Why We Blog

A couple of months ago I lamented that scientific blogging would probably be unable to serve as an effective “filter” for the scientific literature. Scientists struggle to keep up with the literature in their own field (let alone related fields), and it would be nice if someone could pre-screen emerging papers in a way that would decrease the time and effort involved in keeping current. For a variety of reasons, I think it’s unlikely that science blogs will be able to serve this function.

But filtering isn’t the only justification for the existence of science blogs, as is made clear by a recent bumper crop of blog posts and articles about science blogging. Blogging can help an individual scientist share ideas with colleagues and spread the word about one’s own work. Some see blogs as increasingly essential to the process of self-promotion, whereas others see an opportunity to fill growing holes in the fabric of conventional science journalism. There is a consensus that blogging is less prestigious than other kinds of scientific publishing, but as participation grows, this may change.

In rough order of the ideas presented in the previous paragraph, I present these pieces here for your delectation:

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One comment

  1. I see blogging, and science blogging in particular, as the answer to the sensationalist tendencies of more produced media discussed in the Sunday Funnies post a few days ago.

    Blogging is typically news from the source, with all the facts and caveats presented. A much more worthwhile and refreshing way to get scientific information than news sources. Further, blogging has almost no restrictions, people’s minds are free to wonder and explore more pitfalls and possibilities in their studies then they might be willing to dare in a published paper.

    Further, it fosters communication, I have often had the thought that a large percentage of research could be solved or expedited by communication. Someone somewhere knows of a smarter assay, or already has thought the problem out, but couldn’t make the connection.

    The accidental discovery of cosmic background radiation probably best exemplifies this thought. Where Penzias and Wilson where puzzled over what technology glitches were causing persistent static in their instruments, while Robert Dicke and other were preparing equipment to go search for exactly that static.

    It could be wrong to conclude that blogging would truly have prevented that problem, but at least better organization of communication, in whatever form it takes, would have.

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