Monday, September 22, 2008

Academia 2.0

The Economist has an interesting article about blogging, web 2.0 tools, and peer review.
Earlier this month Seed Media Group, a firm based in New York, launched the latest version of Research Blogging, a website which acts as a hub for scientists to discuss peer-reviewed science. Such discussions, the internet-era equivalent of the journal club, have hitherto been strewn across the web, making them hard to find, navigate and follow. The new portal provides users with tools to label blog posts about particular pieces of research, which are then aggregated, indexed and made available online.


With the technology in place, scientists face a chicken-and-egg conundrum. In order that blogging can become a respected academic medium it needs to be recognised by the upper echelons of the scientific establishment. But leading scientists are unlikely to take it up until it achieves respectability. Efforts are under way to change this. Nature Network, an online science community linked to Nature, a long-established science journal, has announced a competition to encourage blogging among tenured staff. The winner will be whoever gets the most senior faculty member to blog. Their musings will be published in the Open Laboratory, a printed compilation of the best science writing on blogs. As an added incentive, both blogger and persuader will get to visit the Science Foo camp, an annual boffins’ jamboree in Mountain View, California.
The conversation about blogging among tenured staff in the last paragraph is interesting. Another way of saying tenured is simply to say "older" faculty. There are some great examples of old guys blogging, but sadly these great minds don't have much company.

Not surprisingly, Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008 found that half of bloggers are between the ages of 18-34. Only 23% are above the ripe old age of 45. From my own perspective, I think there's a lot to be gained by getting senior staff to blog, and it's one reason I was so excited to work with Phil (to be fair, Phil's not that old, and I'm not that young.)

Anyway, back to the article. I was particularly impressed by the novel incentives the Nature Network is using to overcome the coordination problem that is keeping senior staff from blogging. Among public policy fields I notice that there are a ton of economist-bloggers but much fewer political science bloggers. Perhaps we can learn from our sister disciplines and find unique ways to bring in more respected minds?

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