2010-10-08 13:30:55An encouragement to write blog posts about new peer-reviewed papers
John Cook


If I had many more hours in the day, I would love to write blog posts about the latest peer-reviewed papers. The primary goal of Skeptical Science is to educate the public about what's happening to our climate. An effective way of doing this is by translating peer-reviewed science into plain English so people can understand the latest science results. So whenever I can, I try to write blog posts that summarise a new (or sometimes old) peer-reviewed paper into just a few paragraphs and a graph or two. I'd like to encourage you all to think about doing this also for several reasons:

  1. It's probably the easiest type of blog post to write - just taking existing material and parsing it into simpler language (that's not to say it's easy to boil down complex science to simple terms but I find it easier and less time consuming than coming up with original content).
  2. It's a good way to get the latest science out there to the public. Most people can't read peer-reviewed literature (or even access the pay-walled papers) so this is a chance to get peer-review to the people.
  3. It frees me up to spend more time on programming - adding all those kick-arse features I've been promising for the forum and the front end of the website :-)

I'm sure everyone would approach this differently but for the record, I have a fairly simple methodology when I parse a peer-review paper that gets the job done pretty quickly and efficiently:

  1. Read through the paper and any press releases or popular media reporting on the paper
  2. Copy and paste key lines into a text file and screen capture any graphs that tell a good story
  3. Once I've gone through the full paper, I rearrange the content into a more cohesive narrative and convert the technical wording into something more readable
  4. I then reread the popular press versions as they often have more user-friendly phrases or useful quotes from the scientists before making the final edit
  5. This whole process usually takes around 1 to 3 hours if I'm in good form (and depending on how complex the paper is).
So if you're interested in possibly writing blog posts, subscribe to the Daily Climate Links email which sends out any new peer-reviewed papers in a daily email. Remember you can always test drive your blog post in the Blog Post Forum before a friendly audience before sending it out into the world. Be sure to read the How Blog Posts Work thread to get a better understanding of how to post a blog post.
2010-10-08 16:17:11


I'd wouldn't suggest that we should go through the full "five thumbs up" review procedure for blog posts, but all the same there's tremendous value in getting at least a quick look-see from a 2nd pair of eyes prior to putting stuff out in public. We can avoid all sorts of ringers that way, from simple spelling and grammatical blunders all the way to perhaps being a little quick on the trigger covering the occasional paper conveying tenuous or marginally important results. 

Also, using the "Blog Posts" thread to immediately advertise when one is taking up a subject even before the first word is written will avoid dismaying duplication of effort. We've a number of people working here now and some of the splashier papers will eventually cause a collision. 

I should add, obviously a lot of people are already using the "Blog Posts" thread, I suppose I'm thinking aloud a bit here. For some reason it's been a blind spot for me.  


2010-10-08 18:22:09


In such kind of posts, it is important to not draw conclusions , just report the news and what the authors say. Too risky otherwise.

For example, there's a new paper on sun activity where they claim that the sun's influence on climate is upside down. Interesting, but with a lot of ifs and caveats. We don't want to jump on any train.

 I agree with Doug that we cannot follow the full "review procedure". I suggest to post it here, comments are welcome if fast enough but it's John who decide to publish it. Although the author takes the full responsibility, this is John's site, the last word is his.

2010-10-08 19:57:02Whether to post into blog forum
John Cook

Don't consider it necessary to post into the forum either - that would be more if you'd like feedback or wish to smooth off any rough edges before going live. Once you've done a few posts, you're probably comfortable to post some or all such posts without needing to run them by here. Also, if you've done a few blog posts, you probably have a good grasp of the Author Admin system and have demonstrated that you're not about to engage in ad hominem attacks or rant about politics so let me know if you'd like to be upgraded to Full Author - which means you can go live with blog posts yourself.
2010-10-08 23:20:31comment
Robert Way

I have to disagree with you hear. I think by rights that even people who have a little experience should consider posting in the blog thread because improvements can always be made. In the case of rapidfire responses to misinformation that isn't necessary but in discussing many topics it can root out any misplaced emphasis through having it appear online. Just a thought.
2010-10-09 02:32:54agree
Dana Nuccitelli
I tend to agree that it's very useful to post a draft in the blogs forum to at least get some quick feedback before publishing.  You've built a very useful peer-review system here, and it's always worthwhile to use it.  Delaying publication by a few hours won't change anything.