A very prominent German Wikipedian, Meisterkoch (“Master Chef”), doesn’t like bloggers much. In a recent opinion piece he manages to insult all the world’s blogging scientists in one fell swoop.

“At best, blogs are run by second-rate scientists; typically, however, just by unemployed people. … In fact, blogs allow the repeated and systematic transfer of half-knowledge and subjectivities which can be ‘consumed’ and amplified even further by other non-scientific media (other blogs, Twitter, etc.). … Bloggers usually react with anger and denial if you point out that their blogs are not as important as the bloggers think. Nevertheless, blogs contribute to increased visibility for scientists who are at best mediocre.”

So, one of the marks of a first-rate scientist is apparently that she does not blog. Luckily, my experience with young German scholars has taught me that this kind of Prussian authoritarianism is going extinct.

Via Mathias Klang.


  1. #1 Bob O'H
    October 27, 2009

    It does make one wonder what he things about wikipedians.

  2. #2 passing stranger
    October 27, 2009

    Bob O’H, nice point. Criticizing blogs because they ‘allow the repeated and systematic transfer of half-knowledge and subjectivities’ is a bit rich coming from a wikipedian.

  3. #3 Vasha
    October 27, 2009

    He is arguing that only peer-reviewed publications should be used as sources for scientific Wikipedia articles. Maybe so, but he’s awfully extreme. Scientists often contribute useful context and further insights for their work in blogs and journalistic articles; peer-reviewed papers often contain just the bare bones, and don’t discuss such things as the circumstances and methods of the work. Besides, this sweepingly insulting dismissal of bloggers goes far beyond what’s necessary for his argument!

  4. #4 ArchAsa
    October 27, 2009

    This over confidence in peer reviewed articles reveals the fact that Meisterkoch is not a scientist himself (herself?). Only non-scientists think the spread of information within research works in that way.

    By all means, facts and numbers taken from published works in respectable journals are worth more than vague musings in a blog – don’t know of any sci-blogger who would dispute that for a second. But since blogs are a useful means to “translate” science-lingo into intelligible text it sounds utterly stupid to ignore the great opportunity blogs give in that respect.

  5. #5 Nick Horton
    October 27, 2009

    Non-scientists have a tendency to idealize the scientific process (I don’t mean the scientific process proper, ie method, but the process by which science is both done and then transmitted to the public via peer reviewed articles).

    Peer review is the best we’ve got, but it’s got its own flaws that most of us know already.

    Clearly I’m preaching to the choir in a comments section of a science blog, but regardless, science blogs provide a service to the (usually well-enough educated) public that isn’t being filled in any other way. A science blogger has generally enough knowledge in a topic area (or two) to translate recent findings in that area into readable, and dare I say fun, text that people without such knowledge would have otherwise missed out on completely! And, thereby provide another avenue of societal education in scientific literacy.

    Meisterkoch, explain to me again how that is BAD for science?

  6. #6 Tor
    October 28, 2009

    Well, regardless of whether this was a nice thing to say, it might be interesting to see some statistics on how blogging activity correlates with standard measures of academic excellence.

  7. #7 Martin R
    October 28, 2009

    I agree. Let’s hope some first-rate sociologist of science does the study.

  8. #8 Martin R
    October 28, 2009

    I predict, though, that the scientists with the biggest grants, who head the largest research projects, probably have very little spare time in which to blog. But that would in my opinion be too restricted a definition of “first-rate scientist”.

  9. #9 DianaGainer
    October 28, 2009

    That comment reminds me of a certain college professor who proclaimed that anyone with a college education who deigned to write anything for “common consumption” was engaged in an endeavor on the moral level of prostitution. He was very fond of big words and highly paid science journals, himself. Not all of us can afford to subscribe to all of those. We very much appreciate bloggers, so we won’t have to pay $30 and up for every article we want to read, not to mention $300 for every journal. But maybe he’s more highly paid than we are. Or reads less.

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