Rethinking the topic tags on Research Blogging

Administration 50 Comments
By Dave Munger

The category tags (”Topics”) on Research Blogging were never intended to be permanent. To be useful, they should reflect the actual usage of the site. So, I’m seeking input of Research Blogging users to improve the Topics we use.

First, let’s take a look at how the tags are used:

The good news is, there are some posts in every topic. However, “biology” turns out to be a very popular tag, affecting over 5,000 posts! There are almost three times as many “biology” tags than any other.

It would be nice if we could subdivide that topic so that not so many posts are included under a single umbrella. I took a closer look at the posts in biology and found that the most popular subcategory is “Ecology,” with over 1,000 uses. There are also lots of posts on related fields such as “Conservation.”

So I’d really like to start a new topic, “Conservation / Ecology.” But what subcategories should we use?

The current subcategories for Biology are Agriculture, Anatomy, Behavioral Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Botany, Cancer, Cell Biology, Chemical Biology, Computational Biology, Developmental Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Marine Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology, Systems Biology, and Zoology. Other than Ecology and Conservation, are there any subcategories that should be moved over to the Conservation / Ecology topic? What about subcategories in Geosciences or other major topics? Should we add new subcategories?

It would be great if we could further subdivide the Biology topic, but beyond creating a new topic for Conservation / Ecology, I’m a little stumped. Any suggestions?

On the other end of the scale, are there any less-utilized topics that could be combined? I’m thinking Mathematics could merge with Computer Science, or Astronomy with Physics. Any preferences here?

Any other suggestions? Any subcategories you’d like to see added? Let me know. I’d like to have a new classification system ready by next week. For reference, below is the complete system of recommended tags in our system now (users can also type in their own subcategories).

Applied Anthropology, Archeology, Biological Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Linguistics, Medical Anthropology, Sociocultural Anthropology

Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Galactic Astronomy, Observational Astronomy, Planetary Astronomy, Search for ETI, Stellar Astronomy, Theoretical Astrophysics

Agriculture, Anatomy, Behavioral Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Botany, Cancer, Cell Biology, Chemical Biology, Computational Biology, Developmental Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Marine Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology, Systems Biology, Taxonomy, Zoology

Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Cheminformatics, Environmental Chemistry, Geochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Materials, Nanoscience, Nuclear Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Synthetic Chemistry, Theoretical Chemistry

Clinical Research
Aging, Cancer, Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Genetics, Hematology, Immunology, Metabolism, Neurology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Stem Cells, Toxicology

Computer Science
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Theory, Databases, Encryption, Graphics, Human-Computer Interaction, Languages and Compilers, Networks, Operating Systems, Parallel and Distributed Computing, Robotics, Software Engineering

Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials, Nanoscience

Atmosphere Science, Biogeosciences, Climate Science, Energy, Environmental Health, Geochemistry, Geodysy, Geology, Geophysics, Glaciology, Hydrology, Oceanography, Planetary Science, Seismology, Soil Science, Sustainability

Clinical Psychology, Epidemiology, Gene Therapy, Health Policy, Kinesiology, Medical Ethics, Medicine, Nutrition, Public Health, Psychiatry, Rehabilitation, Substance Abuse

Applied Mathematics, Combinatorics, Discrete Math, Logic and Foundations, Probability and Statistics, Pure Mathematics

Affective Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience, Molecular Neuroscience, Neural Engineering, Neurolinguistics

Aesthetics, Continental Philosophy, Epistemology, Ethics, History of Philosophy, Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Political Science

Astrophysics, Atomic Physics, Biophysics, Condensed Matter, Continuum Mechanics, Electronics, Experimental Physics, High-Energy Physics, Molecular Physics, Nanoscience, Nuclear Physics, Optics, Particle Physics, Plasma Physics, Precision Measurement, Quantum Physics, Theoretical Physics

Abnormal Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Comparative Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Human Factors, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Learning, Personality, Quantitative Psychology, Sensation and Perception, Social Psychology

Social Science
Economics, Geography, History, Law, Linguistics, Political Science, Sociology

Research / Scholarship
Career, Education, Ethics, Funding, Library Science, Policy, Publishing


50 Responses to “Rethinking the topic tags on Research Blogging”

  1. Sarah Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    As one of the tiny minority of astronomy researchbloggers, I actually don’t like the astrophysics subcategories very much (sorry!). There’s too much overlap between the existing categories, some are quite narrow, like astrobiology, and others very broad, like observational astronomy. Arxiv actually has quite useful subcategories for astro-ph:

    - Cosmology and Extragalactic astrophysics
    - Earth and Planetary astrophysics
    - Galaxy astrophysics
    - High Energy astrophysical phenomena
    - Instrumentation and methods for astrophysics
    - Solar and stellar astrophysics

    allowing people to filter for their category of choice. Full listings of what topics these include are at

  2. juniorprof Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I suggest creating a separate tag for Medicine. Put the following subtitles below it:
    Cell Biology

    This would reflect the basic science departments in the vast majority of major medical schools in the country.

  3. Dave Munger Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks Sarah! Should we just rename the entire category Astrophysics too?

  4. Dave Munger Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Juniorprof: That would basically be merging two already-large topics — Clinical Research and Health. Or do you think we should keep the existing Clinical Research and Health topics too? It does seem a bit odd to me not to put Cell Biology and Biochemistry under biology — though it would actually be fine to have the same subcategories in multiple topics.

  5. Sandeep Gautam Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I always found emotions/ affective psychology sub-cats missing from psychology section annoying; also there is room for adding some tags in multiple places: for eg if I am blogging about a language related issue in psychology category, I’ll prefer having a linguistics category there and then rather than go to social science category. Similarly if I am discussing consciousness/ free will from a psychological perspective I want these available in psychology category itself. Again I can go on suggesting more categories in psych like intelligence/ motivation/ decision-making etc. I think we need more sub-categories in popular categories.

  6. Chris Says:
    October 1st, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Like Sarah above, I’m in a minority of bloggers, linguists. I would like a generic “language” tag for any and all research related to language.

  7. Lab Rat Says:
    October 2nd, 2010 at 4:10 am

    I agree with the sub-partition of conservation/ecology away from the rest of the ‘biology’. Suggest it takes Developmental Biology, Ecology, Marine biology, Behavioural biology and possibly Evolutionary Biology with it. Also I’d suggest moving ‘cancer’ off the biology tags, it’s already in clinical research and that’s where it belongs.

    Something that I’ve been meaning to suggest for a while now: can we PLEASE have a ’synthetic biology’ tag in the biology category. It’s only going to become more relevant over time.

    And I’m still pushing for ‘botany’ to be renamed ‘plant science’ but I realise I may be fighting a loosing battle there :p

  8. Lab Rat Says:
    October 2nd, 2010 at 4:13 am

    Also I’m not sure I agree with juniorprof at all. All of those topics are covered by medics, but the majority of work done within them is NOT medical research. ‘Cell biology’ is not a medical topic, neither is ‘biochemistry’, they just happen to be scientific topics that are taught to medics.

  9. GrrlScientist Says:
    October 2nd, 2010 at 4:43 am

    i think that merging mathematics with computer science is a terrible idea. i also think that astronomy should remain separate from physics. i agree that linguistics deserves its own category.

    if you revise medicine as suggested above, we need another category:

    – microbiology

    evolutionary biology should remain a subcategory of biology (actually, ALL biology is evolution, like duh); making it a subcategory of ecology or conservation biology is just plain WRONG.

    ecology as a separate category should include a few tags (but keep in mind that splitting this field up is, to the average reader, like splitting hairs):

    – environment
    – climate change
    – conservation biology
    – public policy

    but this said, i really think the best way to approach this is to go through the blog entries that are aggregated by researchblogging and see which tags people used (especially in biology). after you’ve figured out what those are, then choose from among those to create your new categories and tags.

  10. Dave Munger Says:
    October 3rd, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    If not math with computer science, how about computer science / engineering as a single topic?

  11. Travis Says:
    October 4th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I think I prefer sticking with health rather than medicine – I do health research, but it has little to do with medicine.

    Do you have any data on posts that use more than one tag? The clinical tags overlap a lot with the clinical ones, to the point that we use both on almost all of our posts, and I’m not totally clear on how they differ (I probably should have asked about that while I was the health/clinical research editor…). For that reason, I’m wondering if clinical research should be a sub-category of health research – if they’re being used on the same posts, it won’t result in a huge increase in the number of health posts.

  12. Alun Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    If there’s an Archaeology/Archeology tag, rather than argue over the spelling would it be possible to combine them so it doesn’t matter which you use?

  13. Grant Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Surely there is an existing ontology of science that you can use? This seems to be re-inventing a wheel ;-) If it were me, I’d ask around the science librarian crowd for their thoughts. (Perhaps higher-level MESH terms could be used?) I realise this might “thin out” the categories, but people can then just pick what they feel represents them.

    Just my opinion: Don’t merge topics just to make up numbers. Mixing maths, engineering and computer science is a bad idea IMO.

    One problem I foresee with this (that you’ve already run into) is that a strictly hierarchal ontology breaks down in cross-discipline applications (e.g. biochemistry applied to medicine, above). You’ll want to let people enter more than one. (I’m cross disciplinary myself, as a computational biologist.)

  14. Jason Goldman Says:
    October 13th, 2010 at 12:11 am

    We need to have “veterinary medicine” in there somewhere. And I think “clinical psychology” should be under “psychology.”

  15. KBHC Says:
    October 13th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Funny, I just emailed you about this Dave, and hadn’t seen this post. I would really like a “reproduction” sub-category in there somewhere, probably under biology. But under health or clinical research it would probably also be nice to have “reproductive health” or “infertility” or “assisted reproductive technology” or “contraception” as well. It would also be nice, under anthro or biology, to have life history theory.

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