Some comments peer-review and a year of blogging

April 13, 2011

(This article was first published on BioStatMatt » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

It’s been a year since I began keeping a web log. This post presents some thoughts related to the experience.

Blogging is Sharing Ideas

Blogging is online self-publishing. There is no faster way to share your ideas so broadly. Last year at the useR! conference (in Gaithersburg, MD, just a few months after I started writing online), someone I’d never met walked directly to me and asked, “Aren’t you BioStatMatt?” I couldn’t believe it!

Journal Articles and Peer Review

“Published papers are the currency of science”, says Martin Raff et al. in Science magazine (2008, Vol. 321 no. 5885 p. 36). This phrase isn’t new, but I find Raff’s interpretation discouraging. In the article, the phrase means that published peer-reviewed journal articles are the currency of academic advancement, but not necessarily the currency of science.

Shared scientific ideas, arguments, and evidence are the currency of science. To extend the currency analogy, we might think of scientific theories like coins, with face value in proportion to how widely the ideas are accepted in the scientific community. Published peer-reviewed articles are a popular and useful medium for scientific currency. Peer-reviewed arguments and evidence are usually more well-developed, read more clearly, and are more consistent (i.e. conclusions follow from the evidence).

Online self-publishing isn’t peer-reviewed in the journal article sense. This may lead the reader to discount the legitimacy of ideas and evidence presented online. Such a reader commits a type of ad hominem (a logical fallacy), by discounting the validity of a premise because it hasn’t been vetted by a peer. Online scientific currency is often valid and insightful, but requires the reader to assume more responsibility in evaluating the evidence. In other words, the reader acts as his own editorial panel.

Some Advice for Blogging (No, I haven’t always adhered to this advice)

  • Give your posts an expiration date or make them timeless.
  • Be explicit about your constraints ( versions).
  • Be polite; as if you were face-to-face with your readers.
  • Use your best grammar, proof-read, and revise your text.

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