Andy McGregor drew my attention to Michael Nielsen’s recent blog post (article?), Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?. Michael convincingly analyses the disruption of the news publishing industry by online news and blogging, and moves on in a similar way to consider scientific publishing. Michael reminds us that “more and more blogs contain high quality research content”.
If you’re reading this, I may be preaching to the converted, but in the interests of invoking authority and experience (like Chaucer’s Wife of Bath) we can add this to a growing number of assertions to this effect. As previously mentioned, Peter Murray Rust’s views on the importance of blogging (and therefore of blog preservation), are worth repeating:
Blogs are evolving and being used for many valuable activities (here we highlight scholarship). Some bloggers spend hours or more on a popst. Bill Hooker has an incredible set of statistics about the cost of Open Access and Toll Access publications, page charges, etc. Normally that would get published in a journal no-one reads (I have even published in such – it was a huge effort and it’s got one citation. Not that I care about citations). So I tend to work out my half-baked ideas in public. Some people do their early science in the Open. Some are activists. Some review the current landscape, etc.
And in a similar vein, Heather Morrison, in her First Monday article Rethinking collections – Libraries and librarians in an open age describes her experience:
Many of my most important contributions to the debates surrounding open access, for example, are posted to the Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, or to a listserv. These contributions may or may not be included in peer–reviewed literature at a later date.
If libraries focus solely on collecting peer–reviewed or formally published literature and not blogs and listservs, some of my best writings, and some of the ideas contained there and not expressed elsewhere, are likely to be lost.
I expect I’ll find many more opinions about this over the next few months, so this post will probably have a sequel. Back to Michael Nielsen, in the meantime, who also touches on the issue of collecting and preserving this valuable blog content:
It would be easy to build upon the open source WordPress platform [adding] important features [...] like reliable signing of posts, timestamping, human-readable URLs, and support for multiple post versions, with the ability to see (and cite) a full revision history. [...] Perhaps most importantly, blog posts could be made fully citable.
Encouraging words for this project. And WordPress-based plugin/theme solutions to many of Michael’s suggestions are already available in at least embryonic form – and they are GPL too. I’m looking forward to pulling some of them together into ArchivePress.