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    Hfarmer's picture
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    I have been thinking lately about the relationship between science blog style websites such as this and the popular science press VS journals.  Where on the spectrum between a purely popular science publication... like "Pop Sci" and a journal like say the journal of the American Medical Association does science 2.0.  
    There is no peer review, but at the same time it isn't totally open either.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.

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    Hank's picture
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    I think Popular Science is a terrific publication - and it shows. In a world where most consumer science media has crashed and burned (Scientific American, Discover, Scienceblogs losing money and being sold off for peanuts or nothing) they have an unreal retention rate for subscribers, mostly because they didn't try to latch on to fads in science media.

    We get peer reviewed all of the time, it just isn't pre-publication.  :)  People tell me I am full of it just like reviewers do in manuscripts as journals. I think we have a higher standard than at least some journals. At one of the largest open access publishers I see absolute junk published every day and the claim is that it is all peer-reviewed (right, hundreds per day).  But peer review means a short check list an editor filled out and that the credit card cleared.  So we're as peer reviewed as that.

    I don't think there is a category for this yet. We have people who have written 25,000-word articles and people who have posted studies and then consumer stuff and press releases and also blogs. 
    Hfarmer's picture
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    It is the idea of post-publication peer review which I think is most upsetting to the established science writing world.  If anything that isn't determined to be abject nonsense can be published, suddenly having a publication list a mile long is no longer a distinction.  Impact factors, and promotion and tenure based on publication, as the mainstream knows it, will be less valuable.   Instead it will all be about how many references a paper gets over the two years after it's published. 

    That was a big R factor means publishing things the scholar knows will have a high impact instead of publishing lots of papers in small journals. That is what happens now.

    But peer review means a short check list an editor filled out and that the credit card cleared.  So we're as peer reviewed as that.


    With perhaps the difference being that Science 2.0 is funded by advertisements?  So we need to write some more popular things  (say about Windows 8 and gaming) to pay for the privilege to write something (say about massive star formation).  At least we've managed to remain a Kardashian free zone...my analysis of how hydrostatic forces overcome gravity in the case of Kim's body was inconclusive. 

    The last review on an article I have tried to publish in a peer reviewed venue got a comment back which I could not really argue with.  It amounts to a director of a publication not liking the prose.   At the same time an editor liked it enough to try and appeal to that director.  I don't even know what to think about that...clearly the work isn't horrible if an editor was wiling to go to bat for me, but then what can be done about the director?  Go to another journal.  
    I don't think there is a category for this yet. We have people who have written 25,000-word articles and people who have posted studies and then consumer stuff and press releases and also blogs. 
    In all the time I have been here I have done some of that. 


    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank's picture
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    With perhaps the difference being that Science 2.0 is funded by advertisements? So we need to write some more popular things (say about Windows 8 and gaming) to pay for the privilege to write something (say about massive star formation).
    It would have to be a lot of Windows articles.  An open access journal makes as much from publishing one article as this site makes in a month from advertising. And the big open access publishers carry advertising on top of that also.
    Hfarmer's picture
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    It would have to be a lot of Windows articles.  An open access journal makes as much from publishing one article as this site makes in a month from advertising. And the big open access publishers carry advertising on top of that also.
    I have seen some of the publication fees they charge.  It would be more economical for the people publishing such works to write up a series of articles then try to publish them as one big monograph.    Even if that is financed by a university.  
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Joanne Budzien's picture
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    I think three important distinctions must be made: 
    1) Who is the audience?

    2) What is the definition of a peer for the purpose of that audience?

    3) Why is whatever being written being written?

    Addressing the audience question, Science 2.0 can have an audience similar to Popular Science in terms of interest and level of education.  However, Popular Science is fabulous because they have a very strong editorial process that isn't the mode for an open community like Science 2.0.  (Note: I am not affiliated with Popular Science in any way and that's not a knock against the Science 2.0 community).  There's quality of the science and then there's quality of the writing.  Having copy editors proofread everything to harp on flow, grammar, and typos creates a reading experience that is very pleasant.  For equally good science and limited reading time, I'm going to purposely choose something that is copy-edited.  

    The difference in purpose by the reading audience can matter a lot.  When I'm up for anything to widen my horizons, then I'll read something like Science 2.0 because of the range of things and being able to follow links to things I may never have encountered before (good, bad, or neutral).  I'm much more concerned with ideas than with writing mechanics, assuming that the writing mechanics are at a reasonable level.  On the other hand, if I've got twenty minutes and I want to engage in lifelong learning, then I will choose something like Popular Science where the experience is very even and I will get a well-written article on something cutting edge that has enough background that a layperson can follow.  I might be missing something excellent, but I'm insulated from things that are on the neutral to bad arena.


    That takes me to the definition of a peer changing based on what the purpose of the reading is and who the target audience is.  If I need to know what my primary research community thinks on a given topic, then I'm not going to go to a site like Science 2.0 or read Popular Science.  I'm going to read the recent articles in targeted society journals, attend conferences, and contact specific people to ask targeted questions.  My peers in that case are well defined in terms of status in the relevant community.  The status in the community is not simply the result of counting articles, counting citations, or similar metric that is available to any observer; being in the community means knowing who has what status in ways that are hard to quantify, but easy to experience.  The targeted society journals and similar publication outlets that do actual peer review (not just checklist before taking a credit card) are performing an important function for highly targeted articles.

    If, however, I want to discuss science and the movies, then a place like Science 2.0 is perfect.  Anyone who shows up and wants to discuss is by default a relevant peer until otherwise proven not acceptable.  History and status in the community is relevant, but are not the main ways to filter ideas or contributions. The purpose of interaction is to have a conversation, much like talking to people at conferences.  By blogging or commenting, people show interest and can start or continue conversations.  

    For the third part of why something is being written, a continuum model of publishing doesn't seem relevant.  Popular Science is not a difference in degree, but in type, from something like The Journal of the American Chemical Society.  I agree with Hank that Science 2.0 is another difference in type, not just degree, from Popular Science and from society journals practicing good peer review.  

    A journal like JACS provides a snapshot of the current state of one tiny community.  Having a time series of those snapshots helps the community circle toward a consensus on what is fact, what is plausible, and what is still outstanding in need of more research.  One of the primary purposes in writing is archival and nailing down something specifically.  The field may change, but some things stay nailed down and are as relevant 100 years after they were written as they were the day they were written.  Looking only at the last few entries in the conversation means one is missing the point.  Looking only at the history from three years ago is missing the point.  One must have both views in mind to be an active and accepted member of that research community.


    Popular Science and similar publications is for people who want to know about the world, but accept the limitations of time and energy.  It's like a newspaper for science: you hit the highlights and human interest enough that you can then seek more details elsewhere if necessary.  While browsing the archives is interesting, currency is why people read.  Being busy for a few months means little penalty in skipping those issues.  One does not have to read everything to be informed.  Reading an isolated article is good enough, but one should be wary about assuming anything in gaps in the archive for topics.  Society journals routinely publish dog-bite-man articles, but newspapers don't and shouldn't.

    Something Science 2.0 or other internet groups that have a mix of things function more like conferences or seminar series for those of us who are isolated or simply have broad interests.  We can present a paper (conference/seminar) or blog post (internet) and get some feedback while simultaneous proclaiming our interest in a topic for people who want to talk about the topic.  Or, we can be in the audience to have a discussion or just learn a tidbit.  While an archive or history exists, much of the benefit is immediacy of interactions.  Yes, those online interactions are written and some may work just as the Transactions of the Faraday Society used to in terms of publication, but others are mostly like conversations at the conference/seminar.  Those latter type are worth having, but they aren't the same as publishing a research article or being a reporter for news.
    Hfarmer's picture
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    Something Science 2.0 or other internet groups that have a mix of things function more like conferences or seminar series for those of us who are isolated or simply have broad interests.  We can present a paper (conference/seminar) or blog post (internet) and get some feedback while simultaneous proclaiming our interest in a topic for people who want to talk about the topic.  Or, we can be in the audience to have a discussion or just learn a tidbit.  While an archive or history exists, much of the benefit is immediacy of interactions.  Yes, those online interactions are written and some may work just as the Transactions of the Faraday Society used to in terms of publication, but others are mostly like conversations at the conference/seminar.  Those latter type are worth having, but they aren't the same as publishing a research article or being a reporter for news.


    The bolded, I think, nails this right on the head.  Writing for Science 2.0 is much like presenting a paper/presentation at a conference.  Generally conferences have a wider scope than journals.  They are interactive if the audience wants to interact, and they are as much about learning as they are about teaching. 


    The privilege of posting here is like having a permanent forum to discuss ones ideas with interested scientifically literate people. 


    I think the value of a blog such as this in a scholars life will only increase with time.  As more young scientist who have such blogs come of age, it will be out of the ordinary not to have a blog of some kind somewhere. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    lokier01's picture
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    I have enjoyed and understood a good number of articles on Science 2.0 and this is without a shred of experience in the scientific world.  I don't know where I stand in regards to 2.0's 'target audience', but I don't think anything here needs to be sex'ed up.
    Watch my webseries "The Lab" and join the campaign!
    Joanne Budzien's picture
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    Hontas, I think you've missed part of my point.  While I encourage everyone to "speak" to as many people as they can and become included in the conversations, having a lot of interesting conversations generally will not get someone a job as a professional scientist where peer-reviewed publications are currently the gold standard.
    One of the first rules of writing well is know your audience.  The second rule is picking a venue that reaches the audience you want.  Talking in the town square when you should be on the agenda at the school board meeting means you are wrong, no matter how good your speech is, how right you are, or how many people enthusiastically clap for you.  Context matters and getting your ideas to the people who can use them means choosing an appropriate venue, even if that's inconvenient or annoying to you.


    Going to conferences is good.  Participating in online discussions is good.  However, those interactions cannot take the place of joining a community that already exists and is healthy enough to perpetuate the rules that currently work for the people who have high status.  Talking with everyone is great for learning things and getting ideas.  But, if you want status in the relevant research community, then you must engage with the people in that community in ways they accept, not ways that are most convenient to you.

    For perspective, when I was a college student, getting one's own webpage was a big thing.  Everyone was going to have a webpage.  It was going to revolutionize everything in N years.  Fifteen years later, "everyone" now has a webpage.  Webpages have not displaced conference going, seminars, or society journals because the people who get to decide who gets a job, funding, and speaking invitations as a scientist still use conference going, seminars, and publishing in certain journals as primary ways to decide who gets the jobs.  The webpage is nice and it's weird if you don't have one, but the absolute best webpage in the world is not going to get you a job as a professional research scientist in the absence of peer-reviewed publications.

    Blogging is the same way.  One can get an audience.  One can have wonderful conversations.  One may get invitations that one otherwise wouldn't get as a result of the publicity for particular topics.  I'm here because this is an appropriate outlet for my outreach activities where the audience is the general public.  Publicizing research is also fine and we certainly can use people doing research communicating it outside of the research communities, but it's not the same as the activities that get you status in the appropriate, very small research community.  

    If someone wants to be taken seriously as a research scientist by established research scientists, then one must make a name in certain venues by being accepted by the people who are one's peers. Even those of us under forty who have a bit of status in a relevant research community aren't going to accept blogs as being equivalent to peer-reviewed publication in a list of accepted journals (not all "peer-reviewed" journals are accepted by all communities) because we routinely experience the difference.  

    Someone who is doing anything at the expense of pushing papers through peer review to get them in the relevant journals and expecting to get a job as a research scientist is gambling big and likely to lose.  Just because it would be convenient to you and many other early-career scientists for a conversion to blogs to happen doesn't mean it has to happen since the other system works pretty well for those of us who are not-quite-so-early career and who value the signal-to-noise amplification that is possible when one is plugged into a community where some vetting occurs through natural community functioning.

    Hfarmer's picture
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    For perspective, when I was a college student, getting one's own webpage was a big thing.  Everyone was going to have a webpage.  It was going to revolutionize everything in N years.  Fifteen years later, "everyone" now has a webpage*.  Webpages have not displaced conference going, seminars, or society journals because the people who get to decide who gets a job, funding, and speaking invitations as a scientist still use conference going, seminars, and publishing in certain journals as primary ways to decide who gets the jobs.  The webpage is nice and it's weird if you don't have one, but the absolute best webpage in the world is not going to get you a job as a professional research scientist in the absence of peer-reviewed publications.
    No one here is talking about peer review going away.  We are talking about the advent of open access and open post publication peer review instead of, or really in addition to, pre publication peer review. 

    As to your example, consider the following.  Perhaps N years hasn't been long enough yet?   A scientist career can easily last 50 years.  The people making final decisions are closer to the end of that 50 year timeframe.  The ones with foresight see that newspapers are going away, they see that information access is becoming more open in general.  They see that now two on coming generations are used to easily accessible information (via cell phone, tablet, and old school PC).  The journal as we now know it is going to go away.  


    However, as Helen said, these blogs are going to take a position somewhat similar to a poster presentation at a conference.   Consider what a well executed blog, like the ones here, or even Lubos Motl's reference frame (http://motls.blogspot.com/)  or Peter Woit's blog "not even wrong" (http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/),  or Sean Caroll's "preposterous universe" (http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/) do for them.    To read what you write they are a total waste of time.  Sean Caroll produced a texbook on General Relativity based on class notes he posted on that URL and the feedback he got.  No blog, and there may not have been as good of a text book if a book would have ever came to be.


    Do not misrepresent my question or it's intent. 
    I asked what the place of such blogs was in the eyes of fellow bloggers, not weather blogs would totally replace journals. 


    Consider the following.  Physical Review X has an impact factor of ~6.7,  The venerable Physical Review Letters has an impact factor for the same period of about 7.9.    PRX is open access and peer reviewed pre publication.  They have popular summaries and more technical synopses which read much like what a blogger might write.    The only thing missing is a section for public comments. 




    Public Library of science is also very blog like. 
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069319



    PLOS has blogs. 
    http://blogs.plos.org/



    If you notice those blogs are headed under "publications" on their webpage. 


    http://www.plos.org/



    The blogs we see here, and at all the other cited places aren't going to totally replace having peer reviewed publications they will supplement them.  Eventually all journals will be like PRX and PLOS.


    *If you notice this blog, woit's blog, the PLOS blogs etc aren't being hosted in places where if their work were terrible it wouldn't last.  People would stop reading it, and the plug would be pulled.  That's a far cry from an old Yahoo Geocities webpage.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Joanne Budzien's picture
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    I will mention that you did not actually ask the question about how other bloggers see blogging.  You asked a general question about where blogging and Science 2.0 in particular falls on the scientific publishing continuum.  I have expressed an opinion on that, even if that's not what you wanted to read and even if I will be shown wrong in another ten years.


    I'm not saying don't blog (after all, I do).  I'm saying, be mindful of how you spend your time because the claims you are making aren't borne out by what I've observed.  Discussions are useful, but only discussing and never publishing (note that textbook example as trying to bolster your case) puts people in a bad spot.  Claiming publications that are not viewed by others as publications is also not a great idea, even if you can point to 100 CV's where people do it (blogs are outreach or service, not publications).  Midcareer people can get away with things that early career people cannot.


    Hfarmer's picture
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    I have never ever said don't publish.  I have papers either under review or on appeal or I am revising them right now and have been for years.  I haven't had a paper out right editorially rejected without review ever.
    I have said that the old printed journals as we know them are going the way of the dinosaur.  The rituals that go with them are for a technology based on paper and printing.  

    Journals will begin to look more and more like blogs.  i.e. PLOS  with both pre and post publication filters and reviews.    Technology makes this practical and inevitable. 

    Blogs and having a blog will become more and more common and expected as time passes, not less. Their importance will grow, not decrease. 

    You keep on setting up straw versions of what I have said then arguing aginst them.  You keep trying to "read between the lines" things that I am not saying or implying.  Do not assume you can know what someone is really thinking. I have shown mathematically that one person can never be that sure about what someone else is thinking (For a paper mainly written by a fellow grad student.  http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=hontas_farmer) 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank's picture
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    Right, one of the earliest members we had here was Jean-Claude Bradley, a big advocate for open notebook science - so everything he was working on he was making available to the world, successes, null results, dead ends, etc. He can do it. I wouldn't advise that for a brand new post-doc or anyone who has a PI, really.
    Hfarmer's picture
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    I wouldn't advise that for a brand new post-doc or anyone who has a PI, really.
    Do you mean someone writing about their active thesis project in detail before defense on a public blog?  That would be a bad idea. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank's picture
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    Well, no, a post-doc has already done all that. I mean someone getting paid to do research for someone else, a someone who has their name and reputation on the line with a funding agency and competitors at other institutions, does not have the luxury of making their work open the way someone with tenure at a university does.
    Hfarmer's picture
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    Ahh I see.  
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.

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