Blogs and peer-reviewed journals

For the last couple of months I have been searching the internet for good (and bad) examples of social web media used to communicate Public Health research. And although Public Health is not the dominating topic on scholarly web 2.0 communication the variety is still great. Putting the magnifying glass on blogs it becomes clear that scholarly blogs really do come in all shapes and sizes.

Among the many different kinds of blogs, it has been interesting to see how some of the traditional peer-reviewed journals now also offer blog platforms. BMJ is one of the high-impact journals that have an elaborate blog platform. With a total of 18 blogs in categories  ranging from “Disease in Childhood” over “Tobacco control” to “Medical Ethics” several public health topics are covered. The activity level on the 18 blogs differs. For some the post frequency is higher than for others and the extend of comments varies too. Also the objective of the blogs are different, ranging from providing a platform for discussion to highlighting articles from other journals (e. the Heart Journal Scan which recommends cardiology related articles from non-cardiology journals). The blogs come with the function of regular blogs such as comments and posting it on Twitter, Facebook etc.

Other peer-reviewed journals also have blogs under their domain. This includes Nature, and PLoS who has both an official PLoS blog and PLoS blog network with more issue specific blogs. Eg. the staff of PLoS has a blog  and individual researchers have blogs related to their field.

Reading these blogs it makes me wonder what the reflection behind initiating them have been. What were the concerns and perceived benefits? How is the blog thought to relate to the “mother” peer-reviewed journal? Why does BMJ have a blog, but not the Lancet? Does the concept of the blog interfere with the fundamentals of the peer-reviewed approach? The questions are many.

Yesterday a friend of mine, and researcher herself said that she didn’t really give much for social media in research communication. But when I mentioned blogs of journals like Nature her response was  “It is funny, I do not really consider blogs as social media”. Perhaps blogs associated to journals washes out mentally some of the objections people have towards the combination of research and blogs. Perhaps the possibility of commenting is taken more and more for granted? I do not know the reasons, but it would be interesting to find out more about this…

to write, to write, to write

I like writing, so I guess it is only right to get started on some blogging. Actually, it is practically part of my job description to be out here on the social web media and I am a happy reader of several blogs so others might say that it is highly overdue. For a while I have, in the hidden been working on something for a blog. I guess you could call it a draft. But I realized that this is a completely wrong strategy. Blogs are much more spontaneous than doing drafts and have them edited etc. The point of a blog is precisely to write more loosely and frequently. So never mind if it is not always sharp and to the point.   So here we go: My first posting. And since the “draft” shouldn’t go to waste I will post it below. Enjoy

A Typhoon’ish Chaos

Social web media. Science communication. Public health. Those are the keywords for my new job, for my pilot study. They are also the words I generally use when I try to explain to friends and family what I do. Putting them into a sentence it becomes something like this : “Well I will be looking at how social web media can be used to communicate research in Public Health Sciences”.

So lets see what I know so far. Public health, as broad as it might be, I do know something off. At least six years at University and about five years of working with public health should give me a somewhat solid background.

Communication I feel pretty comfortable with too, and even science communication to some extend. Mostly from a practical point of view. Writing journalistic stuff. Some theory too, but I guess mostly linked to the practice.

Okay, there we go. Then there is only social web media left. How difficult can it be? I mean, I’m on Facebook, I read blogs once in a while, and I do have a twitter account. Never used it, but it is there. LinkedIn I use too. I am even part of a public health alumnae network that once in a while sends out small discussions and job vacancies. However being on these networks doesn’t really make me an expert on social web media – far from actually.

Okay, so much for my introductions to my pilot study. I guess I better just get started. I gotta start surfing the net. Find some good examples of communication of public health research through social web media. Examples must be out there. I just have to find them, and then patterns and trends will pop up along the way. I hope.

I have been warned that it is The Wild West out there. An inferno of rubbish, with good attempts and intentions, small shining pearls and good potential hid in between lots of more or less crappy stuff (at least crappy when what I am looking for is scientific research). And the people who warned me are right I realize pretty quickly. It really is a small or perhaps gigantic chaos, where every search words opens up to what feel like thousand different things, links and genres. So where to start? Just that question opened up for a billion more. In this inferno of websites, blogs, discussion groups and social network groups lots of questions present themselves.

  • Exactly what kind of communication am I looking at? Sharing of results, discussion of processes, open-ended discussions, forums for expressing opinions? I could go on – there are so many kinds
  • And to communication between whom? Researcher to researcher, researcher to students, researcher to public, to politicians, to specific target groups or practitioner to public?
  • With what intentions? To take credit, to pursued and convince, to seek help, to enable change, to discuss, to share thoughts, to be inspired, to inspire, to be seen?
  • Through specific genres of social web media or are we “are all over the place”?
  • Through quality approved and institutional hosted sites like peer-reviewed journals websites, universities etc. or also private initiatives?
  • Only lasting initiatives or also short-lived blogs, twitters etc.
  • How broad should we understand “public health” and are certain topics within public health more suitable than others of communicating via social web media?

Answering each of these questions opens up for what looks like a typhoon’ish chaos and makes me wonder why it was I got myself into this. How am I – no expert in social web media – ever going to find my way of this storm I have gotten myself into?

Well these were my first thoughts – more to follow. At least I got my first post out there.!