In the press and here on this blog, folks sometimes talk about “the science says” in order to claim authority for a certain set of views. Given the not insignificant difference among fields (e.g., landscape ecology is not fire science is not medicine is not psychology) it is difficult to say very much about the science, or research biz, as a whole. Except that more funding is needed of course ;). Like journalism, or land management, there is the ideal of how science is conducted, and then there is the reality. In what contexts are scientific claims, or claims made by scientists (not the same) privileged? What do scientists choose to study and what do they not study? How do they value the findings of related fields? How do they place their findings in context and relate them to the real world? What studies are funded, by whom, and who decides? How are practitioners’ or policy makers’ views of importance or relevance, and practical knowledge, taken into account (if at all)?
Here’s an interesting piece by an experimental psychologist from the Netherlands. I excerpted each reason below. The comments are also interesting.
I think the topics he brings up are worth thinking about, and I hope we can incorporate them as we look at studies in the future.
1. Blogs have Open Data, Code, and Materials
When you want to evaluate scientific claims, you need access to the raw data, the code, and the materials. Most journals do not (yet) require authors to make their data publicly available (whenever possible).
2. Blogs have Open Peer Review
Scientific journal articles use peer review as quality control. The quality of the peer review process is as high as the quality of the peers that were involved in the review process. The peer review process was as biased as the biases of the peers that were involved in the review process. For most scientific journal articles, I can not see who reviewed a paper, or check the quality, or the presence of bias, because the reviews are not open.
3. Blogs have no Eminence Filter
Everyone can say anything they want on a blog, as long as it does not violate laws regarding freedom of speech. It is an egalitarian and democratic medium. This aligns with the norms in science. As Merton (1942) writes: “The acceptance or rejection of claims entering the lists of science is not to depend on the personal or social attributes of their protagonist; his race, nationality, religion, class, and personal qualities are as such irrelevant.” We see even Merton was a child of his times – he of course meant that his *or her* race, etcetera, is irrelevant.
4. Blogs have Better Error Correction
When I make an error in a blog post, I can go in and update it. I am pretty confident that I make approximately as many errors in my published articles as I make in my blog posts, but the latter are much easier to fix, and thus, I would consider my blogs more error-free, and of higher quality.
5. Blogs are Open Access (and might be read more).
It’s obvious that blogs are open access. This is a desirable property of high quality science. It makes the content more widely available, and I would not be surprised (but I have no data) that blog posts are *on average* read more than scientific articles because they are more accessible.
Something I would add to Lakens’ list, for fields with practitioners, like our own, is that blogs allow feedback from people in practice. If we think of a neurological study that says “at the molecular level, it appears that y is related to x so we hypothesize drug z might help” the neurologist practitioners might be able to say “yes, I had three patients that happened to be on that drug and they haven’t had symptoms, but only ones who also had condition q” possibly adding to our joint knowledge. It even goes to the patient, or in our case landowner, citizen, community member. It makes knowledge claims open to public discussion and while there are problems with this approach, if we are interested in finding out how things really work, it seems to me that open sources and discussion are the way to go.