Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Defining science bloggers: Casey Luskin and BPR3

Wikipedia has a policy page which outlines What Wikipedia is Not. While it is possible to define Wikipedia in positive terms (it is an encyclopaedia and an online community of people working to write that encyclopaedia), it's more useful to define it in negative terms - not a dictionary, not a soapbox, not a publisher of original thought... After Casey Luskin's recent (mis)use of the ResearchBlogging (formerly BPR3) logo on a post at Evolution News & Views, a debate sprung up over the issue of his use of the icon. The ResearchBlogging icon is supposed to be used for blog posts about peer reviewed research. I first came across the issue yesterday when Mike Dunford raised the issue - among the issues with Luskin's use of the icon was the fact that, instead of registering to the site, it was downloaded to the Discovery Institute's server and hosted there, with no backlink to ResearchBlogging.org.

There's a more fundamental question of whether Luskin's post meets the guidelines for its use. While some people raised the issue of whether a review article meets the requirement of "peer reviewed research" and questioned whether EN&V can be called a blog (since it lacks a comment section), two other issues were more important:
  • The post author should have read and understood the entire work cited.
  • The blog post should report accurately and thoughtfully on the research it presents.
Luskin's post does not appear to meet the second guideline - that the post reported "accurately and thoughtfully". There's the quote mining issue - that bits were picked out of the paper to support a specific agenda. Couple this with the fact that Luskin put words in the mouth of the author that weren't in the paper, and the end result was that the post did not accurately reflect the paper.

In trying to define science bloggers, I suggested that
  1. Science bloggers blog about science because they find it interesting
  2. Science bloggers are interested in communicating their field of interest to people outside of their immediate field
  3. Science bloggers are frequently motivated by a desire to defend science against pseudoscience and denialism
In my opinion, Luskin's work can't be called science blogging - it's agenda-driven blogging which seeks to discredit science. Rather than making it more accessible to the public, Luskin leaves his readers with a misunderstanding of what the paper was trying to say. Given that my original set of criteria were based largely on intent, I think it may be more useful to recast them in terms of what science blogging is not.

Posts on this issue

BPSDBOther people who mentioned the issue


Mike O'Risal said...


Not even a mention.

We tiny little bloggers can't catch a break! ;)

Ian said...

Crap. I had your post open among the tabs...and somehow it got lost. Sorry.

Mister DNA said...

It's nice to see my image getting some play, though in all fairness, Sparc deserves some credit - it was his request at AtBC for a "BSpr3" graphic that inspired me.

There's a larger, revised version of the graphic here.

ERV said...

Well, I think we all kinda missed something obvious-- EN&V is NOT a blog.

Why the hell should they get approval to put 'BLOGGERS for Peer Reviewed Research'?

Mike O'Risal said...


That's not entirely true; a couple of people have mentioned it on other threads scattered about in various blogs. I think someone brought it up on The Questionable Authority, and one of my objections on BPR was that EN&V doesn't allow comment, which defeats the whole purpose of a system intended to facilitate discussion.

There is no reason that EN&V should ever use that icon, though. Aside from the obvious, nobody there blogs about peer reviewed research. They intentionally obfuscate peer reviewed research; all they blog about is what they wish scientists would publish, not what actually gets published.

Ian said...

EN&V is NOT a blog
Damn - you mean I didn't say that either? I thought about it while I was writing this post (not that I thought of it...I read it somewhere).

ERV said...

LOL Well you said they werent a blog because they didnt allow comments-- but I mean they arent a blog any more than say, aidstruth.org is a blog. AIDSTruth contributors certainly critique and summarize contemporary HIV research and provide cultural commentary on HIV/AIDS, but its not a blog, and I would find the BPR3 icon there out of place as well.

EN&V isnt a blog, for more reasons than the comments.