Scientists Urged to Blog to Fight Junk Science

Posted on April 20, 2006

National Geographic has an article that urges environment, climate and conservation experts to start blogs to fight the growing amount of junk science that is published today.

Now some scholars are proclaiming these rapidly rising media and information platforms as potentially potent tools for science.

"It would be great if top scientists who are experts in their field did contribute to the debates that are going on and put their ideas across," said Alison Ashlin, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment in Great Britain.

Ashlin is an environmental scientist, and in the current issue of the journal Science she cites her own field as a prime example of the need for more accurate blogs fuelled by top researchers.

"Currently, there are roughly 400,000 weblogs featuring discussions on environmental and conservation-related issues, which makes it difficult to assess the general quality of scientific information on weblogs," she wrote in her paper.

The article mentions two blogs written by trustworthy experts. The blogs include RealClimate, written by Ray Pierrehumbert, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, and other scientists; and Promotheseus, a science policy weblog which provides daily news and commentary on science policy issues. It is very difficult for people to get accurate information about climate change when the White House itself is editing climate reports. The article says Pierrehumbert thinks more active blogs from scientists could help weed out some of these junk science blogs.
"That library contains not only everything that's true but everything that's false-so there's a lot of absolute junk information out on the Internet, and it's really critical for there to be some way for people to find out which sites are reliable."

Pierrehumbert believes that if more scientists produce better blogs, the online community will exercise its own quality control.

"The Net seems to have a kind of self-organizing peer review," he said. "The word gets around if blogs are full of junk, and then people stop looking at them."

Active blogs written by scientists and professors would also help universities and students.

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