Not for the Average Browser

Science magazine considers itself the world’s leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science has succeeded in publishing a flourishing weekly magazine for science buffs.  But what a lost opportunity.  Science has stuff that a non-expert could enjoy reading, however its unappealing Web presentation screams “science geek” and sends average readers away. Science could use the Web to broaden its reach, and keep the browser searching through job offers and ads for science career fairs, but it doesn’t seem to bother trying.


Science’s online feature story on Nov. 14 is about cosmic ray origins, which is also the cover of the print publication.  However, this “original” global news is the only graphic piece on the Web site other than scrolling advertisements for Invitrogen and a Webinar on viral metagenomics th at was recorded on Oct. 24.  The site does offer different multimedia options to look through scientific research and headlines for today’s news, but the main page is boring and unchanging. Science’s readership may not care about flashing photos of petri dishes and microscopic amoeba, but the everyday Web browser needs more to keep his or her  attention on what the latest discoveries offer. 


World science news can be found after a few clicks, as well as archives on popular topics like AIDS.  So what?  The news page is almost colorless.  Also, an average browser likely does not have the time on their lunch break to wade through five or six headlines to find the article he or she is looking for.   


The common blogger may be interested in posting a comment to air his or her frustrations or pleasantries with Science online, but one can’t.  Feedback is an option to tell the magazine staff how you feel, but no other reader has the opportunity to see these comments.  Updating would be nice, as this online magazine is less up to date than the print magazine.


As a leading journal  in scientific research and commentary, Science magazine indeed presents an impressive print package.  However, it could live up to this status as a whole if someone on its staff would take the time to create an alluring Web site.


“We are still setting up the reference links and therefore some are missing. We appreciate your patience until we complete this process,” says the Science staff.  It’s a nice gesture that may sustain some readers, but four clicks to find this at the bottom of the subscription page will not likely be noticed before the browser’s mouse finds the red x at the top right corner of the page.


The subscription option in general is also unappealing.  Students alone are charged $75 per year to be an AAAS digital or print member.  Is this prestigious?  As an average Web surfer, it doesn’t seem necessary to spend money on a membership, when the meat of the magazine itself is very easily accessible to the public.  A good amount of content is available without the cell phone-like payment, so thanks anyway- an average reader can live without it.


By: Heidi Maines


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