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Friday, September 07, 2007

Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting

 
Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting is a fledgling organization that's going to try and impose some standards on the reporting of peer-reviewed papers by bloggers. Here's their mission statement at [BPR3.org].
Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by developing an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.
The idea is to list all blog posts about peer-reviewed scientific literature on one site (with an RSS feed) and to identify all such blogs with a copyrighted icon.

What's the point of that, you might ask? Well, it's because BPR3 wants to impose some sort of standards on the blogging community. Here's how Dave Munger describes it on the BPR3.org website.
Here’s how I imagine we might handle this issue:
  • Credentialling of blog authors is probably a bad idea — some expert bloggers have good reasons for being anonymous, and there are many blogs run by graduate students, journalists, and others without PhDs that offer thoughtful commentary on peer-reviewed literature

  • Instead, we could have bloggers register their blogs here. Then we will (eventually) have an aggregation system which will allow links to those blogs’ posts about peer-reviewed research to appear on this site.

  • If a blog appears to be abusing the system, either by not meeting our definition of peer review, or not commenting thoughtfully on the article, then readers could alert us and we could remove them from the list of registered blogs. How exactly would that process work? We’re open for suggestions.

  • A secondary process could be used to combat abuse of the icon itself (whether or not the blog is actually aggregated here). This would require BPR3 to maintain copyright of the icon, so that we could deny permission to use the icon to those who abuse it. Again, we’d love to hear suggestions about how that might work.

Any other ideas/suggestions? Let us know in the comments.
I write a lot of articles about peer-reviewed research so this is right up my alley. I've got to say right up front that I'm not very enthusiastic about the proposal. Any attempt to impose order on the blogging community is doomed from the start, in my opinion. Furthermore, I don't see any advantage for most bloggers. What's in it for them?

We already have a sort of system that mimics this "peer review" of blog articles. It's the various carnivals that are published every week (see my list in the sidebar). The idea is that the carnival moderator will pick the best of the blog articles that have appeared recently and collect them on a single site. You can judge for yourself whether this has been a remarkable success over the years. From my perspective the quality of the articles in most carnivals varies enormously and I've no reason to suspect that the same won't happen on the BPR3 site.

What does everyone here think? Is this an idea that's going to work?

8 comments :

  1. some standards on the reporting ot pee-reviewed papers

    I don't think I want to read anything more about this. :-)

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  2. Furthermore, I don't see any advantage for most bloggers. What's in it for them?

    Readership, presumably. More eyeballs per post is apparently a goal of many bloggers.

    Having said that, I also fail to see much appeal in this. It looks like it might be a good way, once it's established, of finding blogs that consistently and frequently report on peer-reviewed literature. Maybe.

    What of bloggers who post on a myriad of subjects, only occassionally venturing into the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. myself)? Do I deserve a cute little emblem for my one-in-a-hundred posts about scientific papers? Would I lose that emblem for posting about the very worst of peer-reviewed literature, for example any article from the journal Medical Hypotheses? Am I immediately disqualifying myself from this clique by stating the above?

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  3. I think it's a worthy experiment at least.

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  4. Its not really imposing standards on the blogging community. BPR3 is voluntary. Certainly there is no net effect on the reputation of established bloggers like yourself or may others. But other blogs would like to be recognized for the hard work they put into giving a a review, critique or analysis of a peer-reviewed research article. Not necessarily to get higher readership or generate new subscribers, but the majority may just want to start or engage in conversation about a subject. I think imposing order is bit of stretch. The more bloggers that participate, especially from established researchers such as yourself, the more applicable and interesting the project will be.

    Credentialing, an idea I first suggested, is probably a bad idea given the arguments you outlined. When I first brought it up, I didn't intend it as a revealing of your CV, merely a statement saying what you technical specialities or interests are. There need not be revealing of identities.

    The aggregation system is the most useful part of this idea in my opinion. A central warehousing site for posts on a journal article searchable by paper, subject, area of research, authors, etc.

    I'm not sure how you see this as disadvantageous to bloggers. At worst, it has no effect. At best it exposes readers to research they might not hear about otherwise. For the blogger, participating if at minimally only using the icon and linking to the aggregation doesn't take much additional time. The standards really have more to do with ensuring the article is a legitimate peer-reviewed one and by thoughtfully commenting (loosely defined) on that article. i.e. not just rehashing the abstract.

    Actually, most of the carnivals are NOT peer-reviewed in any sense. Bloggers send their submissions by the deadline and they get posted. Presumably the carnival host has read them to ensure they are applicable to the mission of the carnival, but I do not think that the majority of carnival hosts or moderators actually select the articles themselves. I am not sure about the more purely bio-medical type ones though.

    I certainly agree that quality varies between carnivals. Will it be the same at BPR3? That depends on the users of the idea. One way in which BPR3 differs is that posts have to be thoughtful commentary on peer-reviewed articles by definition. Many posts at carnivals don't necessarily need to be on peer-reviewed material.

    The more people involved from the outset and giving their input, the greater the chance this will be a useful resource for readers and writers, as well potentially other media outlets.

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  5. "What of bloggers who post on a myriad of subjects, only occassionally venturing into the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. myself)?"

    The icon and aggregation refers to the post and not the whole blog. Participants or registrants, if they go that way, will be listed as such but there is no expectation that bloggers are to only or mostly put out commentary on peer-reviewed articles.

    If Medical Hypotheses undergoes some sort of peer review process than posts on those articles would certainly qualify!

    The goal of the icon is merely to unify these types of posts and connect the posts to aggregation feed. If you have a nice "cute little emblem" idea submit by sept. 10 to the contest thread. And again, peer-review has been defined somewhat loosely. In fact, you can join in the discussion about what exactly is peer-reviewed and what isn't at BPR3.org. The goal is mainly to state the authors have at least read the paper and not only a press release, for example.

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  6. I'm confused about another thing. I have assumed, and this is confirmed in the first quote) that this is about distinguishing and finding academic blogging.

    But now Dave Munger discuss blogging about peer-reviewed literature in general. ("there are many blogs run by graduate students, journalists, and others without PhDs that offer thoughtful commentary")

    He proposes a quality system, so it isn't a big deal - it is a new good opportunity even. And something I should help shaping, apparently.

    But this nags me: who is a peer in "peer-review"? Shouldn't they call it something else?

    What about "dear-review"? Like in "I love science dearly"? :-P

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  7. It's not really an attempt to impose order -- it's a way for academic bloggers to get their posts noticed -- and for others to find these posts.

    Of course bloggers can just participate in carnivals, but carnivals only appear ever week or two. What if you write several of these posts a week?

    Of course, it's entirely possible that the concept won't take off. I don't really have a problem with that -- I already have an icon for my own posts that distinguishes the serious posts talking about peer-reviewed research, and my readers can already elect to see only those posts in my blog.

    But there seems to be enough interest in the concept that it just might work. How about if we give it a few months once it's actually implemented before we declare it dead?

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  8. Dave Munger:

    Thanks for clarification, "academic bloggers" it remains.

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