Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3): Why I won’t be participating (yet?).

I am partially aware of the discussions that have been taking place about having some sort of quasi-official designation that a particular blog post is discussing peer reviewed research. I am all for improving the discourse on blogs when it comes to reporting research. Some readers may recall that I was involved in a minor row (since resolved amicably) over the way a discussion of a paper by some well respected researchers was conducted. I also don’t think blogs count as anything like peer review, and if anyone suggests otherwise, it’s probably because they don’t actually participate much in the peer review process as either an author or a reviewer.

On the other hand, I think blogs are an excellent place to discuss, disseminate, and dissect peer-reviewed articles in a way that makes them more accessible to a broader audience and opens the scientific process to view by non-specialists. My concern is simply that people could mistake what happens on blogs for how the peer review system functions.

There is now a new icon that bloggers are encouraged to use when discussing peer-reviewed research, which was the victor in an open design contest by the Bloggers for Peer Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3):

According to their site,

Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by developing an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.

I agree with the general notion of letting readers know that peer-reviewed research (vs., say, just someone’s opinion) is being described, but I’m afraid I can’t participate in the program as structured. Why? Because the name, “Bloggers for Peer Reviewed Research Reporting” is ambiguous — is the reporting peer reviewed? No, it isn’t, but this could give the wrong impression. In fact, the logo strongly reinforces this, reading only “Peer Reviewed Research BPR3“.

It’s a decent idea, but the impression it gives in its current manifestation is contrary to my views on the role of blogging in scientific communication.

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Update:

Evolgen is promising (threatening?) to publish original, unreviewed research on a blog. Slap the above icon on it, and this would give a very misleading impression to nonexperts. I have to oppose both developments if they are going to, in any way, appear to circumvent or undermine peer review processes. (Update: he will be using this as an educational demonstration, which I fully support… but let’s not have it go beyond that on other blogs).

BPR3 has provided a reply to this post and the comments it engendered, and to their credit they are looking at making some changes to improve the situation. Of course I will be open to participating in the future if I feel it is useful and in accordance with my views on blogging about science. I wish them luck with this.



5 comments to Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3): Why I won’t be participating (yet?).

  • Ian

    Like you, I’m not entirely comfortable with the concept, though I like the underlying idea. Almost everything on my blog fits into their category (discussing peer-reviewed science in a relatively academic way) — but anyone who can’t figure that out for themselves, but would grasp it from seeing a little logo, really isn’t my target audience…

    The BPR3 concept probably makes more sense for some of the (more popular) blogs out there, that are broadly science blogs but spend much of their time on the politics, religion, or other side-effects of science. There, tagging posts that are specifically based on the literature would probably help make them stand out. For blogs like yours and mine, which are much more focused to start with, the logo is just clutter. (Ironically, then, the BPR3 logo might actually select against some of the more academic discussions.)

    I haven’t been paying much attention to the BPR3 thing. At one point they were discussing some kind of clearing-house, or something, where BPR3-tagged blog posts could be pooled together. (In fact it seems to me that the clearing-house idea is at least part of what postgenomic.com ought to be doing. Right now, though, as far as I can tell, postgenomic doesn’t really have much of a reason for existing, offering little more than nifty web2.0 replays.) That, conceptually, strikes me as more useful than a rather meaningless, self-bestowed, stamp of approval from an unofficial body who might lose interest in the whole thing in the next month.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on in your comments section. Incidentally, how long have you been at U of G? I was there from 1979-1985, and from 1988-1990.

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  • TR Gregory

    Ian, all good points. I also am somewhat concerned that the folks behind it are not directly involved in actual peer review of scientific work on a regular basis as far as I can see. It’s mainly grad students, postdocs, and even some non-scientists.

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  • PredictER

    I too worry about the ambiguity of label. Academic librarians are constantly struggling to explain to peer-reviewed concept to undergraduates … one once asked me: “Who’s this ‘Peer’ guy anyway; is he someone famous?” I’m afraid this would just add more mud to the water. Students, for example, might wrongly cite blog entries as peer-reviewed sources. Maybe an aggregate of blogs on peer-reviewed literature would be viable without the icon. Perhaps a “Journal Watch”, to borrow the title of Christian’s blog “Med Journal Watch“, would be a useful conceptual model for such a service.

    Jere, PredictER Blog

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  • Larry Moran

    I’m not very enthusiastic about the proposal either. I’ve stated my objections here: [Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting].

    I’m waiting to see how it pans out before making a commitment one way or the other but I won’t be putting the icon on my blog for the time being.

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  • Dave Munger

    Good points, both in Ryan’s post and in the comments. I’ve written a response over at BPR3.

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