I find it so refreshing that a bunch of guys are debating the value of anonymity/pseudonymity/identity and its relationship to trust as pseudonymous Abel Pharmboy and decloaked Dr. Pal prepare for their session at ScienceOnline09. I think that sometimes pseudonymity is considered a women’s issue, because of concerns about harassment or easy identifiability of a woman blogging in a male-dominated field. I think Abel is raising some interesting questions about pseudonymous health blogging and how readers know whether to trust what they read.
But here’s what going through my mind when I read some of these discussions: “Who cares?”
Maybe that’s because the corner of the internet where I can usually be found (i.e., blogs by women in STEM fields) is populated largely by pseudonymous bloggers and commenters (and lots of lurkers), so pseudonymity is the norm not an aberation. There are some great real-name bloggers out there (hi Alice, Suzanne, and Peggy), but many of our women in science all-stars (FSP, YFS, Isis, Brazen Hussy, Jane, etc.)*
Also, the I think issue of trust is different in our community than in other parts of the science blog universe. Most of us are not using women-in-science blogs as a way of increasing our scientific knowledge. They are certainly no substitute for reading journal articles or time at the bench, field, or model. We are using women-in-science blogs to to learn from others, get tips on career development, cooking, paper-writing, and child-rearing. We are using women-in-science blogs to participate in a community of people who work in scientific/engineering fields and are interested in combining our demanding career with *some* sort of life outside the lab. And in this sort of community, it seems to be less important whether the blogger is Ariel, an astronomer in Arizona, than whether the blogger can provide insight into how to reach for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground. (And commenters too have such an important role in this community when you provide support, constructive criticism, sympathy, and encouragement).
So I don’t care whether you are a biologist, a physicist, or an engineer. I don’t care whether you are an undergraduate or a full professor. If you can be leaned on and you can be learned from, I think you’ll find the women-in-science blog community welcoming, trusting, and trustworthy. Whether you write with a pseudonym or not.
* You are all all-stars in my book. I was just trying to pick on some that seem to have a big readership.