What is the difference between a paper and a blog post?

October 14, 2012

As things stand there are two principal types of written communication in science: papers and blog posts. We’ve discussed the relative merits of formally published papers and more informal publications such as blog-posts a couple of times, but perhaps never really dug into what the differences are between them.

Matt and I have been discussing this offline, and at one point Matt suggested that authorial intent is one of the key differences. When we write and submit a paper, we are sending a different message from when we post on a blog.

That’s true — at least in general, although there are edge-cases such as the formal research paper that Zen Faulkes recently posted as an entry on his blog. But even when it’s true, I’m not sure it’s relevant. As Matt pointed out, authorial intent ceases to be a factor once something is published. The audience will read it how they like and do with it what they want. So I think we need to consider the paper-vs.-blog-post question in terms of the artifact itself, and discount what the author intended.

When we do that, what differences do we see? Generalising, we find that:

  • Papers are PDF while blog-posts are HTML. (That’s not quite a trivial distinction: PDFs have less clutter.)
  • Blog-posts allow and invite comments, but papers do not.
  • Blog-posts are part of an ongoing discussion whereas papers are stand-alone.
  • Papers are archived on publisher sites, whereas blog-posts are on blogs, which may be more vulnerable or ephemeral.
  • Papers are immutable once published, whereas blog-posts can be edited after initial publication
  • Papers are peer-reviewed, while blog-posts are not.
  • Blog-posts are fast, but papers are slow.

Which of these are important? Which count as wins for papers and which as wins for blog-posts? Which of them are tied together with each other? Which are fundamentally properties of the medium, and which are associated with it only by tradition?

Comments, please!

About these ads

29 Responses to “What is the difference between a paper and a blog post?”

  1. Guest Says:

    Perhaps a peer review would have caught the big typo in the first sentence: “principal”, not “principle.”

    [Mike says: Haha, nice catch. Thanks for spotting, now fixed.]

  2. Andy Farke Says:

    Organization is another fundamental difference. A “paper” usually has a title, abstract, introduction, methods, results (or description), discussion/conclusions, and references. Blog posts are often only discussion/conclusions, or only results, or some ungainly mix of the two. This often makes papers easier to digest (but not always).

    I would also augment this with “time required to prepare”, which is a separate issue from “time from submission to publication” (as it is usually framed here). An individual blog post might take an hour or two to conceive and write, whereas a paper may take weeks, months, or years (exclusive of peer review). If you add up a series of blog posts along a common thread you may get similar time scales, so perhaps speed is not as much an advantage in the favor of blog posts as we think. This is to some extent a result of the next factor.

    Finally, I would argue that the “intellectual unit” of a blog post is much smaller than that of a paper. Blog posts lend themselves well to individual factoids, or quick discussions of an isolated observation, or little steps along the road of a bigger journey. Papers, in their usual mode of presentation, often present a broader and deeper story in one place. This is not to say that you can’t do such a thing with blog posts (you guys certainly have done that here), just that the burden is placed on the reader rather than the author to find that common thread.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    I guess I’d agree with pretty much all of that, Andy. It’s certainly true that papers have more of a tendency to stick to a standard structure — though, thankfully, that is less often imposed as a straitjacket now than it used to be, so that the structure becomes the servant of the argument, not its master.

    If you add up a series of blog posts along a common thread you may get similar time scales, so perhaps speed is not as much an advantage in the favor of blog posts as we think.

    But if a developing argument takes two years to put together in a paper before it’s submitted (ignoring the additional year to go through peer-review, revision and “in press”), then it’s still a real speed advantage for the 10 or 20 units of thought that make it up to be posted as they’re written. More than that, it’s an advantage of quality as well as speed, as the instant feedback to the earlier chapters is hugely influential over the later chapters.

    An obvious (if self-referential) example of this is found in the now very long sequence of Shiny Digital Future posts on this blog, which together amount to a very substantial paper. But if we’d saved all that material up and published it in a single shot … well, it’s misleading even to talk about that possibility, because it never was a possibility. We could never have arrived at the positions expressed in the later posts without all the discussion that arose from the earlier ones.

    (Just to be clear: I am not arguing here that blog-posts are therefore better than papers. I’m saying that this particular facet weighs in favour of blog-posts; but there remain many other factors.)

  4. Ben Says:

    Why stop at papers and blog posts? Conference posters, traditional newspaper articles, letters to the editor and museum exhibits are all written science communication with strengths and weaknesses, and differences both subtle and major.


  5. Long reply:

    On your points, let me just stress that when I see “blog,” I am thinking “personal blog,” to differentiate it from blogs in which editorial practices, press-releases or other institutional controls are present.

    1. Papers are PDF while blog-posts are HTML. (That’s not quite a trivial distinction: PDFs have less clutter.)

    Anything can be converted into a PDF file, stored remotely (figshare, photobucket, what have you, or even on the blog itself). Anything.

    2. Blog-posts allow and invite comments, but papers do not.

    There is a reason authors submit contact information, or institutional contacts, with their submissions. They must be reachable by the interested reader, for whatever reason. Gone are the days when we had no reasonable access to a person’s contact info, such as addresses. We can write letters, send email, etc., and they will be read.

    3. Blog-posts are part of an ongoing discussion whereas papers are stand-alone.

    PLoS One and in fact any digital medium for papers, just not print, does and can allow continuous communication to the authors, or on the article itself.

    4. Papers are archived on publisher sites, whereas blog-posts are on blogs, which may be more vulnerable or ephemeral.

    This is a big one, and was my main complaint against individuals citing blog posts as if they were equivalent. A paper, by pretense of its publisher, or external archiving outside of the responsibility of the author and with potentially far more insurance, are far more “permanent.” When archiving of data becomes a specific task for someone else, this frees up the author merely to write.

    5. Papers are immutable once published, whereas blog-posts can be edited after initial publication.

    The biggest difference: The paper/article, etc., is “permanent,” fixed, and without variance without releasing editions. Corrigenda are released and can be cited separately, allowing more fine tracking of alterations and responses to data or opinions.

    6. Papers are peer-reviewed, while blog-posts are not.

    I could probably get my blog posts peer-reviewed, if I wished and if there were people willing to look them over. I know I sent one of my blog posts by Matt Wedel to make sure what I wrote in it was accurate, as it was about a subject he also wrote on and I valued his opinion. I made changes according to responses he made, although it didn’t involve the practice of editor-controlled blind review which has become largely standard in the Science-paper industry.

    7. Blog-posts are fast, but papers are slow.

    That depends on what the blog or paper are about. A better way to put this is: Research is slow, coughing up one’s [learned] opinion is fast. Research deserves to take time, to inch it forward, pull it back where it errs, correct it steadily, until it is good enough that much of the rest of the work is polishing or semantics. Data should be sound, exemplars clear and applicable, writing decent, and explanations crystal. I can flub in a blog, fix it later, or preserve it with correct with a strike-through.

    But there’s also the issue that papers go through processes outside of the author’s control, including typesetting, figure alterations and placement, proofing and so forth, but also blind-review and editorial discretion, that personal blogs do not. This “slows” the process, while in blogs, you can hit “publish” and off it goes. In many ways, this helps underscore a problem in usage of the term “publish” for both the practice of producing a paper, and for dumping stream-of-thought onto a digital website. What we think we mean by “publish a paper” is on another level above that of “publish a blog,” so to equate the two rather than ensconce the work and detail that might be spent on a blog and instead put it into a paper seems out of keeping with one’s intent as a Science author.

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Ben asks:

    Why stop at papers and blog posts? Conference posters, traditional newspaper articles, letters to the editor and museum exhibits are all written science communication with strengths and weaknesses, and differences both subtle and major.

    I suppose that what marks papers and blog-posts out from those other forms of communication is that they are written for scientists rather than the general public (at least, the blog-posts we’re talking about here are), and that they don’t suffer from extreme length limits (except for papers published in the glamour mags, which I hardly count anyway).

    That said, maybe I should work this up into an nxn matrix of medium vs. property.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jaime. The general tenor of them seems to be that you consider most of the differences between papers and blog-posts insignificant, or at least contingent. Is that a fair summary?


  8. One other (independent?) dimension to consider is that, like it or not, ‘traditional publishing’ currently attracts ‘traditional credit’ in terms of academic kudos, promotion, tenure and grant awards in a way that blogging (generally) does not. I think this is changing, but it’ll be some time before the change has widespread effect. In that respect, even if in no other, papers and blog-posts are quite different. For now.

    The other factor that I think sets them apart is the ‘immutability’ aspect. Jan Velterop described (traditional) papers as ‘the minutes of science’ [1], and for them to be reliable, unchanging and accessible minutes they really need to be out of the author’s control once published. This is both to prevent tinkering with content, and to give ‘permanence’.

    ‘Peer review’ and ‘typography’ to my mind are largely irrelevant distinctions; the web does peer review really well, and automatically typesetting content to a sufficiently high quality is also easily automated (oddly these are the two things that publishers often claim are their unique, important and specialist contributions, whereas to my mind preservation/distribution and (sadly) ‘brand-as-used-for-promotion’ are far more influential factors).

    ‘The ongoing discussion’ part I think is not so important; it’s just that the technology for commenting on papers is much more clumsy at the moment than that for commenting on blogs. But this is not a fundamental thing, it’s just that the tech isn’t quite mature enough yet. There’s also the effect that commenting on an article is seen to be more significant/scary than commenting on a blog post — Nature.com, for example, apparently sees far more ‘chatter’ on the articles in the first half of the magazine (which are ‘newsy’ ones) than it does on those in the back half (which are more heavyweight ‘sciency’ ones). [Note: this is a 2nd hand anecdote, I've not investigated it myself]

    I suspect these factors then fight in a complex cause-and-effect tangle that influence “author’s intent”. I should probably untangle my thoughts a bit more before pressing submit… but it’s a reply to a blog post, so I don’t necessarily have to…

    ———————

    [1] J.J.M. Velterop, “Keeping the Minutes of Science.” In: Electronic library and visual information research (Elvira 2). Edited by Mel Collier and Kathryn Arnold. Proceedings of the second ELVIRA conference, held in May 1995 at De Montfort University, Milton Keynes. Aslib. 1995, pp 11-17.

    available at

    http://opendepot.org/1291/1/Velterop_%2D_Keeping_the_Minutes_of_Science.pdf

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Steve, for reminding us of the most fundamental difference between papers and blog-posts: only the former “count”. (That is a big part of the reason that Matt and I converted our seven-part blog series on neural-spine bifurcation into a manuscript that is currently in review.)

    The reason I left that out of my list is that it’s the effect whose causes I am trying to understand. You are right that papers “count” and blog-posts don’t; but why is this? To what extent do papers’ qualities of being PDF, comment-free, stand-alone, archived, immutable, peer-reviewed and slow contribute to their higher prestige?

    That’s an important question because the answers aren’t necessarily what we’d expect. You’d maybe think that being archived, immutable and peer-reviewed would be the big positives here. But we can make blog posts archived and immutable using services like WebCite, but that wouldn’t confer on them the status of papers. And there are plenty of papers that have not been peer-reviewed (e.g. my 2006 MTE paper on dinosaur diversity) but which count on CVs, and accumulate respectable numbers of citations. So where does the real difference lie?

    I’m really not sure.

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    BTW., I agree that typography is a red herring. In the 70s and earlier, typesetting was real art, demanding special skills and enormous labour. Now, it’s a matter of being a bit better with a page-layout program than the author. I did my own layout, of course, for our recent paper in arXiv, and I’m honestly at least as happy with it as I am with most journal layouts. Because I didn’t need to obsess about space, I was free to use a bigger, more readable font. More important, I was able to include the figures at nice, big sizes instead of squeezing them into half a page-width. In other respects, it’s not as pretty as what a journal would do with it, but it conveys the actual scientific information better, and that’s what I care about.

    I think the barrier to commenting on papers is much more social than technical.

  11. Richard Kidd Says:

    Additionally – a variant of 4 not based around archiving.

    Work gains more respect when exhibited by a third party. Partially it’s the selection, partially it’s the context – appearing alongside (hopefully) high quality papers written by (equally hopefully) highly respected authors.

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    Richard makes a good point — the mere involvement of a second party beyond the author is significant.

    Hmm. I’m glad to see more differences being posted here. Keep ‘em coming, folks — at some point I will post an updated version of this, incorporating more properties and a wider range of kinds of publication.


  13. I think the reason that traditional publication ‘counts’ because… it’s traditional that it does. I’ve previously called the effect the ‘deadly embrace’ (a term from computer science relating to deadlock). Put simplistically and probably cynically it goes something like this:

    1) Funding bodies need ‘reliable’ metrics to justify their grants (“Yes, dear tax-payer, that project went horribly wrong and produced no meaningful results, but it was a safe bet to fund it because all the numbers said it was”).

    2) Scientists need funding to do their stuff; which means doing things that are ‘measurable’.

    3) Publishing via traditional routes provides measurable numbers via citation counts and Impact Factors [the fact that most of these numbers are meaningless doesn't matter too much from the point of view of perpetuating the deadlock]

    And round and round we go.

    Publishers aren’t going to just stop doing their thing; it’s too lucrative, and if funding bodies are prepared to throw money on the pavement in front of them, its silly of us to expect them not to pick it up.

    For scientists, not publishing in credit-attracting outlets is a risky business — a kind of Prisoner’s Dilemma in that if we all jump together, the system is forced to change; but if only some of us jump, then those continuing to publish in traditional journals get the grants with reduced competition.

    So in my mind it’s not so much PDF versus HTML, or blog versus paper, or even (to some extent) Open versus Paywalled access; and more to do with this cycle that we’re stuck in. The historical origins are easy to understand; the solution much harder to spot! I can’t help feeling that ‘alternative metrics’ are the way to break it — but they need to be mature enough for funding bodies to trust as a reliable way to cover their backs when funding decisions go bad.

  14. Jaime A. Headden Says:

    Of the points listed, I feel that most of them are insignificant as the “differences” were stated; it may be that the phrasing touches on other aspects in which the details reveal greater differences; as Andy noted, formatting and preparation of the manuscript affords a very broad difference in the way a paper is read, or handled. The major differences are that a blog is an informal format, no matter how you treat it; it would be worse than using an online publisher to “print on demand” any MS you wished to provide, yet that is clearly not a tack you’ve considered.

  15. Mike Taylor Says:

    No, I’ve not given print-on-demand any thought, because I think that the printed-vs.-electronic dichotomy is a complete red-herring. Anyone who prefers hardcopies but gets given a PDF instead — well, they know where the printer is.


  16. I do not think print on demand is a red herring: The issue raised with its use is that it, too, is a form of “publication.” It is a medium in which review can occur, to which reference can be made, and which [presumably] ensures availability. It should be just as useful for your purposes as a blog.

    But that’s part of a side discussion, too: My working standard on a publication I can cite is that it should be one in which taxonomic nomenclature is acceptable, by the ICZN at the least. Even their criteria are clearly an evolving set, and so too would be my standard.

    These are the problems I see in blogs-as-”pubs”:
    1. The intent of communication (short form, conversational as opposed to formal),
    2. its apparent rapidity (I thought it, it is now written, and BAM! published — hey, why aren’t you citing me?),
    3. lack of discernible levels of quality control (I can say literally ANYTHING, who’s going to stop me?),
    4. as well as a posteriori editing (now that you’ve cited it, I can alter it’s meaning!),
    5. as bloggers we may skip on the details because ultimately we are referring readers to a more thorough, external treatment, which is also the reason why theses and long-abstracts and conference abstracts don’t work as well — they are not intended as the formal argument to be reviewed by one’s peers, but a stepping stone TO that point.

    Digital publication in the form it is practiced by PalArch, PalElec, PLoS etc. are viable because they make an effort to approximate or match or exceed that of print journals which they are compared to. As such, they qualify as fora, regardless of their media, for which we should favor “publication.” Blogs, on the other hand, are PERSONAL possessions. Regardless of the problems of invoking the slippery slope, let me ask:

    What should stop me from beginning to claim that Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace (ha!), Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, 4Chan, message boards and mailing lists, should not also all be viable publication media, and thus worthy of citation as equivalent to “papers”? Should we stop there, or can we also insist that pop magazines, hand-written works, newspapers, pamphlets handed out in the thousands at music shows, posters, etc., all of them capable of carrying “citable” ideas, should be “citable”?

    [I am curious about the answer to the above, and do not mean it antagonistically. The line I would draw is absolute, and I would like it to be clear, instead of foggy where some semantic argument arises. If we have to follow a "real" plant/"dwarf" planet distinction, to the satisfaction of none, I would be happier because it would be clearer.]

  17. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jaime writes:

    I do not think print on demand is a red herring: The issue raised with its use is that it, too, is a form of “publication.” It is a medium in which review can occur, to which reference can be made, and which [presumably] ensures availability. It should be just as useful for your purposes as a blog.

    Oh, I agree. My point was, discussing it as anything separate from a blog is a red herring, because in every aspect that is important it’s at best no better. (In fact, much worse due to the lack of comments.) So in considering whether there’s a better way to communicate science than via papers, we can immediately see that print-on-demand ain’t it.

    My working standard on a publication I can cite is that it should be one in which taxonomic nomenclature is acceptable, by the ICZN at the least.

    I’m not sure that’s a good way to go. I am pretty sure that the ICZN Commissioners I know would be rather taken aback at the idea that their nomenclature-focussed rules should be taken as a template for all of science.

    On your specific issues with blogs:

    1. The intent of communication (short form, conversational as opposed to formal). As noted in the original post, we don’t think intent counts for much. The consequences of intent can, of course, such as writing more or less formally.

    2. its apparent rapidity (I thought it, it is now written, and BAM! published — hey, why aren’t you citing me?) I read that as an advantage of blogs.

    3. lack of discernible levels of quality control (I can say literally ANYTHING, who’s going to stop me?) In short, lack of pre-publication peer-review. But post-publication review is always an option, just as it is with (say) the Bulletin of the NMMNH, which is effectively Spencer Lucas’s blog.

    4. as well as a posteriori editing (now that you’ve cited it, I can alter it’s meaning!) I agree that this one is potentially a real issue. I would greatlyu appreciate it if WordPress have us the ability to link directly to specific dated versions of blog posts, like Wikipedia does with its articles.

    5. as bloggers we may skip on the details. Or we may not. I don’t think this is a property of the medium. I could point to articles on SV-POW!, Tetrapod Zoology or indeed The Bite Stuff, that are scientifically substantial as certain “published” articles we’ve all seen.

    Finally:

    … because ultimately we are referring readers to a more thorough, external treatment, which is also the reason why theses and long-abstracts and conference abstracts don’t work as well — they are not intended as the formal argument to be reviewed by one’s peers, but a stepping stone TO that point.

    Regarding abstracts, I agree. On dissertations, absolutely not. The only reason we don’t consider them “published” is because we traditionally don’t. So far as I am concerned, any dissertation that is freely available for download is published, and I will cite it without a second’s thought.

    Blogs, on the other hand, are PERSONAL possessions.

    I think that here you have hit on the key issue. As Richard Kidd pointed out, “Work gains more respect when exhibited by a third party”. Just the fact that someone else (the editor), with a reputation to preserve, has said “yes, this is decent work” is worth something.

    What should stop me from beginning to claim that Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace (ha!), Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, 4Chan, message boards and mailing lists, should not also all be viable publication media, and thus worthy of citation as equivalent to “papers”?

    I don’t know. That’s exactly what I am trying to figure out.

    The line I would draw is absolute, and I would like it to be clear, instead of foggy where some semantic argument arises.

    Thing is, I am not at all sure there is a clear line. This is basically the same problem that the ICZN had in trying to delineate which publications would be considered as valid for nomenclatural acts. They considered all sorts of options, including a register of acceptable venues, but in the end concluded that you can’t nail it down. Hence the current easily-gameable “has to have an ISSN or ISBN” rule.

  18. Michael Richmond Says:

    I’d disagree, to a point, with the statement that “the web does peer review really well.” Here’s what I mean: it is certainly true that it is easy for people to add comments to a paper published on a website. If the website is sufficiently isolated from cranks, yet visited by experts, those comments may even be from peers. BUT — there is no guarantee that the original posting will be modified to take into account the comments.

    On the other hand, in traditional scientific publishing, peer review almost always involves some degree of modification to the original manuscript.

    As a lazy reader, and especially as a lazy reader who may not be a specialist in the field — or a lazy reader two decades later who may not be familiar with the names of the real experts vs. the novices — I would much rather read a single paper, written by a single person (or at least a small set of people), organized in a standard format, than read a paper, then a set of 35 comments in no particular order, some of which may provide important corrections to the original work, some of which may be irrelevant.

    So, if one could create a model of electronic blog-like publishing which forced the authors to modify their original postings in response to the (valid, important) comments, one would be closer to the traditional model — and in a good way.

  19. Mike Taylor Says:

    Michael, your comment too seems to be nuzzling up to the idea that the key difference between blogging and “proper” publication is that in the latter someone other than the author has authority to demand changes, or at least holds a right of veto.

  20. Michael Richmond Says:

    Hmmm, yes, that’s a good way to put it. My spin on the idea might be centered on the issue of “laziness” in authors.

    Simple example: the manuscript is scientifically accurate, but every third word is spelled incorrectly. A reader writes the comment “Gee, couldn’t you run a spell-checker?” The author says, “Yes, I could, but I’ll get more credit for writing another paper by tomorrow instead of fixing this one.”

    I’d like to force authors to fix the spelling and grammar of their work, as WELL as the scientific portions.

  21. ech Says:

    Layman here: If the question is what is the best way to publish new science, I think a lot of these distinctions are non-issues, generally.

    Papers are ephemeral and immutable: Anyone citing your work can use webcitation.org or a similar service. This really shouldn’t be that hard of a problem.

    pdf vs. html: Some blog-like sites provide pdf versions of their works. Doing an ok job typesetting an article really isn’t that hard, is it? Or the author can clean up the html site so it is less cluttered. This is a non-issue assuming the author cares about it. Or is the point that a lot of workers don’t care about how their work looks?

    I think the main issue here is really peer-review vs. comments, and the speed issue is a side-effect of this, so it is really the same issue: what is the best way to get feedback to improve the write-up? I’m always told when I ask here and at similar forums why publishing scientists put up with the publishing system—(handing over copyright for no fee? Are you insane?!?!? As a computer programmer, I never hand over copyright without truly outrageous fees)—I’m always told about how super-important peer review is. It makes sense, certainly—I’m an occasional Wikipedia editor, and for us the peer-reviewed published article is the gold-standard of references. Work published by a vanity press not so much. I think the idea that other experts have vetted the work is significant, and any kind of self-publishing is not going to have that, even with comments. Reviewers might post reviews on their own blogs, but the point remains that the original is still published on its own, possibly without even having links to the critique. That wouldn’t happen with peer-review *before* publishing. (Or at least it isn’t supposed to, I’m sure you all know of examples where this falls apart.) This is basically Michael Richmond’s point, I guess: the author doesn’t have the veto. It seems like the only issue here that matters.

    I suppose the flip side is that the comments and counter-posts have at least the *potential* to be more efficient. Also possibly more interesting maybe—the process is open for anyone to see. But it seems like there is less of a guarantee, in some sense, that what I am reading has been vetted.

  22. Mickey Mortimer Says:

    “I’d like to force authors to fix the spelling and grammar of their work, as WELL as the scientific portions.”

    And yet from my albeit limited experience, that’s not how peer review works. Peer reviewers can certainly suggest changes, but does the handling editor actually then check the revised manuscript for each change and ensure it was made, let alone conferring with the author as to why it wasn’t, then with the reviewer again as to whether the author’s reason is valid? Isn’t the situation more like the author makes whatever of the suggested changes they feel are deserved or necessary to ensure publication, and if the editor is satisfied, the paper is published? I’m not sure which option is better, as some authors are sloppy and some reviewers are incompetent.

    “Papers are archived on publisher sites, whereas blog-posts are on blogs, which may be more vulnerable or ephemeral.
    Papers are immutable once published, whereas blog-posts can be edited after initial publication”

    I think these two features are greatly exaggerated. First, in this age of paywalls, basically all articles are received from colleagues as opposed to downloaded from publishers’ sites. Sure someone originally downloads it, but after that we can depend on our hundreds of colleagues having a copy on our increasingly huge hard drives. Second, sure blog posts can be altered without notification after they’re published, but how often is this done? Are we worrying about something in principle that won’t happen much if at all in practice? Similarly, pdfs on publisher sites could also in principle be replaced with an updated version without notice, though admittedly there are less people with the access to do so. Regardless, just as we have downloaded original copies of the pdfs to record the original article (and paper copies most of the time I suppose, but who sees those anymore?), there are internet archives that record the original version of any blog post.


  23. The point I made about a clear line was that to instill some sense in a reader to sit back and see what is or isn’t (or should or shouldn’t be) cited should be clear. This means one does not have to have a debate about the merits of a piece to then cite it (or not). One draws the line, as I mentioned with my reference to the Pluto issue, by making a firm distinction, even if by fiat. Give a piece to everyone, but satisfy no one absolutely, so that everyone has an idea that the nomenclature can reflect the practice. This causes LESS confusion down the road, and thus is firmer and more satisfying in total. But this might mean you have to give up on using blogs. (Until the ICZN decides they are useful. This is not a recommendation on my part that they will, or should.)

    But let me mention a further slide down the slope: What do we do with blog comments? Are they citable? They exist in the same level of permanency as the article to which they are attached. I wonder whether I can cite responses at PLoS journals, provide the URL as part of the paper version but also a section quoting it for immediate accessibility, but when it comes to blog comments? Comments at newspapers?

  24. Mickey Mortimer Says:

    I honestly think Jaime is approaching this issue from the wrong side- looking for media we/he want to be unciteable. In my view, I’d want to cite the first and/or most detailed reference to a subject no matter where it was written. If someone on SV-POW used valid rationales for identifying some previously unclassified taxon in a comment, why wouldn’t I want to cite them? Do I really care that historically “that’s not the way things work”? Do I demand they subject their hypothesis to peer review despite the fact I as a peer think their reasoning is sound? Do I fret eventually SV-POW and its comments may be lost even in internet archives and so refrain because a century from now, their comment might not be accessable to everyone? Until/unless someone publishes it in an “official journal”, I’m just supposed to stay quiet about it or claim it as my own idea, or if it is later published by someone else, give the credit to them? How is that fair? Ditto for conference abstracts, theses or newspaper comments. My primary aim is to give credit where it’s due. To claim some medium unciteable due to minutia like peer review or perminence seems perverse compared to that ethical concern.

  25. Andy Farke Says:

    One of the key issues here (at least in blog post vs. paper in a journal) seems to be independence. Blogs are great and can have some excellent things, but at the end of the day the author has ultimate control over content and discussion. This is fine when the authors act in good faith, but we all know that the world isn’t perfect. Don’t like someone’s comment? Down the memory hole. Want that embarrassing post to disappear? Same solution. (yes, I know there are things like archive.org, but they are still not perfect captures of the internet). I think everyone above has hit on the value of somebody ostensibly independent of the authors effectively being mandated to spot-check things (which even arXiv does!). And yes, there are certainly exceptions in the journal world, but they are usually outrageous enough so as to be cautionary tales.

  26. FABRE Says:

    It’s an interesting discussion. For me the main difference is the trust that you have in an unknown article or blog. Despite their flaws the peer reviewing/article system is supposed to act as a quality system meaning that what you read has at least some shade “real science”, so there is a presumption of quality and you can trust what you read. On contrary on a blog the trust you have came only from the reputation of the authors. As it has been said it’s rely on peer review, independence and stability of the work.
    I must precise that’s I’m in the biomedical field and at least in this field I think there is a necessity of some gate keeping. The other difference is the necessity of indexing to help for search in engine like Google Scholar or Pubmed, which is hugely done for article and rarely for blog.
    Alexandre FABRE

  27. Vertebrat Says:

    @Jaime:

    What do we do with blog comments? Are they citable?

    Of course they’re citable, but isn’t the real question whether they’re part of the Official Canon, so people are required to cite them (and, for taxonomy, to follow their nomenclatural acts)?

    @Andy Farke: Is preventing the occasional revision really worth impeding communication?

  28. Mike Taylor Says:

    Right. On the issue of what is citeable, the answer surely has to be “everything”. We cite personal communications, which by definition are incapable of resolution or verification. Anything else, blog-comments included, is clearly better than that. (Journals that allow pers. comms. but not dissertation citations are, flatly, wrong.)

    The more important question is, what are you allowed to ignore? Or more pertinently, what is a professional required to track? If I write a paper, I am obliged to cite other relevant published papers, and for that reason one of the things a professional has to do is keep up to date with the relevant published literature. Requiring people to also keep up with relevant blogs seems like quite a burden to add. Requiring them to keep up with relevant blog comments seems plainly untenable.

    (That said, if I worked on sauropods, I would certainly at least keep an eye on the articles in SV-POW! if not the comments. Scan the titles of new posts, at least, and see whether some look relevant to what I’m doing.)


  29. [...] the blog. Many others must be toying with the idea of blog publication, because a blog commentary on the differences between blog post and paper received many comments. Based on other commentaries, sv-pow blog appears to be a visionary in their [...]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 376 other followers

%d bloggers like this: