Slick tips: Make your blog bilingual

Administration, News 66 Comments
By Dave Munger

As we continue to add support of new languages to ResearchBlogging.org, we’ve occasionally run into a thorny problem.

We want readers of our site to be able to select the languages they want to see (you can use command-click or control-click on the “Languages to Display” dialog to select multiple languages). Since bloggers also specify the language they write in, this normally works great. But what if a blogger uses more than one language? Until now, if your blog was written in more than one language, you had to choose just one language for your posts on ResearchBlogging.org.

However, using custom RSS feeds, you can now effectively divide your blog into two or more separate blogs. Here’s how to do it. This set of instructions assumes that your blog is currently registered as “English” and you want to add “Chinese.” Read the rest of this entry »

Upgrade in process (Updated)

Administration, News 67 Comments
By admin

You may have noticed that things have changed a bit around here — we’re in the midst of a major system upgrade. While the site is just as functional as it had been previously, there might be a couple of rough edges with some of the newest features. We expect to have these issues resolved by the end of the day. Update: We’ve resolved the major performance issues; let us know if you spot additional problems. We’ll also restore all the old content from the News blog, which as you can see, has gotten a major facelift as well [Update: Posts imported; still working on some cosmetic issues].

We think you’ll agree that the site has a fantastic slate of new features.

Most important is a completely revamped citation generator. Bloggers have created over 6,000 posts using our old citation generator, which required users to enter a complex DOI number or even manually enter all the information about a journal article. But users asked us for a more sophisticated search function to make it easier to find the articles they want to cite on their blogs. After weeks of careful coding, testing, and working with indexing services, we’ve addressed their concerns.

Now if you’d like to create a post about an article, all you have to do is enter a few words from its title (the first line is plenty), and our system will automatically search three of the largest databases of peer-reviewed journal articles in existence: CrossRef, Pubmed, and arXiv. You can then select your article from your search results (it usually tops the list), add topic tags, and post to your blog in just seconds. You can also search using DOI, PMID, or arXiv ID if you know it.

We’ve been testing the system for several weeks, and we think it’s so efficient that you’ll want to go back and add ResearchBlogging.org citations to your old posts and import them into our database as well.

If you do, you could be rewarded with more traffic, because another new feature of our site is the implementation of our partnership with Pubget, the service that allows users to find journal articles and get PDFs in one step. All posts on ResearchBlogging.org that are indexed by Pubget now feature an icon which takes them directly to the article on the Pubget site. If your institution has Pubget (over 50 now do), you’ll get the article right away.

Further, if you search for an article on Pubget and a ResearchBlogging.org member has blogged about it, Pubget will include a direct link to all the  posts discussing that article.

There’s more to come, too. Look for several exciting announcements from ResearchBlogging.org in the coming weeks.

Coming soon: ResearchBlogging.org in Espanol

Administration, News 1 Comment
By Dave Munger

For nine months, you’ve been able to read posts on ResearchBlogging.org in German and English. Soon, we will be launching support for Spanish. Evaristo Rojas-Mayoral has created a blog to collect the names and URLs of interested blogs. If you blog in Spanish, or you know someone who does, send them to http://spanish.researchblogginglanguages.org/, where they’ll find Spanish-language instructions and information about the new site.

We encourage bloggers to share links to their blogs and let us know if they are interested in helping to administer the site. Once we have assembled a critical mass of bloggers, we’ll select administrators and start signing up Spanish-language blogs here on ResearchBlogging.org.

In principle, there is no limit to the number of languages we can support on ResearchBlogging.org The key to starting any new language is people. We need someone like Evaristo to take initiative and set up a site to recruit bloggers and offer technical help, and we need bilingual administrators so that we can ensure that our standards are the same, no matter what language the blog is in. If you’re interested in helping us start a new language, don’t hesitate to contact us at admin@researchblogging.org, and we’ll begin a discussion of how to proceed.

Beyond “peer review”: Should our guidelines become more inclusive?

Administration 22 Comments
By Dave Munger

Scenario 1: A physicist working with laser supercooling equipment is able to cool rubidium atoms to the lowest-yet recorded temperature. She carefully describes her exciting results and posts the paper to arXiv, where she is a registered author in good standing.

For weeks, the blogosphere explains her results and discusses the implications of the findings. But it’s three months before the experiment is actually formally published in a peer-reviewed journal, largely unaltered from the original paper she submitted to arXiv. No one bothers to blog about the published paper, which is therefore never mentioned on ResearchBlogging.org.

Scenario 2: A neuroscientist hypes a hastily-concocted brain-scan study of three people’s reactions to Britney Spears’ latest single. The “Britney neuron” is prominently covered on CNN, USA Today, and the Sun. Several bloggers link to the media accounts but offer no additional analysis, and a few bloggers make annoyed one-off posts about how the media overhypes this “science by press release.” Six months later, the research is finally presented at a neuroscience conference, but it turns out that the “Britney neuron” is also activated by the music of Bach, Bruce Springsteen, and the Jonas Brothers. It’s more of a “music region,” really, and the research doesn’t offer any new insight into how we perceive music. The work never makes it into a published journal.

In an ideal world, ResearchBlogging.org would include the blog posts about the supercooling, but not the ill-named Britney neuron. Our readers want to see the most thoughtful discussions of serious science, not celebrity-fueled media hype. But our current guidelines would reject both types of blog posts, since neither actually discusses peer-reviewed research. Although arXiv is a highly-respected resource among many of the disciplines that use it, it’s not peer-reviewed in the traditional sense.

I mentioned the possibility of opening up ResearchBlogging.org to arXiv on Twitter, and the discussion quickly took hold on FriendFeed. Here are some highlights:

When I first saw your question I thought: if this was any other repository in any other discipline I would say No, but arXiv has heft and has earned the trust by the people in the disciplines that contribute there. – Bora Zivkovic

I think if you say yes to Arxiv you will struggle to say no to eg nature precedings. I appreciate that it is different but that is not down to a clear principle but a community feeling. Which makes it very hard to base a rule on – Cameron Neylon

ResearchBlogging has the potential to become something like a syndication service for science news .. by including pre-prints alongside peer-reviewed you would start to blur the boundaries. But why not create a different section for pre-prints that track ArXiv , Nature Precedings and any other relevant ones? Pedro Beltrao

There are some parts of arxiv that are worth including, and some that aren’t, too. – Mr. Gunn

As I’ve said before, I think you really need to do this if you want participation from the physics community, particularly the theoretical high energy crowd. For them, posting to the arxiv is more or less equivalent to publication, and that’s when the interesting discussion and debate occurs. By the time some of these papers appear in a journal, they’re considered old news, and no longer worth talking about. – Chad Orzel

So there’s some enthusiastic support, some concern about distinguishing preprints from peer-reviewed research, and some concern that our overall mission will be diluted.

If we did attempt to include preprints in some way, what would our guidelines look like? Here’s what they say now about peer-review:

While there is no hard-and-fast definition of “peer-review,” peer reviewed research should meet the following guidelines:

  • Reviewed by experts in field
  • Edited
  • Archived
  • Published with clearly stated publication standards
  • Viewed as trustworthy by experts in field

I don’t think there’s any way to change that definition to include things like arXiv and exclude “science by press release.” We might be able to modify our first guideline, which says “The ‘Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research’ icons are to be used solely to denote individual blog posts about peer-reviewed research.” We could say the icons were to be used to denote either posts about peer-reviewed research or research collected in an archive that meets the standards determined individually by discipline.

So, for example, physicists could decide that they accept research in arXiv, but biologists might decide not to accept research in Nature’s preprint archive (or the quantitative biology papers found in arXiv, for that matter).

As Chad points out, if we don’t address this problem in some way, we run the risk of never having substantial discussions about many disciplines on our site. I’m not thrilled about the idea of a separate icon / section for preprints — I think that would just make the site more difficult to use and more confusing for readers. What do you think? Is it possible to modify our guidelines in a way that includes the good stuff but still excludes the stuff we don’t like? Are there any other preprint archives that we might also want to include? Should we start slowly (perhaps just with physics and arXiv) and see how it works? Let us know in the comments — or just continue discussing the matter over on FriendFeed.

Why is Research Blogging important?

Administration 45 Comments
By Dave Munger

We’re constantly working to increase the profile of ResearchBlogging.org and the blogs we represent. We think it’s critically important — for scientists, for journals, for students, and for the lay readers.

To do that, one of the things we need to do is communicate our message to other organizations: Journals, libraries, news-gathering organizations, and potential funding sources. We have some ideas about why what we do matters, but we also want to know why it’s important to you: Why do you think blogging about peer-reviewed research is important for science?

Please share your ideas with us in the comments.

Adding a tag for Creative Commons-licensed posts

Administration 7 Comments
By Dave Munger

We’d like to add a tag for posts that are licensed under Creative Commons, thus allowing them to be freely distributed with some restrictions. [What we're talking about here is the *blog post* content, not the *journal article* the post references]

However, ideally we’d just add one additional tag — we don’t want to clutter up our interface. While we realize that the particular license can be very important to users, we think at this point having just one tag on our site will be the least confusing.

So, if you wanted to express the idea that a post has a Creative Commons license in just one or two words, how would you do it? Here are a few ideas. Let us know which you prefer, or if you have additional suggestions, in the comments:

  • Creative Commons
  • Freely Shared
  • Copyleft
  • Public Domain
  • CC-Licensed
  • Open Access
  • Open Content

Interesting issues in the forums

Administration 16 Comments
By Dave Munger

The ResearchBlogging.org Forums are steadily building a userbase.

It’s a great place to ask questions, find out what other users are up to, and get advice about blogging in general and using ResearchBlogging.org in particular. Here are some of the interesting threads:

  • Introductions, where users tell about themselves, their blogs, and their research
  • General issues on blogging, which answers some basic questions, like how to start a blog and how big to make images for your blog. It also delves into some more sophisticated questions, like whether it’s okay to reproduce figures from journal articles on your blog.
  • Advanced Troubleshooting takes users through some of the steps the ResearchBlogging.org admins take when troubleshooting problems for users. Nice inside info!
  • You’ll also find user suggestions, like integrating the forums with the ResearchBlogging homepage, and more.

Anyone can read the forums, but we encourage you to register so you can respond to comments or start your own thread.

Finally, don’t forget: In two days, on December 18, blog about one of the thousands of open-access papers published on PLoS ONE. We’ll pick the best post and promote it here and on the PLoS blog, plus award an exciting assortment of prizes! It’s a great way to support open access and be rewarded in the process!

A new level of user support: ResearchBlogging.org forums

Administration, News 2 Comments
By Dave Munger

We’re pleased to announce a new way to support our users: the ResearchBlogging.org support forums. These forums were created in partnership with SMG Technology, who developed the software that runs ResearchBlogging.org.

The forums will allow users to quickly alert us to potential problems, and also to offer support to each other. As many experienced technology users know, user forums are often the best way to learn how to use and troubleshoot complex systems.

We’ve chosen a bare-bones, no-nonsense platform that should allow users to quickly find the information they need, with a minimum of fuss.

We anticipate that bloggers will use the forums not only to troubleshoot, but also to help us plan future directions for ResearchBlogging.org. For example, bloggers in languages that we don’t currently support can work to build communities large enough to become supported by our site.

The forums will also offer a way for bloggers to organize their own research projects and even conduct discussions completely unrelated to ResearchBlogging.org with like-minded bloggers and others from across the internet.

We will provide the first level of support to users experiencing problems using our site via the forums and email, if necessary. SMG Technology will provide high-level support if there are issues that exceed our level of expertise.

Take a moment to sign up for the forums and introduce yourself. Then come back in a day or two to see what everyone else is saying about ResearchBlogging.org.

Do we need a new rule for pseudoscience/crackpots?

Administration 31 Comments
By Dave Munger

Our guidelines for individual posts and registering blogs are fairly robust: They allow us to take a careful look at posts and blogs to decide whether they should be allowed on ResearchBlogging.org.

But as ResearchBlogging.org becomes a higher-profile organization, it also increasingly becomes the target of pseudoscientists and crackpots advancing personal agendas that are not supported by serious research.

Because these individuals are highly motivated, they often take special care to couch their blogs in the trappings of legitimate research. Still, it doesn’t take long for a serious researcher to examine their work and see through the veneer to the real agenda behind it.

What does take a long time — what is, in the end, nearly impossible — is convincing the pseudoscientist/crackpot that her/his blog does not represent real research, and therefore isn’t acceptable.

But we don’t need to convince them — what we need to do is to convince our readers that we have real standards. From this arises the question: Should we have a new rule designed to eliminate pseudoscientists and crackpots from consideration without the benefit of extensive deliberation?

As it currently stands, if a blog is rejected due to insufficient rigor, the blogger is given the opportunity to defend him/herself publicly on this blog. We’ve done that once before, and our decision wasn’t changed. We’re currently working behind the scenes on two other such requests. Handling these requests according to our existing guidelines takes a lot of time and effort. We have to recruit experts in the relevant fields to accumulate evidence that the blogs should not be approved for our site. But we already know these blogs are unacceptable — this is essentially wasted effort.

I think we ought to give site administrators the latitude to reject obviously pseudoscientific / “crackpot” blogs simply by consulting informally among themselves and their colleagues — just as they already have the latitude to approve blogs that are obviously high quality. Only on true borderline cases should a formal review or public debate be necessary. But maybe our readers disagree — perhaps such a review is essential to the site’s mission.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Or make a post on your own blog, then post the link here.

RSS Feeds now live!

Administration 8 Comments
By Dave Munger

The most-requested feature for ResearchBlogging v2 is now available. We spent a long time tweaking these feeds to be just right — it’s a challenging task to make sure that feeds from over 400 different blogs can be consolidated into a single feed that works for everyone.

There may still be a few glitches, but for the most part, RSS now works, and it’s better than ever: Instead of a single feed for everyone, they are organized by topic, so you only see the posts you’re interested in.

Not only do you have the ability to specify the topic of the posts in your feed, you can also choose your language. Want only German Physics feeds and English Psychology feeds? No problem!

Want to see absolutely everything? We’ve got that too.

Here’s a link to the feeds page. Enjoy!

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