Social and scientific implications of science blogging.


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Slides from the talk I gave in the session “Opening Science to All: Implications of Blogs and Wikis for Social and Scholarly Scientific Communication” at the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Annual Meeting in Milwaukee, WI, in October 2007.

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Social and scientific implications of science blogging.

  1. 1. Social and Scientific Implications of Science Blogging Janet D. Stemwedel Department of Philosophy San Jos é State University [email_address]
  2. 2. Scientific communication as essential to scientific practice <ul><li>Sharing results </li></ul><ul><li>Articulating theories </li></ul><ul><li>Training new scientists </li></ul>
  3. 3. Scientific communication as essential to scientific practice <ul><li>Asking non-scientists for resources </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing vital information with the public </li></ul><ul><li>Shaping general scientific education </li></ul>
  4. 4. Scientific communication through traditional channels <ul><li>Peer reviewed literature </li></ul><ul><li>Back and forth between scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Long timescale </li></ul><ul><li>Incentive to be secretive about findings, methods </li></ul><ul><li>Competing interests of peer reviewers </li></ul>
  5. 5. Scientific communication through traditional channels <ul><li>Conference presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Back and forth between scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Shorter timescale, but ephemeral </li></ul><ul><li>Those not at the conference aren’t generally part of the conversation </li></ul>
  6. 6. Scientific communication through traditional channels <ul><li>Press releases/popular presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Not much back and forth between scientists and lay audience </li></ul><ul><li>At the mercy of science journalists </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges of “framing” to communicate effectively </li></ul>
  7. 7. Knowledge-building requires good communication. <ul><li>Objectivity achieved by comparing results/interpretations with many other scientists, trying to screen out biases. (H.E. Longino, Science as Social Knowledge , 1990) </li></ul><ul><li>Many scientific questions require interdisciplinary approaches. </li></ul><ul><li>Avoiding duplication, dead-ends. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Worries about traditional channels of communication <ul><li>Comes at culmination of research project, not while it is being conducted </li></ul><ul><li>What is reported reflects the biases of reviewers and journal editors </li></ul><ul><li>Amount of information that isn’t reported (especially what didn’t work) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Promising features of blogs <ul><li>Back and forth on a short timescale (through comments, discussions on other blogs) </li></ul><ul><li>Less ephemeral than non-virtual conversations </li></ul><ul><li>Potential to involve people from many places, disciplines, backgrounds </li></ul>
  10. 10. Promising features of blogs <ul><li>Free of some pitfalls of peer review (e.g., conservative tendencies with respect to judging new findings) </li></ul><ul><li>Quality control? </li></ul><ul><li>A window into scientific knowledge building as a process (vs. “finished” knowledge) </li></ul>
  11. 14. Community functioning within the tribe of science <ul><li>Training in theory, instrumentation, experimental strategies, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Within the community, who do we pay attention to? (vs. Mertonian norm of universality) </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring (on grant-writing, manuscripts, setting and solving problems, how to be a good scientist) </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement with collaborators </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement with competitors </li></ul>
  12. 15. Community functioning within the tribe of science <ul><li>Talking explicitly about scientist-to-scientist interactions frequently ignored or done in private. </li></ul><ul><li>Huge challenge to prospective scientists to grasp the nature of the community they’ll be joining! </li></ul>
  13. 16. Blogs as windows into the workings of scientific communities. <ul><li>What is it like to be a scientist in a particular field, work setting, career stage, geographical location, etc? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there anyone else like me? (Ability to build a virtual community in the absence of critical mass for a “real” community.) </li></ul>
  14. 20. Blogs as windows into the workings of scientific communities. <ul><li>How prevalent is this practice? </li></ul><ul><li>Do others in the community find this practice as problematic as I do? </li></ul><ul><li>How could things be different? </li></ul>
  15. 23. Blogging as a different kind of conversation. <ul><li>Audience of the willing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Will anyone read this? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anyone can read this! </li></ul></ul>
  16. 24. Echo chamber vs. pitched battled <ul><li>Option to control disclosure of personal details </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who’s an authority? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Risk of getting dooced </li></ul></ul>
  17. 26. Can blogs shift the culture? <ul><li>Competitions between individuals for scarce resources vs. cooperation on a joint goal (increasing and improving shared body of knowledge) </li></ul><ul><li>Starting to take mentoring seriously </li></ul><ul><li>Regularizing discussions of community norms and structures </li></ul>
  18. 27. Interaction with the larger society <ul><li>“ Audience of the willing” means non-scientists can read scientists’ blogs -- cultivating interest among non-experts </li></ul><ul><li>Direct communication (rather than filtering through a journalist, competing for column space or air time </li></ul><ul><li>Lay readers have access to scientists of whom they can ask questions </li></ul>
  19. 29. Interaction with the larger society <ul><li>Ongoing discussions that reveal science as a process </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency (hard work, not cheating and wasting our money) </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists revealed as humans with lives outside the lab </li></ul>
  20. 30. Interaction with the larger society <ul><li>Engagement between scientists and non-scientists may: </li></ul><ul><li>Change how non-scientists understand science and scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Change how scientists understand their own tribe </li></ul><ul><li>Expand our sense of community </li></ul>
  21. 31. Scientists, not blogs, hold the key to the future of science <ul><li>Any tool can be a weapon if you hold it right. -- Ani Di Franco </li></ul><ul><li>BUT blogs can make it easier to find and engage with like-minded members of your tribe with whom to steer things in a better direction. </li></ul>
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