Bora Zivkovic
How would you go about quantifying the statement "Scientists, unlike some other professions, have been slow and resistant in embracing blogs and other online tools"?
+1 for Dorothea: If you want to quantify it needs to be a much more tightly defined hypothesis. e.g. The insitutions employing scientists do not support blogging as part of the role of scientists as is demonstrated by the relatively small number of institutions providing blogging frameworks inhouse as compared to e.g. the mainstream media - Cameron Neylon
shouldn't there be a "because" in there? "because the academy has no mechanisms to recognize and reward such activities"? - Richard Akerman
actually it got slightly mangled - it should have been more purely quantitative: Institutions employing scientists provide fewer blogging frameworks and these frameworks are used by less bloggers per capita than is the case in the mainstream media. How's that? - Cameron Neylon
ok. Now, how would you go about gathering data and coming up with some numbers that, for example, compare scientists to techies or journalists or poets or housewives? - Bora Zivkovic
Tough. Real numbers are going to be very hard to come by. Short of doing google blog searches and trying to triage into categories by hand. Aggregate RSS feeds and attempt to use a clustering algorithm on them? Need to define what 'a blog' is as well obviously. But I think any information gathering approach will be biased so it will be very difficult to get good numbers - Cameron Neylon
Grrrl is trying to do the same: - Bora Zivkovic
Scientists (or anyone) will use online tools if they think they are useful to them. - Maxine
the most effective approach might be a hand collated blog roll and commenting crawl - if the aim is to just get a lower bound then let everyone cut and paste their blog roll into a spread sheet and sort on title to remove duplicates? Quite a lot of work though - can we not just pick a random number out of the air instead and pretend to be authoritative? Or better yet - a jelly bean counting competition - whoever gets closest gets a jelly bean! - Cameron Neylon
look at surveys (random samples) of various flavors of scientist, and see how many report using each of the various tools, then sort of extrapolate??? See recent Mark Ware Consulting/PRC study for one... - Christina Pikas
@Maxine I would say this is more of an incremental value issue and a habit issue. "scientists (who have an existing workflow) will use *new* (online or otherwise) tools if they think/find they provide *substantially more capability/value* than their current workflow and current tools.... new scientists will use any tool they find useful, until their workflow is established" - Richard Akerman
ah I misread this as qualifying, not quantifying, sorry - Richard Akerman
Hmm. We might be able to get data on the distribution of starting times of blogs, and we could compare that to the distribution in Bora's list. There are still going to be biases, but it is an alternative approach, and we might be in a better position to work out what the biases are. - Bob O'Hara
I sampled blogs at universities that offer inhouse blog systems. I first crawled each blog, got blog titles, post date, etc. Then I cross-referenced all the userids against their online phonebook/LDAP system, which gives names, titles, department, etc. I was interested in people that had 'professor' or 'research' in their title. I can tell you on this particular system, they were in the minority. Professors/researchers that used them to talk about their work even more rare. - Fitzgerald Steele
I still maintain you've got to convince them that there is something in it for them. This stuff is all so technical. Why would they do it? I have spent a lot of time showing scientists and editors (ex-scientists) various web services. Same old questions every time - why should I learn this? What will it do for me? For the unimaginative and over-busy majority, that is the main bar. (And I am not talking rocket science. I'm talking things like RSS!) - Maxine
I agree with Maxine: the workflow is the key here. Adding value to daily work, whilst being a perfect fit is the answer. When these two things come together, these questions disappear: what you're left with is: got to have it! - Matt Wood
WRT blogrolls - that's exactly what I did and I de-duped (as much as possible) from old and new blogs, etc. This past spring - I had about 1200. I can share my list when I get home... some info on my projects is on my sort of crappy web page: - Christina Pikas
ArXiv took off like wildfire - I don't think you can say that scientists *in general* are slow or resistant. - Christina Pikas
Actually I think ArXiv is the case that proves the rule. It worked precisely because there was an existing process of doing 300 photocopies and sending them off to your colleagues in that specific community. Doing it online fitted in the existing workflow - was far easier and cheaper - so a no-brainer to adopt for that community. Other communities adopted it because of that success and that process is a different story and one worth looking it in detail - Cameron Neylon
One needs to also define what scientists are being discussed. According to the NSF, of the 19 million employed scientists and engineers in the US, 19% work in academia, 12% in the government and 69% in industry. More work at non-profit institutions than at 4 year colleges. I would expect some sectors are more resistant than others. - Richard Gayle
Given those numbers, I'd be interested to compare output (e.g. publication) between academia/govt/industry. More than three times as much money is presumably being spent on research by industry than by academia -- what are they getting back? How is that funding model working out for them (and should academia be moving towards it, or away from it)? Is it (as many academics like to claim) largely parasitic on basic research and personnel training funded by academia? - Bill Hooker
So many juicy questions! A quick check at NSF gives this. Total R&D in US - $340 billion. 70% from industry. 28% from federal government. Total publications in US - 210,000. Total from industry - 13,000. Pharmas spend 2-3 times their research budgets on marketing. Poor model for innovative approaches. Great for copycat approaches. - Richard Gayle
@bill part of the problem in measuring the value of scientists in terms of productivity defined (only) as peer reviewed journal articles, is that it misses most of the work industrial scientists do - which might result in improve products or patents or technical reports to sponsors... particularly in classified settings - Christina Pikas
Christina: Yes Arxiv is widely used of course. By "blogs and online tools" in the original post I was thinking "web 2.0". Arxiv is not a blog. And by online tools I am thinking of RSS, social bookmarking and "voting", various open science (wikis, lab notebooks etc), that kind of thing. In other words, the "participatory web". As I understand it, Arxiv is primarily used to host preprints and postprints, so has more in common with a "1.0" website. Nature Precedings is a preprint server for the communities not served by Arxiv, but I think has more "web 2.0" features (user-generated comments and ranking for example). - Maxine
Economist says "The Seed state of science report, to be published later this autumn, found that 35% of researchers surveyed say they use blogs." - Richard Akerman
Interesting, Richard, I wonder about their sample size and composition, and what they use the blogs for. I subscribe to the Economist so I'll read the article in the print edition tonight or whenever it gets delivered. - Maxine