Science in science blogs

Should science bloggers distinguish between posts that cover peer reviewed research and those that focus on more light hearted matters like quizzes, photos of other bloggers down the pub and science in the mainstream media?

Dave Munger at Cognitive Daily thinks so. Last week he suggested creating an icon that bloggers could add to ‘serious’ posts that would help identify them as being academic in nature. He posed some interesting follow-up questions: how would you control usage? What is the definition of ‘serious’ in this context?

The idea was well recieved and now there’s a web site at where Dave and others are soliciting comments, ironing out the details and deciding exactly how the scheme is going to work.

The idea so far in bulletpoints (from

  • The BPR3 icon will represent, most importantly, a blog post that thoughtfully discusses peer-reviewed research.
  • All research should be formally cited according to the requirements of the discipline within which it falls, and linked when possible.
  • The post should make it clear when it is discussing research or ideas that are not peer reviewed.
  • The poster should have carefully read all research cited.
  • The icon should link back to the site in the manner we specify (this will depend on the method we choose for aggregating posts).

I think this is an excellent idea (in principle, anyway) and something that publishers should support. Blog trackbacks are a good complement to user comments on papers, but it’s hard to tell (in an automated way) if a post is discussing a paper in detail or just mentioning it in the passing – by checking to see if trackbacked pages contain the icon we could filter out irrelevant posts.

Distinguishing research from everyday blogging was one of the ideas behind Postgenomic. By adding some code to your html when linking to a paper – “rev=‘review’”, to be precise – you can tell Postgenomic that your post is reviewing that paper. This never really took off, partly because… well, it’s a bit boring to add markup to your posts by hand and see no immediate return. An icon could, at least, grab people’s imagination, though you’d want machine readable metadata embedded somewhere appropriate too…


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