"I find it ironic that science is about the adoption, discovery and exploitation of new knowledge and techniques, yet the biggest revolution on the web is passing us by," says Greg Tyrelle, a bioinformatician at Chang Guan University in Taiwan. He has been experimenting with blog (short for web log) software for five years to interact with a growing audience of his peers and the wider public.
The emerging web is largely being shaped by dynamic interactions between users in real time [see "Web 2.0 Arrives." By Steven Johnson. Discover, 26(10), October 2005. ].
But many researchers still see publications in the formal scientific literature as 'the' means of scientific communication. Although the traditional published paper is accepted as the undisputed information of record, younger researchers, in particular, are concerned that scientists are missing out on new ways to communicate with each other and the public.
They recommend the use of collaborative technologies such as blogs and wikis, websites that any visitor can add to and edit. Supporters say these offer a forum for broader and more timely discussion, to complement the existing system of peer-reviewed journals. This could enhance science communication, both before publication, when generating ideas, and after publication, when discussing results.
"Blogs are just one example of new social technologies that are allowing more people to publish more easily and in more diverse ways on the web. By allowing reader feedback and syndication feeds, blogs create an instant online community. "Blogs can offer any kind of content Ñ from peer-reviewed articles to sheer speculation to rants, and everything in between," says Amy Gahran, an expert in new media and editor of Contentious.com.