Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SCIENCE on blogs

There's an article in Science's Policy Forum on blogging: Environmental Science Adrift in the Blogosphere -- Ashlin and Ladle 312 (5771): 201 - Science. I only bring it up because it refers flatteringly to my blog ("excellent, informative sites can readily be found (table S2), but more are needed"), among a number of the usual suspects such as RC, scienceblogs, Prometheus and others :-)

On the basis of a rather limited survey (estimates of species extinction rates), the article suggests that the quality of information available is generally rather poor - 40% of the estimates are way too high, some are way too low - and it encourages more effort from scientists and others to improve matters:
Environmental scientists should actively engage in blogging to increase the presence of informed opinions in the blogosphere. Research supervisors should encourage students to blog while providing training in science communication and dissemination. Senior scientists should set up their own high-profile weblogs to help allay fears that blogging is somewhat disreputable. Blogging should be part of a portfolio of public engagement activities, even to the extent of including blogging as part of a researcher's job specification. Examples of excellent, informative sites can readily be found (table S2), but more are needed.
I'd certainly support that, and would like to especially draw attention to the blog of Bryan Lawrence, head of the British Atmospheric Data Centre (who I have belatedly added to my blogroll). I suspect that RC and efforts such as my own are basically tolerated by management (and only that insofar as they do not detract from the research effort) rather than really encouraged. However, I have found it very useful both to read the thoughts of others, and to take the trouble to clarify my own sufficiently to write them down. Moreover, it explicitly contributes to the "PUS" (public understanding of science) role that should already form part of every scientist's job description (and every research organisation's mission statement). So I'm very encouraged to see someone of such seniority not only advocating, but actually doing, blogging. This recent post of his on the subject of science communication, and the associated talk, are well worth a look (there's a bit towards the end on blogs and peer-review etc).

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