Some thoughts on the Nature editorial, “How to Stop Blogging,” at scientific conferences:
- I’m perplexed about the first paragraph of the Nature editorial. They bemoan the long tradition of suppression of interesting unpublished results at conferences, which “can only be worsened by the increasing dissemination of results beyond the conference hall by bloggers.” So the answer is: suppress blogging of interesting unpublished results at some conferences: in essence, create private clubs, by invitaion only, where the real science will get done?
- Another idea: why not encourage the sharing of unpublished results by scientists within online communities (blogging), thereby creating a way to have some collaboration and even garner some credit among peers? Online communities can be private, too. This can only help to accelerate scientific advancement. Suppressing blog posts on interesting results, on the contrary, will hinder scientific advancement. Which side is Nature on, the side of professional reputations (and the reliance of those reputations on publishing in preeminent journals) or scientific advancement?
- Yes, what we’re seeing is the beginning of the end for conferences as we know them. Online communities can fulfill many of the original purposes of conferences and journals (disseminating information, peer review, education, connecting people to collaborate and socialize.)
- Bloggers are not the issue. More effective methods of information distribution and building building relationships are the issues. Information does not want to be confined in the four walls of a conference hall. Trying to keep bloggers out of certain meetings and fight the natural migration to online communities will be a losing battle. The benefits in reduced cost (travel) and anytime availability of your online professional community are just too great.
- The journals, professional organizations, societies and conference organizers are missing a golden opportunity to be the ones leading the efforts to create online communities to extend the interactions that happen at the science and medicine meetings, a chance to strengthen the communities they have helped establish. Instead, they appear to be facing the Innovator’s Dilemma, destined to follow the same path as most newspapers.
- Look at what’s happening with the AMA and Sermo. By not creating, embracing and leading online communities, meeting organizers, professional communities, journals and societies may be endangering their very raison d’etre.
- Evidence of condescension, outright fear or just cluelessness?: “Attendees who have taken to blogs and other social-media applications such as Twitter and Friend Feed will value the instantaneous communication of fact, conjecture and commentary as a way to network beyond badge-holders. Most researchers, in contrast, will focus on the science and ways to network with fellow attendees.” Ouch. How about: “those of you on the phone will engage in your idle chatter, we suppose, meanwhile those of us on the telegraph will get down to the important work.” As if a “real” scientist has never read, commented on or (God forbid) written a blog?
- Then, they drop the bomb: “The consequence that, in competitive fields, presentations at open meetings will become even more protective and boring is an inevitable consequence of the Internet.” That tickles my brain. Does this quote even deserve a response? (Feel free to comment one) Are they suggesting we do away with the internet because it will make meetings boring? I almost think this must be a joke.
- Nature, don’t let yourself go the way of newspapers. Science is not about meetings any more than newpapers are about the paper, it’s the purpose of meetings. Effective distribution of research findings, connection and collaboration with peers, meeting new people and, yes, sharing of information, as quickly as possible, all help to accelerate the advancement of science, whether at a conference or online.