oh no – is this serious enough?

This morning, on my drive in to work I was thinking about ScienceBlogs (tagline – “the world’s largest conversation about science”) and in particular the “blogging on peer-reviewed research icon” you see on those posts.

I really like the ScienceBlogs project – the whole idea is to get experts to comment on research, but in a way that’s accessible to the general public. As a teacher and as a non-scientist myself, I love this project. Really, this might be the most important way the participatory web connects to scholarship – not in helping scholars communicate with each other, but in helping scholars communicate with the rest of us.

If you want to check it out, I’d recommend Cognitive Daily – cognitive science, just about every post is blogging on peer-reviewed research, and there’s lots and lots of connections to teaching and learning.

Connected to that is this broader effort – ResearchBlogging dot org — trying to make it easy for readers to find serious, thoughtful posts about peer-reviewed research in a whole variety of disciplines. They’re reorganizing right now, and on a kind of hiatus. When they come back, bloggers will be able to register their blogs that (at least sometimes) analyze peer reviewed research. And library science is one of the subtopics (under the main topic Research/Scholarship) bloggers can claim. They mean to aggregate such posts, provide a registry of blogs dealing with research-related topics, and they provide an icon bloggers can use to mark their analytical, research-focused posts.

And that’s what I was thinking about this morning – we should be using that icon when we talk about peer-reviewed research from our field. At least I should be using that icon, right? For posts like this one, and this one over at ⌘f.

But then I started reading the conversations over at researchblogging.org and I started to get nervous! Is the peer-reviewed research I write about peer-reviewed enough? I don’t know. More important, though, do I provide the kind of commentary that counts as thoughtful commentary. I don’t mean this as a call for people to tell me I’m thoughtful – it’s more a rumination on what I am thinking about when I write about research.

I usually say something about the research methods, but not always. I rarely contextualize the research itself within the larger discipline. I raise questions that I have about the method or the conclusions, but I don’t usually go into my analysis thinking “I am going to comment on whether or not I think this is good research.” And when I read the science bloggers – I want them to do these things. I want them to help me evaluate the research and contextualize it.

But I don’t do that myself. More often, I want to share how the research informed or sparked my thinking about the work we all do – the connecting of the theory and the research to my practice as a librarian. I’m influenced a lot by Donald Schon and reflective practice here, and I’m thinking I might write about that sometime soon. But not now. Now I’ll just say that I think there’s value there. Deeply oversimplifying – apologies to Schon – value in the idea that theory is useful when it’s useful, when it’s connected to knowledge generated by lived experience. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t have time or inclination to reflect on research and what it means for practice, but who find it useful to read what others have to say.

So I think that’s kind of interesting, and worth thinking about what the theory we generate, the research we do means for our discipline, which, let’s face it is not the same as biology or sociology or physics. I’ll be registering when knowledgeblogging.org comes back up, and I’ll be using the icon. I hope others do too.  I’m interested in the idea of what peer reviewed research means to our field, and this is one way to think about that.

3 thoughts on “oh no – is this serious enough?

  1. Two thoughts on visiting the blog at BPR3 – one, do only people with PhD’s have thoughtful enough commentaries to count? Two, is there some reason why most of the comments (to that post at BPR3) are written in gibberish? Is it a secret code or does one have to be a member to have a decoder? Maybe one needs a PhD?

  2. Hi Sara –

    The discussions I saw there raised the issue of the Ph.D, but I thought the conclusion was that no, the Ph.D shouldn’t be a credential. Of course, you could raise an eyebrow at the question being raised in the first place, but even if one were one to heavily weight the Ph.D in their evaluation matrix, I think they’d be stymied by the number of anonymous or graduate student bloggers out there.

    As to the gibberish – those are spam posts. The spammers don’t care about the comment, they’re just interested in getting the links out there. Normally, that would be a very bad sign that the blog is not being maintained, but since the spam posts are all dated this month, I think we have to assume that it is a side-effect of the site change. This blog probably isn’t being maintained in that time.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for your interest in researchblogging.org. August has been a crazy month for us, with a bunch of us on vacation and a lot of work being done testing our new, improved site. This means that sometimes some spam comments have slipped through on the blog. I’m cleaning them up right now!

    Your comments about the site are spot-on. One nice thing about our site is that it allows you to specify on a post-by-post basis whether you think your work is “serious” enough. You can have a frivolous post that doesn’t get aggregated, then write a reflective post informed by peer-reviewed research, that does.

    Let us know if you have any questions about the site — we welcome your participation.


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