Well, PalMD and I have been working tirelessly on putting together a plan of discussion for the upcoming ScienceOnline’09 session on Anonymity and Pseudonymity – Building Reputation Online. Over the last several months, we have had a tremendous outpouring of comments on our own blogs and numerous other blogs that gives us far more fodder than could be discussed in a 75 minute unconference session. (Pal, I foresee a palcast on pseudonymity.).
I still contend in all seriousness that the following 18 October 2008 quote from PhysioProf (cross-posted on his solo site) deserves to be the opening discussion point on slide one (if we have any slides):
I think all this pseudonymity/anonymity handwringing is driven by the florid neuroses of a handful of non-pseudonymous bloggers who are outraged by the fact that their real-world credentials gain them no credibility at all in the blogosphere, while numerous pseudonymous/anonymous bloggers have developed–through the demonstrable value of their actual motherfucking content–tremendous respect and credibility. It pisses these weebly doucheknockers off that people laugh derisively at their inane gibberish and fancy-ass degrees, while taking very seriously the well-developed and well-written content of numerous pseuds, all of whom could very well be labrador retrievers with Windows passwords.
I’ve put up six posts under the tag, The Pseudonymity Laboratory, a category kicked off by my idea to reveal my identity publicly and the impact that might have on my perceived expertise and veracity. To my surprise, no one really seemed to care who I was (including my Mom – I mean that she didn’t think I should overtly reveal myself).
Among my favorites from the 30 or so comments on this initial post came from our colleague, Anonymoustache – his answer to my question, “Do you trust me?”:
Because you live-blogged your vasectomy. That makes you a person to reckoned with even more than a person who always has a towel.
I mention Anonymoustache for this final post on the topic because he comments quite often on other blogs that routines address the research grant review process. I am hardpressed to find a single RealName blogger who posts on writing and critiquing research grants and addressing the entire research grant review process. Those who do are, of course, DrugMonkey and PhysioProf, DrDrA, writedit, Mike the Mad Biologist, juniorprof, and MsPhD, plus a slew of other folks who regularly comment on the posts, such as whimple, who don’t appear to have their own blogs. (Please add to my obvious oversights in the comments – I’ve just added a bunch of new blogs to my feeds and know that there are many more who write about grants and grantspersonship).
The immediate value of these pseudonymous discussions is the obvious desire to vent and gain insights as to the best ways to interpret grant critiques, strategize for resubmissions, and decide what funding mechanisms are best to pursue. Moreover, those of us who serve or have served on review panels can give inside dope on the generalities of the process; for example, DrugMonkey’s playwriting should truly be adapted to the stage (Act I, Act II) because these humorous accounts are quite universal across NIH’s 120 or so standing review panels.
Writing in this manner, without identifiers, is, to me, an ethical way of mentoring others (including ourselves) about the process without breaching the confidentiality of the process. Why we choose to remain pseudonymous grant-blogging so is manifold – for me, the primary reason is to avoid the implication that my views on this blog, often more flippant when compared with the respect and reverence I bring to the honor of reviewing, in any way influence my objectivity in reviewing grant applications.
Without belaboring the issue, I submit that writing under a pseudonym provides a much-needed academic and mentoring service to the scientific community, particularly for trainees who may or may not have such frank and strategic mentoring at their home institutions (*note that I speak mostly from the NIH and DoD grant review perspective since that’s what I know).
Any other points on this issue that you’d like to add?