Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blogger ethics: existing codes III

The Association of Health Care Journalists Statement of Principles may in many ways be more relevant to science blogging than the other two. There definitely appears to be shared ground. Of course, medical journalists should have even higher standards than science bloggers, because people take this stuff really seriously. One of the principles that really got me thinking was
Understand the process of medical research in order to report accurately
I tend to think of science bloggers as scientists and graduate students - people who either have advanced degrees in the fields they write about, or are pursuing advanced degrees. Then I realised that Brian Switek (Laelaps) is an undergraduate, while Chris Mooney has a B.A. in English (according to his Wikipedia biography). They are two of the most effective science bloggers. So now I have to rethink the demarcation issue. A code of ethics is all the more important when you realise that "science blogger" is both a broader and more narrow term than I had previously thought.

The codes of ethics put forward by Tim O'Reilly and CyberJournalist address some useful issues, but they are (intentionally) broad - they are meant to cover bloggers as a whole. The medical journalist code is more specific. While its target group shares many characteristics with science bloggers, there are notable differences. In general, science bloggers aren't going to be investigative journalists. In addition, their code is probably more narrowly focussed than a science blogger code of ethics should be.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Thank you for the compliment! (Although I can't say I'm sorry for throwing a monkey wrench in your perception of who a science blogger is). There are a number of other people who blog about science but aren't grad students or PhD's like Afarensis, and in cases like mine I think it's really community discussion/policing that has somewhat allowed me to get where I am. If I didn't know what I was talking about then I wouldn't be on Sb, so I think the community aspect of blogging really allows readers to "vote" with comments and pageviews as to who is on the mark and who is not.