
Veronica Rodrigues 1953-2010 6,896
Good Laboratory Practice 1,219
All work and well played makes Jagdish a brill boy 1,121
NCBS breakthrough: soothing the frayed nerves of Fragile X 1,079
A Keen Eye: First NCBS Photo Competition 1,074
The People's Choice - Popular Vote winners 876
The living history of the Ashtavaidya scholar-physicians of Kerala 846
Against the tide: NCBS's wildlife students 822
International Year of Biodiversity 2010 804
O Drosophila, even closer dost thou model Homo sapiens! 652
For the technophiles..

The table below shows the access according to operating system and browser. Interestingly, the percentage of MacOS access was almost triple MacOS's worldwide market share of 6.82% in 2010. Biologists in the West have long been loyal fans of the Mac, and maybe it's catching on more in India as well.


Percentage of pageviews per browser and OS type. Data from Google Analytics.











The people who made the news

An important role of the NCBS news site is to encourage NCBS community members to improve their skills in contributing to the public understanding of science. I was very pleased with the helpful participation of a small army of volunteers throughout the year, particularly of students. As per the list below, there were 32 different contributors to stories in 2010, all but three of whom were students. Two people stand out as consistent contributors to the news site and deserve special mention: Mohit Kumar Jolly, who unselfishly covers our news from IIT Kanpur, and ex-wildlifer Divya Karnad, who was a full-time intern here for several months. I also put great stock in having attractive accompanying graphics for stories, and several students have been very generous with their time: Shovamayee Maharana, Sufia Sadaf, Lamuk Z and Mehrab Modi. Of course, the most welcome involvement of students should not dissuade the faculty from engagement with the news team!

Divya Karnad, G. Sriram, Garima Singhal, Geoff Hyde, Giselle Fernandes, Vinodh Ilangovan, K. Manish Sharma, P. Chitra, Nitesh Saxena, Nivedita Awasthi, P. Chitra, Prabhat Tiwari, Priyadarshini S., Richa Malhotra, Sarita Hebbar, K. Shameer, K. VijayRaghavan, Killivalavan Rayar, Lalitha Krishnan, Lamuk Z, Meghna Krishnadas, Mehrab Modi, Mohit Kumar Jolly, Nisha Ramdas, Shilpa Ravinder, Shlesha Richhariya, Shovamayee Maharana, Sucheta Kulkarni, Sufia Sadaf, Sunaina Surana, Tejas Milind Gupte.

It could not have been done without the computing staff

An enormous vote of gratitude must also go out to the NCBS computing team who responded to requests for assistance almost immediately and consistently delivered the goods, no matter how difficult the task. Rajesh Rama and Srinivas R. in particular deserve special mention for their efforts.

The future

In 2011 and beyond, NCBS will continue to expand, and there will be more news to report than now. I cannot emphasise how much time is involved in doing even a reasonable job on a news story. A seemingly simple report on a published paper can take days of background reading just to get on top of the science, before one attempts to convert it into a generally accessible piece. Popular science writing is an art form, and, in terms of the skill required, stands in the same relationship to regular science writing as does cartooning to photo-realistic drawing. Anyone can learn the latter, but to do a good job of the former requires either native talent or enough time to hit upon something good after much trial and error. Like most experimenters, trial and error is definitely a big part of my system! There is lot behind the simple lines of a caricature, written or drawn.

So the news team will need increased engagement from all sections of the NCBS community, and now that Divya Karnad has moved on, we will need to find another intern and/or experienced journalist to maintain momentum. I am also now encouraging increased student involvement via exercises within my science communication courses.

A new feature of the site will be launched very soon, following requests from the student body: a forum for the NCBS community. This will cover life on campus, and opportunities for recreation and dining in and around Bangalore. More substantially, the forum will also have a "Hot Topic" feature to encourage open discussion of important issues, the first being Fraud in Science. Forum members will be able to suggest and vote on future topics.


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