The top 10 reasons why blog posts are better than scientific papers

Note: This is the first post in what I hope to be a mini-series of blog posts inspired by the workshop Envisioning the Scientific Paper of the Future.

1. Blog posts are like preprints, but faster.

Even preprints go through some review before they're posted, just to make sure they're not obviously crank papers. Blog posts don't suffer from any prior restraint other than the need to take the time to write them.

2. Blog posts don't end up in PDFs.

...and you don't have to write them in nasty complex formats like Word or LaTeX.

Reference: why PDFs suck.

3. Blog posts are like papers, but better written.

Blog posts can be colloquial, funny, and sarcastic - unlike scientific papers. Blog posts can also contain narrative in a way that scientific papers simply don't.

4. Blog posts are often opinionated.

Papers go through multiple rounds of review and revision, in which the naturally irregular and uneven surface of reality is sanded down and/or bludgeoned into a cuboid that looks and sounds objective and impartial. Blog posts suffer from no such fiction of objectivity and impartiality.

(Self-referential case in point.)

5. Blog posts inspire feedback.

Perhaps in part because blog posts convey personal opinion, blog posts are inherently more social, more interactive, and more open to commentary.

(Presumably this will also be a self-referential case in point. Or not, which would be awesomely ironic!)

6. Blog posts are free, open access, and indexed by search engines.

Kind of like preprints, but not in a PDF. Very much not like many scientific papers.

7. Blog posts can be versioned.

You can have multiple versions of blog posts -- kind of like preprints, but very much unlike papers.

Unlike either preprints or papers, blog posts can take advantage of real version control systems like git. (Self-referential case in point.) This also further enables collaboration.

8. Blogs don't have impact factors.

Instead of a nonsensical and unrigorous statistic that signals to other scientists how important an editor thinks your paper will eventually be, blog posts are shared freely among an ad hoc self-assembled network of enemies on Twitter and Facebook.

9. Blog posts can be pseudonymous.

There are many science blogs that are pseudonymous, and no one cares. (This is actually really important.) This (along with the general lack of prior restraint, above) allows unpleasant truths to be shared.

10. Blog posts are probably more reliable than scientific papers.

Because blog posts don't matter for academic reputation, there is little reason to game the blog post system. Therefore, blog posts are inherently more likely to be reliable than scientific papers.

I encourage people who disagree with this post to submit a commentary to a respectable high retraction index journal like Science or Nature.


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