Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

06 April 2008

It's about the context

I was perusing my back-logged Google reader account when I stumbled on this gem. This was a commentary published in the most recent Nature Geoscience.

It breaks down why blogging may become an essential part of the scientific community. To summarize (not that it is a long article or anything, I just like to make my posts seem more than a quick blurb), the commentary argues that there is a disconnect between the layperson and the expert. And even in areas where the layperson is interested, information is restricted. This isn't due to any malevolence by the expert, it just happens.

The disconnect is caused in 2 primary ways:

1. The layperson doesn't have access to all the information. The construction of a pay-wall to gain access to most journals for example. (Even as a student, you can still feel the icy grip of this one. If it weren't for the fact that I can use a school account to gain access to articles, I would not be doing this very summary... ironic no?).

2. The background experience of the experts allows them to properly sift through papers and pull out the nuggets of wisdom. Whereas the layperson will either get bogged down in the jargon, or attach undue emphasis upon easy to understand throw-away statements. This can also give the false appearance that science isn't "lively" (to use the author's words).

The commentary correctly argues that blogs can be used as a way to bridge this gap. First, access to blogs is (as far as I know) free. I haven't found any that charge you to look at them. Secondly, the nature of blogs is far more casual. Which means experts can easily show their enthusiasm for their own field of interest. They don't have to always use jargon to stay below word/character counts. Experts can also directly engage readers in the comments section of blogs (either the original author, or just other individuals who follow a blog).

The take home message of this essay is that whether blogs will even be accepted by science or not (IMHO, we can use them, but they won't become the primary conveyance of knowledge), people will still find blogs when they are looking for information. When they do, would you rather the layperson see this, or this (Straw man, I know. But do you honestly think they will stop if we do?).

Schmidt, G., 2008, To blog or not to blog?: Nature Geosci, v. 1, no. 4, p. 208-208.

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All the Latin on this page is from my vague recollections from High School. There are mistakes in the text. I just was trying to get the point across

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

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