Who Are They? More Musings from #scio12

Jan 27 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Over at Take as Directed the always-marvelous David Kroll posted an example of a scientific author taking exception to what he said in a post. The author emailed him about "mythology and gross misstatements" in the original post, and he offered to chat by phone about the issues. David asked him to point out factual errors and make his case in the comments, which he refused to do.

The comments house an interesting discussion, but many respondents also feel that it is not worth their time to participate in the comments of a blog post:

I do relate to the author’s comment about hesitant about engaging in blog comments. We as scientists are often told to avoid the comments sections of posts, as they are a quagmire where the time and energy required for engagement vastly outweighs the effectiveness of participating. I am sympathetic with the author’s decision not to engage in that way.

As a moderator of the Science Online session on the resistance to scienceblogging by journals and other established authorities, I am curious about where this impression came from. Did someone actually tell this person not to engage in blog-based discussions? Is this merely a general impression? What is at the root of this resistance?

Please comment below or over at Take as Directed and let me know what you think. If this effort is worth my time, it's worth a bit of your day as well!

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5 responses so far

  • scicurious says:

    i know when people have worried about commenting on my blog, it's because they want to make it a comment, like you'd see in a journal. I think there's a lot of worry about not appearing professional.

  • Jacquelyn says:

    The comment you quoted from was mine, so let me clarify: As a woman who does climate change and extinction research, I have been cautioned (by scientists and journalists) against reading and responding to blog comments in pieces on my work because of the time-intensiveness and perceived futility of engaging trolls, climate skeptics, and creationists (for example). I am a scientist who blogs; I certainly would never suggest that the blogosphere isn't an important or powerful place for discussion, and that engagement is not worth my time!

    I was a bit surprised that David told the author to leave a comment, rather than engaging with him on a more personal level to find out what the author's problems with the piece were (after all our discussion at scio12 on building trust and relationships). A quick phone conversation could have gone a long way to earning the author's trust, I think. Instead, the author feels personally attacked, and his complaints aren't aired. I feel like we haven't made any progress here.

    • Pascale says:

      I would agree that commenting on "the enemy's" blog is counterproductive. There is still resistance to engaging in online discussions among scientists. I would like to have seen the author comment, since clearly he and David both have expertise in the area and the readers could have learned something from an exchange.

      The author did not see the post as that of an enemy, since s/he chose to engage at some level. I would love to know why s/he refused to address the issues as a comment.

    • scicurious says:

      I often encourage scientists to leave their concerns in a comment to look at HOW the process of science and science communication works, where common misconceptions or disagreements can occur, etc. It allows people to see that scientists do not always agree as to how things should be run or described, and allows them to watch scientific discussions take place.

  • RogerTheGeek says:

    Don't many employers forbid employees from commenting about research to the press without going through their public relations or communications staff. I would assume that most scientists in industry are under some sort of control by their employers.

    What types of restrictions are put on researchers who work under federal grants and/or contracts about communications with the media?

    I'm unsure about how these issues would work with commenting on blogs.