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On science blogs (cont.)

Isn't blogging great - you can leave semi-random thoughts on the web, get responses and realize that the idea was much better than you initially assumed. After my post on why scientific communication feels static to me, a number of ideas came to my mind as soon as I went cycling that afternoon. Some of them survive to this day. In between, science blogs were exclaimed as the next big thing (the The Scientist article is no longer available to the general public... see?).

My claim still is: Blogging (and other "new" forms of communication over the internet) won't change the way we communicate in the natural sciences. The apparant flaws like the one-dimensional author list, anonymous, unpaid and uncredited peer review and the impact factor craze won't just go away using this "technology".

Would anything be better, if we build a system that would allow everybody to publish without initial peer review on some website/blog and other scientists would transparently comment on it? Citations could be followed easily and trackbacks or similar system would notify us of work in the field.

Much of the system is in place - Pubmed, the Digital Object Identifier, Faculty of 1000 (while not being as comprehensive as one might hope) are there. The conservative nature of sciences will prevent sudden changes, which might be a good thing: As archaic as the Science Citation Index sometimes appears, would you want to replace it with a spamable Google? And what about the information that is stored in paper journals only?

While people spend a considerable amount of time figuring out which journal to publish in to receive the credits they hope for, would anything be better if we replace it with an open system that would make it much harder to be critical? Most contemporary scientists state that they read to little already - we certainly do not want to increase the number of publications without ensuring their quality before they appear.

On the other hand, the internet has already changed the way our communication occurs - PLoS would not have worked without the internet which could reach a large number of scientist quickly. Email and news groups are there without us taking notice and I fail to see a pressing need for blogs to replace anything. I should not forget to add that there seems to be a considerable difference between the mathematics and physics in respect to the biological natural sciences, the prior already publishing much more independently and free on web sites and conferences.

There will be more science blogs - blogs that are used to communicate between scientists rather than communication of scientists with the general public as it happens on esteemed sites like Respectful Insolence or Bad Astronomy. However, they will focus on subjects around the sciences rather than replacing the traditional ways of publishing experimental results or breakthrough findings which undoubtedly will undergo other changes. It's exciting times - I wonder when the first big shots will start their blogs. Only then we'll see a major influx of blogs into the scientific communication anyway.

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