In these two posts on his blog All Kind Food, technology consultant Dennis McDonald attempts to encapsulate the key features that distinguish peer-reviewed journals from blogs. It is an ambitious challenge, to compare the formal structure of journal publication with the “anything goes” nature of the blogosphere, where last week might as well be last century.
Nevertheless, Mr McDonald has identified some key similarities: the motivation of prestige and reputation (journal impact measures or blog rankings in indexes like Technorati); “secondary publishing” via abstracting and indexing (journals) or the equivalent for blogs (Connotea, Delicious, Technorati listings); citations (formal references for journals or links and trackbacks for blogs), and various types of social network.
Although the publishing processes may be similar, blogs are not peer-reviewed. While acknowledging this crucial difference, Mr McDonald believes that it is these social networking aspects of both media where the peer-review process could integrate with the blogging system:
“The information contained in a refereed and published journal article, for example, may have been previously disseminated to other researchers via email, workshops, conferences or conference proceedings, or final reports submitted to funding agencies. In other words, the information that appears in a refereed journal article may have long been communicated to members of the author’s existing social and professional networks, especially to those working in the same or in very closely related technical or professional areas. It’s not unusual, for example, that research reported in a journal article has been long since superseded by other work done by the author.
The article itself, while it now becomes available to a much wider audience through the a wide range of physical and electronic access channels, acts not only as a conduit of research information but also an advertisement of the skill and accomplishments of the author, filtered by the “halo effect” of prestige and recognition of the journal in which it is published."