Are Blogs Bad For Science?

There is a recent editorial by Geoffrey North in the scientific journal Current Biology about the dangers of social media on science. And although it’s titled “Social Media Likes and Dislikes” there is much more dislike than like.

In it, he quickly mentions the 2010 scandal about arsenic-based life, published to Science but ultimately found to be wrong (though it was not retracted and is still part of official scientific literature). The paper was found wrong the old fashioned way – in 2012 another group explained what was actually happening (the bacterium could selectively bind phosphorus in very aresnate-rich environments) – but everything started with scandal. There were many media reports and blog posts arguing back and forth the basis of the finding. Many by non-experts. North goes on to call blogs “vanity publications” arguing that they are not reviewed by experts or even pass through editors. He says he is not arguing against free speech, but “I do think there are dangers in a world where the critics are less accountable than in the more ‘traditional’ system of peer-reviewed journals.”

He bring up an interesting point, but (hopefully) readers understand that blogs are purely opinion pieces. They shouldn’t be taken as truth or scientific fact. Any idiot can make a blog (this one, case in point). So get out there and research things for yourself before developing a strong opinion about anything… or at least get your news from a trusted news source.