Science bloggers diversify the news – w Hauser affair as case study

This is splendid. Over at CMBR, Colin Schultz blogs on a study that found that science bloggers in particular created more diverse, less self-referential, less echo-chamberish coverage of news than even most other blogospheric areas.

In a recent study in the journal Journalism Studies, Gina Walejko and Thomas Ksiazek, both PhD students at Northwestern University, compared the sources that traditional journalists, political bloggers, and science bloggers each turn to when producing their posts.

They found that science bloggers, unlike the other two camps, rely on a higher diversity of sources, particularly primary literature or other academic work. Science bloggers are also much less self-referential; they don’t talk about themselves as much.

[From Science Bloggers: Diversifying the news « CMBR]

This doesn’t amaze me, but it does pleasantly surprise — not so much that sci bloggers do these things, but that they do so markedly better than the comparison groups.

I’d suggest that this was at play yesterday in the science blogosphere’s coverage of the Marc Hauser affair, in which Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser was given leave as a result of an investigation into scientific misconduct. In that case, the Boston Globe story was quite good, but the Globe had so few facts to work with that it left things vague. Any reader would be starved for context and interpretation.

Such interpretation rapidly came — and in diverse form. NeuroSkeptic, in a post I failed to note yesterday, described several ways in which the affair smelled funny. Retraction Watch noted some inside-baseball wrinkles and potential publishing conflict-of-interest issues. DrugMonkey pointed out an error (about misreading the significance of failures to replicate) that was emerging in coverage. I called attention to a wonderful history of sci fraud that could provide context, and wondered aloud if the affair would create a pushback against research on social cognition in nonhuman primates. Melody Dye offered a sharp and rather bleak view of what she sensed behind the curtains. John Hawkes noted a slippery slope that is easy to slide down in studies of the sort Hauser had to retract. Others have weighed in since.

Read those entries, and their comments, and you’ll find quite a diverse view — but one that produces a richer view of the affair, and sets useful context, rather than fogging things over or reducing things to a polarized simplistic discussion.

Related posts at Neuron Culture:

Marc Hauser, monkey business, and the sine waves of science

Watchdogs, sniff this: What investigative science journalism can investigate

More fraud — or more light?

Errors, publishing, and power

and a NY Times Magazine article I wrote on whether scientific journals can prevent fraud.

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