Home > Scholarly Communication > Towards a standardized scientific blogging format

Towards a standardized scientific blogging format

While still uncertain of the added value of blogging to scholarly communication, I have decided to offer an idea to make it more efficient in terms of providing the right information to scholars.

“You shameless and weak minded hypocrite…”

Nah not exactly, thinking this one through has made me realize a few more things about the value of scientific blogging. Thus I can say that this has had some value to me, I believe. Anyhow, I will discuss this in more detail in a later blog post, so I can keep this one regarding my idea as clear and concise as possible. My proposal concerns adding a standardized format/style to scientific blogging, taking elements of the journal paper format and style: the scientific blog abstract. Observe:

Motivation
With the (scientific) digital communities’ increasing interest in a concept known as “scientific blogging”, there is a need to optimize this new communication channel for the sake of professional appeal and overall effectivity and efficiency of the communication. As academics are generally busy ladies and gentlemen in pursuit of knowledge, providers of said knowledge have to be as clear and as concise as inhumanly possible to pinpoint that relevancy. Assuredly, academics need to know what is being done, for what reason it is being done and why it utilizes a particular approach. That is how academics can decide whether they see the significance in committing their time to it or simply leave it alone.

Problem statement
Unlike journal papers, blogs are loose cannons: they lack a standardized structure. This runs the risk of reducing the readability and therefore the appeal of the blog posts in question. As journals and scholarly communication in general have demonstrated: scholars prefer standardized templates, as they have a record of improving the readability and writability of journal papers [Anderson, 2004]. A reasonable stance surely, as nobody wants to guess the order of chapters with each new book they read nor start with a technical study book without knowing beforehand what skills it is suppose to teach you. It is even more important in a professional working environment.

Approach
The approach I took to address this problem was very straightforward: I analyzed the journal paper’s style and format, to verify which elements would match a blog post. Of course, there can be confusion in determining which elements were relevant and which were not. One visually obvious characteristic of blog posts is that they are generally significantly shorter than journal papers. Accordingly, the suggestions I make here regarding requirements to style and format concerning scientific blog posting will start out “low”. I define the proper use of style and format proportionate to the “volume” of blog content. Given the theoretical nature of this project, there will be no immediate measurements and validations carried out to confirm the results. The results are derived from the scholarly community’s standard format and style of the primary communication channel of (new) scientific literature and adjusted to this new communication channel.

“Uh, doesn’t that mean you are throwing out a conclusion based on something similarly related, but not quite? With a complete lack of even experimental confirmation? That’s not credible!

Hmm, what to do what to do. I suppose I could visit some of the bigger science blogging scenes around the net and see what they think. Ah well, for now let me finish writing this piece first.

Results
By reviewing the elements of the journal paper style and format, I can say that there are elements that are suitable for every serious scientific blog post. For instance, at least two elements of the journal paper format and style are always applicable to whatever type of blog post a scholar makes, and those two are: Motivation and Problem Statement. As every blog post should have a point: What is the added value of this blog post? Why should this post be interesting to me, the reader? And that is closely related to the problem statement: what issue are we trying to address/solve? Concerning the relevancy of the Approach and Results sections, if the blog post truly contains added value, such as original (research) work by the blog author, then addressing these two elements is relevant.

Conclusion
Scientific blog posts should have a standardized format to stay consistent with the efficiency and professionalism of academics communicating with each other (scholarly communication). This blog post proposes that scientific blogs should adapt the format and style of a journal paper to more efficiently and effectively support academics with finding what they want to read. And at the same time to encourage (scientific) blog authors to think their own story through and work on adding original value by asking them to first “preface” the main blog post content with a description of said added value. Indeed, it is what I would like to call the scientific blog abstract.

“By the way, an abstract is normally only one paragraph, not a freaking page, you poser!”

Settle down, I am just throwing out more food for thought to enhance this “self-proclaimed” relatively original and potentially significant contribution to the scientific blogging movement.

References:

  • Anderson, G. 2004, “How to Write A Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format”. Website. Bates College. Retrieved March 11, 2008: Link
  • Koopman, P. 1997, “How to Write an Abstract”. Website. Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved March 11, 2008: Link
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