Improving science blogging

As a brief diversion from report-writing to meet deadlines and setting aside for a moment the discussion on science blogging journalism vs blogging by scientist, I had a quick look at the PLoS Biology paper on Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy [1]. After the usual introductory things, they set out to

propose a roadmap for turning blogs into institutional educational tools and present examples of successful collaborations that can serve as a model for such efforts. We offer suggestions for improving upon the traditionally used blog platform to make it more palatable to institutional hosts and more trustworthy to readers; creating mechanisms for institutions to provide appropriate (but not stifling) oversight to blogs and to facilitate high-quality interactions between blogs, institutions, and readers; and incorporating blogs into meta-conversations within and between institutions.

For instance, like done by Stanford (and several others mentioned in the article), the university or research institute could host a blogging site that aggregates their blogging scientists to give some trustworthiness to the blog and, perhaps, could be a showcase to the wide world that the ‘ivory towers’ do care about the public and that the institute would want to add a new mode of communication with the wide world. The variation by MIT is broader in types of content, e.g. with editorial and tech review, and more of a top-down approach (even though the scientists who are blogging show more of a bottom-up process). Our uni just went on facebook; would that be a step in the right direction (and add, say, LinkedIn for the alumni)?

Then there are issues of ‘blog review’, moderation, rankings and how one could approach that, as well as post categories of discussing peer reviewed published papers like research blogging, though I think one also could have other categories, such as with Ben Good’s experiment on putting out a draft for comment before submitting and where the blog (or a section thereof) is dedicated to some course the scientist is teaching.

More points and suggestions are being raised in the article (see in particular also the last section after figure 2), to which I might return after the deadline.

UPDATE: one of the article authors, Nick Anthis, has already written a blog post synthesising the various comments from other bloggers. Admitted, I lag behind the mainstream blogging and perhaps should have spend the time writting that paragraph in the report instead of browsing articles and blogs…

[1] Batts SA, Anthis NJ, Smith TC (2008) Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy. PLoS Biol 6(9): e240.

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2 responses to “Improving science blogging

  1. After reading this post, I went ahead and read that article, Though I guess it is probably useful for communicating potential opportunities to institutions slow to understand new technology and new approaches to communication, I found it rather distasteful when reading it. As an occasional blogger, I can’t stand it when people try to classify what exactly a blog is ‘for’. It is absolutely not, IMHO, simply a way to communicate science to the general public. Some posts can be just as detailed and just as incomprehensible to a larger audience as a normal scientific paper, they just aren’t peer-reviewed in advance of publication – and they are still useful! The point is very simply, uncontrolled person to person communication. Whether the two parties are from the same community or not is a question specific to the blogger and more specific to each post.

  2. I see you are more outspoken about it than I am.
    With the “I think one also could have other categories…” I wrote originally, it implied that there are indeed various types of readers (e.g., Joe Soap would not be interested in a draft paper, but your colleagues are, and Joanne Soap not in the course comments, but your students are), and therefore not just the scientist-or-insitution interested layperson communication.
    I do not think, however, that it is only “uncontrolled person to person communication”, because there are also blogging groups of authors for one blog, and the blogs of more ‘insitutionalised’ blogging (e.g. of a news website) do have moderators so that it is, strictly, not uncontrolled.

    At the moment, I have not made my mind up if we just need more cateogies to classify blogs into various types, or to let go of any classification. I’m inclined to go for the former. Maybe doing a bottom-up classification could shed light on this, i.e. where bloggers give attributes to their own blog to characterize it (and possibly, do some mining of the actual posts to adjust the self-reporting), and then with sufficient input see if one can mine the data and devise sensible groupings of such attributes. If not, then you will have data to back up that you/your blog should not be classified, if yes, who knows what funny groupings and patterns come out of it.

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