Monday, January 28, 2008

Blogger ethics: existing codes IV

Another existing bloggers code of ethics has been added to the Science Blogging Ethics Wiki (it's a wiki, after all). This one, the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics has five components
  1. Clear representation of perspective
  2. Confidentiality
  3. Commerical disclosure
  4. Reliability of information
  5. Courtesy
The first of these is similar to a point I made earlier - while we all have opinions on areas outside of our training, readers should know where you are coming from, they should know the difference between when you speak as an expert and when you simply speak as a person with an opinion. While it may be pretty clear to you when you are speaking as one or the other (for example: I assume it's pretty clear to both of my readers that I know nothing about ethics), it may not be clear to your readers.

The issue of confidentiality is far more relevant to a doctor or a lawyer, but there will be times when a science blogger has information she or he should not a manuscript you're reviewing that has something awfully cool...but there are probably far fewer examples. The issue of commercial ties is also true, but likely to have much less weight
If the author is using their blog to pitch a product, it must be clear that they are doing that.
After all, few ecologists are wined and dined by company reps (I can see it now, Forestry Suppliers sending former beauty queens as sales reps to ecology labs...)

The issue of reliability is important. If bloggers aren't taken seriously, then we have to do our best to change that perception. And then there's courtesy. I've said something about this on my commentary on Tim O'Reilly's blogger code of ethics. More later, once I've figure out what I think about the matter.

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