August 27, 2007

Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting

Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting is a movement started by Dave Munger of the Cognitive Daily blog. Here's the idea:

BPR3 came about because several academic bloggers in different fields saw the need to distinguish their “serious” writing from news, politics, family, bagpipes, and so on.

Sister Edith Bogue, Dave Munger, Mike Dunford, John Wilkins, and Zachary Tong got together with the idea of doing something about it.

But we need your help. We’d like to design an icon that academic bloggers can use to mark posts where they discuss and cite peer-reviewed research. It’s a trickier problem than you might think: just defining “peer review” itself is hard to do.

Coming up with an icon that fairly represents many different fields is also a challenge. Dave’s blog, Cognitive Daily, already uses such an icon to discuss psychology research reports, but the icon is customized to his needs and his site’s design. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with academic bloggers from many different disciplines to build an icon that will work for everyone.

Down the road, we’d like to use to aggregate all the posts discussing peer-reviewed research from across the disciplines. Stay tuned!

You can check out some of Munger's posts here, here, here and here. The BPR3 site is itself a blog and there are plenty of posts there already discussing their mission, for example, with Should PLoS ONE count as peer-reviewed? or Is BPR3 the answer to Andrew Keen’s argument?.

I think this is a great idea. The web is a wild and wooly place, with little in the way of quality control or fact-checking built into the infrastructure. Now, unlike Andrew Keen, I don't think that is all bad. Rather it's a mixed blessing: with great freedom comes great potential for creativity, innovation and expression. On the other hand, with great freedom comes great potential for dishonesty and incompetence. The BPR3 movement won't remove the faults or guarantee the benefits. However, it is an interesting start, an experiment that's worth following. Will it get a critical mass of people willing to comment on peer reviewed research and tag their posts to that effect? Will a significant majority of the people tagging their posts be in any way qualified to pass judgment or adequately summarize the research their posting about (I have visions of creationists tagging their posts on articles on evolution)? Only time will tell.

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