The American Chemical Society is not new to disliking New Media - like all businesses, they would like to be self-perpetuating and that means people have to give them money for memberships and get a magazine for free which means getting quality without paying would be very bad for their income.
Royce Murray, writing an editorial for Analytical Chemistry, seeks to engage in some class warfare and says both scientists and the public should be concerned about bloggers - which is to say that science bloggers are not scientists and the public should be protected from them by real scientists, like those who write editorials in ACS journals.
Scientific articles are 'grounded in fact', he writes, but 'the current phenomenon of “bloggers” should be of serious concern to scientists.' Well, who are these bloggers if not scientists? He writes, regarding journalism, that 'The quality of this flow of information, I believe, has been mostly high—as judged by its producers’ attention to factual reliability and impact' but how can that be if newspaper writers are not scientists? How many journalists for newspapers have Ph.D.s in science? I can't think of a single popular science journalist with a Ph.D.
I am not sure he has actually read any actual science blogging because he writes "not having a single stable employer (like a newspaper, which can insist on credentials and/or education background) frees the blogger from the requirement of consistent information reliability" - yes, he thinks there are full-time bloggers out there with no credibility duping the public. And, even funnier, he thinks science bloggers are less educated than journalists.
But these charlatans must exist, because they work for "blogging “agencies”" that "openly advertise “no formal qualifications are necessary” (as an internet search for “qualifications of bloggers” revealed)." This is just goofy. Yes, it is possible to sign up for Wordpress or Blogger and call yourself a 'science blogger' and those people are not getting checked out by anyone, but who reads them? Are they an agency? There is a lot of competition out there for eyeballs so the only ones who succeed have more quality, not less.
And bloggers have no fact checkers, he laments. Honestly, two things bloggers do not need are fact checkers and editors, which makes fact checkers and editors nervous but few others. It is unlikely a PhD in physics is going to get facts wrong that a 22 year old out of journalism school would catch and the absolute best fact-checking you will get is from a science audience. Everyone knows the best way to find out how wrong you are is to be so on the Internet.
One thing he does get right, perhaps because of the prevalence of Scienceblogs and their cultural skew, is "writing can be done for any purpose—political, religious, business, etc.—without the constraint of truth."
It's true that they tend toward politics and religion-bashing over there but that is nothing new and if his standard is 'journalism' he could have done some actual fact checking of his own before issuing forth his opinion - "without the constraint of truth" - and examined more than one site. We have science columnists and bloggers that are high science signal and low cultural noise, as does Wired, Discover, etc. Murray can be forgiven for never having heard of Science 2.0 but Wired and Discover are those magazines he says are the gold standard so implying their blogging is inferior seems like a strange argument to make, especially since ACS started hosting blogs, including some I would put in league with any science writers in the country.
Caveat emptor, indeed, but we have long applied that to ACS studies and every peer-reviewed journal out there, much less magazine pieces and newspapers. Bloggers are more popular than ever because those media sources he loves lost the trust of the public. If they want to get that credibility back, they need to take it. The days of entitlement are long gone.
Caveat Emptor When It Comes To Science Blogs?
By Hank Campbell | October 14th 2010 03:40 PM | Print | E-mail