Science blogging and peer-review

Should science bloggers play a role in discussing peer-reviewed publications? That is the question an interesting Editorial in Nature raise on December 16, 2010.

The background for was a paper about the discovery a bacterium can replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic paper (F. Wolfe-Simon et al. Science doi:10.1126/science.1197258; 2010). The researchers had widely publicised their findings on the web, but when bloggers and researchers raised thoughtful reservations about the paper’s method and findings, the authors refused to comment because the blog was not peer-reviewed.

Unfortunately, few papers get substantive comments. Nature states that bloggers have an important part to play in assessing research findings, especially when the criticism is from the researchers’ peers (a person of the same age, status, or ability as another named person).

It is encouraging that journals now encourage post-publication discussion on blogs and online commenting facilities. This is a complement to, and not a substitute for conventional peer review. However, it is equally true that online commenting and blogs contribute little and few authors bother to respond to online criticisms of their papers (P. C. Gøtzsche et al. Br. Med. J. 341, c3926; 2010).

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