Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research — I still am not participating (yet).

Some readers might recall my comments from September 2007 regarding the “Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3)”, in which I noted that I was not going to participate, at least for the moment. The reason was that I thought the name and icon that had been selected gave the misleading sense that the blog post itself had undergone review, not that it was simply about peer-reviewed research. As a scientist, I take the peer review system very seriously (its several problems notwithstanding) and I do not wish to see blogs perceived as even an approximation of that system. That said, blogs are a useful way to discuss research, and I am happy to see this new development in science communication.

The folks at BPR3 accepted my criticism, and I am pleased to note that the icon was quickly fixed. I also think the idea of an aggregator (ResearchBlogging.org) for posts on research articles is useful, so in principle I can see the utility of the idea.

The questions I had initially were: 1) will the icon give a false impression that the blog is reviewed? and 2) does such an icon really add anything, and can’t readers tell if a post is about a paper? I did not anticipate the third question that has now come up: 3) what will be done if the icon is used inappropriately by anti-evolutionists?

You can read about the situation that is happening right now with the icon and its misuse by a proponent of intelligent design here, here, here

My response is simply to echo what some others have already said and to recommend that the following items be made prerequisites for gaining permission to use the BPR3 icon and aggregation service:

  1. Users must allow open comments and trackbacks on their post, or provide an unambiguous link to a discussion thread on the BPR3 site relating to the post, and these must remain accessible indefinitely.
  2. Users must clearly indicate any sections that represent their opinions instead of conclusions that are discussed in or could reasonably be derived directly from the paper being described.
  3. Users must acknowledge that the administrators reserve the right to deny or revoke permission to use the icon if a user demonstrates behaviour inconsistent with the guidelines and principles of the BPR3 project.

If anti-evolutionists or anyone else is willing to live by these rules in addition to those that already have been determined, then let them use the icon. Forcing them to open their comments and provide trackbacks will be a major improvement over the current situation. If BPR3 makes these further changes, I will probably start participating (I doubt they will do anything just on my behalf, but on the other hand they could probably use more professional researchers on their side, and I do not imagine that my view is unique among us).

And folks, let’s remember one other thing: it’s just an icon and an aggregator service and nothing more — it is not the arbitrator of what is good or official among scientific blogs.



3 comments to Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research — I still am not participating (yet).

  • Ian

    I agree with 1 and 3. I agree with 2 in spirit, but the way you have phrased it, it sounds like you think opinions should be clearly segregated. I think that it just needs to be obvious what’s opinion and what’s not.

    Have you made the suggestion over at BPR3? I think you’ve summarised the key points pretty well.

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  • TR Gregory

    Right, I don’t mean they have to provide them separately, only that it must be clearly indicated that it is opinion in a given section of the post rather than a conclusion from the paper. For most people, this will be obvious and won’t be an issue, but for antievolutionists it needs to be specified.

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  • Ian

    Actually it’s something that has me thinking about how clearly I distinguish my opinion from what the paper says. Just because the difference is obvious to me doesn’t mean it’s obvious to someone reading my blog post. So even without Luskin, it’s an important point to make simply as a reminder.

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