Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The rise of science blogging

User-generated science, The Economist, September 18, 2008.  (Thanks to Matt Rhodes.)

This article is about blogging science without peer review.  But how far do its questions and observations carry over to every other kind of OA science, including green and gold OA to peer-reviewed research?  Excerpt:

...Earlier this month Seed Media Group, a firm based in New York, launched the latest version of Research Blogging, a website which acts as a hub for scientists to discuss peer-reviewed science. Such discussions, the internet-era equivalent of the journal club, have hitherto been strewn across the web, making them hard to find, navigate and follow. The new portal provides users with tools to label blog posts about particular pieces of research, which are then aggregated, indexed and made available online.

Although Web 2.0, with its emphasis on user-generated content, has been derided as a commercial cul-de-sac, it may prove to be a path to speedier scientific advancement....

Blogging is all well and good for tenured staff but lower down in the academic hierarchy it is still publish or perish, laments [Jennifer Rohn, a biologist at University College London and a prolific blogger].

To help avoid such incidents Research Blogging allows users to tag blog posts with metadata, information about the postís author and history. This enables priority of publication to be established, something else peer-reviewed journals have long touted as their virtue....

With the technology in place, scientists face a chicken-and-egg conundrum. In order that blogging can become a respected academic medium it needs to be recognised by the upper echelons of the scientific establishment. But leading scientists are unlikely to take it up until it achieves respectability. Efforts are under way to change this. Nature Network, an online science community linked to Nature, a long-established science journal, has announced a competition to encourage blogging among tenured staff. The winner will be whoever gets the most senior faculty member to blog....

Dr [Adam] Bly [founder of Seen Media Group] points to a paradox: the internet was created for and by scientists, yet they have been slow to embrace its more useful features. Nevertheless, serious science-blogging is on the rise. The Seed state of science report, to be published later this autumn, found that 35% of researchers surveyed say they use blogs. This figure may seem underwhelming, but it was almost nought just a few years ago. Once the legion of science bloggers reaches a critical threshold, the poultry problem will look paltry.