Thursday, February 16, 2012

A glimpse of what science is really like: Rosie Redfield's Blog

Nature's ten people who mattered in 2011
Something significant happened as 2011 drew to a close.  The journal Nature named Rosie Redfield one of the ten people who mattered in 2011.  This is significant because she made the list because of her blog, and proved once and for all that blogs are a serious force to be reckoned with in science.

Redfield's blog is a model of open notebook science where data is freely shared as it becomes available.  More importantly, in my opinion, is offers an accurate glimpse of what life is like in academic scientific research: data collection and analysis, writing and submitting a paper for publication, fiddling with software, writing a grant proposal, etc.

The last sentence of the latter post brought another post on another blog to mind: why should blog even if you have no readers.

The fear of being scooped
Why don't we all do this? We are afraid of being scooped: that people will take the data or ideas posted on the blog and write a "real" paper before we can.  Not only is this a rather dim view of humanity and an overly optimistic assessment of the importance of ones research compared to that of others (isn't it pretty trivial if it can be copied with little effort?), it also implies that blogs are not taken seriously as a means of communicating science and I think Nature's top ten list for 2011 has finally proved otherwise.

Anyway, that's what I keep telling myself.

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