Tag Archives: open-source

Science Summaries

This evening I was sitting at my computer casually minding my own business (i.e.: downloading the Kerbal Space Program Update), and all of a sudden found myself drawn into a conversation on Twitter about science communicators and scientists – as one does when one follows the sort of crowd I follow.

Anywho in the course of this conversation I ended up having what my nerd-fighter friends would call a brain-crack (an idea) and tweeting it out loud:

Now I pondered that for a few moments as the conversation continued with some good points raised about getting scientists blogging, aggregators like SciSeeker and so on.

And at this point it hit me that this could be a very easy thing to accomplish, even using something as simple as this blogging system I’m using here (WordPress). – oh; and please stop me if it’s been done

Simply canvass scientists to submit a 200-400 word lay-summary of their new papers, add links to their personal websites and the Journal article at the end of the summary, and boom. science communication just got a whole lot easier, journalists could look up the summaries for articles without having to slog through a paper, interested amateurs could do likewise without having to pay £30-90 per article to read them, and school children could instantly learn something cool and amazing.

There are, as with anything like this, pit falls..

  1. Getting scientists to write lay summaries. – Let’s face it, scientists aren’t always great at sci-comm, those that are, that blog or tumbl or tweet will probably jump on such a thing like a cheetah on an impala; but what about the other 90% of scientists? Many journals don’t even require lay-summaries, many more aren’t even open access anyway.
  2. Ensuring that they are lay summaries and not abstracts (there’s a difference y’all) – there’s a big difference between an abstract which can contain as much jargon as you want, and a lay summary that can’t! (more on this here, or try this.) I guess one solution is get keeno amateurs to read them before they get posted, but who’d volunteer for that?

So anyway, that’s the brain-crack put down on (virtual) paper, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, has this already been done* (link please 🙂 )? is it a terrible idea? if not, what pitfalls have I missed, or how could we make such a thing work?

Ben Brooks

*I know that, for example the UK Science Media Centre or NHS Direct does this sort of thing for news-grabbing science, but why not make somewhere for all science?!

Thanks to @JonTennant, @WarrenPearce, @andrewjlockley and @McDawg for the stimulating twitter convo and links too!

Other Resources/Links (I will add any from commments below as they come!)
http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/politics/2013/03/14/making-an-impact-how-to-deal-with-the-media/ (see point 5)


Can we have a “Meta-Blog-Network” please?

Since the outbreak of the PepsiGate affair over at Science Blogs, the science blogging community – if it could be called a community – has been shaken, remoulded and has evolved extremely rapidly with the creation of all new blogging networks such as scientopia and the rapid expansion and evolution of other networks such as Discover and science3point0. Science Blogs hasn’t gone the way of the dodo though… more accurately it has done something more akin to the survival of the Aves taxon after the end-cretaceous mass extinction, becoming lighter, faster and debatably prettier after the quasi-mass-extinction event marked by the PepsiGate affair.

Anyway I digress, as an almost entirely* independent blogger watching with interest at how things develop, I must confess to a little annoyance that the focus of this recent evolution has been on creating more, large, all consuming blogging networks which at the moment seem to be mutually exclusive to each other and to independent bloggers who may or may not be willing to get involved with large co-operatives.

I am more of the opinion that some form of Meta-blogging-network is something that is severely lacking in the community and would be truely valuable. Despite some initial talk of creating meta-services, much like the news aggregators to be found around the web, there seems to have been no real progress with any of these overarching catch all services – we need a science-blogging-aggregator.

Such a service as I am imagining here is to catch network members and independents alike, and mutually create traffic for all. For example a service with whom you can register your collective or your independent blog, and the blog would then be trawled now and again, keywords in each post identified (possibly using tags such as in wordpress) and then links provided from blog A to blog B based on relevance with the installation of a widget in say each blog’s side-bar. Unobtrusive, workload light after registration and easy to configure, and all it would take is for a small amount of space on your blog to be devoted to the widget.

The closest we have to this is ResearchBlogging.org which does this sort of thing for blog posts about peer reviewed papers, but it’s workload heavy from what I can gather, and may not be the best service even for that, as discussed excellently over at Free as in Science on Science3point0.

This is of course only an idea, and i’m not a software designer so wouldn’t have the first clue about how to do it, but I would none-the-less be really interested in what the rest of the blogosphere thinks?

Ben Brooks

Short Link for this post: http://wp.me/pFUij-60

* by largely independent: I am a member of Science3point0, but due to their focus on open-sci, open-source, open-data etc. advocacy (and it not being my forte) I’m not doing a great deal over there.