How important is the vetting process of how media is communicated to the public when it comes to science and digital social media? What's an online science writer to do in order to exchange information and inform the public about new research via new media when some biologists and neuroscientists shun new media?
What science communications professionals want to see is more peer-reviewed forums for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. Some media people are tired of seeing one group of journals being labeled as "toilet journals" by some physicians because the doctors pay to get their research published versus the prestigious peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. Check out the article, "Seriously Rapid Source Review - Social Media Information Lab."
Peer reviewed versus "toilet journals"
For science writers in the media, the issue is how do you judge a peer-reviewed journal if you have no idea who reviewed the articles? Professionals in science communications want to know whether the peer reviewers of various technical journals are associated with the largest pharmaceutical firms, independent, or focused on research that looks at how food is as medicine. Other communicators want to explore whether alternative research methods such as examining the effects of plant extracts or oils on health are validated.
"Toilet journals" is a term used by some physicians to describe medical, health, or scientific articles in journals that are not peer reviewed by peers and that usually a researcher pays a fee to have the article published. It's similar to how publishing professionals look at books that authors paid to have published that were not screened by editors, edited, and sometimes also peer-reviewed by a group of editors and/or professionals in the same area of research.
An online survey of neuroscientists in Germany and the United States found that, although in both countries researchers believe "new media" such as blogs and online social networks are important in influencing public opinion and political decisions. Many of the researchers make little use of new media themselves.
Neuroscientists rate social networks as important but don't spend much time with them
If you're a scientist, you may not have time for social media or even want to discuss your latest research with reporters and media people, unless you want to publicize your published research articles and draw in more readers. But do scientists really want readers outside the circle of scientists or medical professionals and those with the power to offer grants for more research needed to complete their projects? The role of social media may be put on the back burner or used at all.
Although biologists think that "new media" such as blogs and online social networks have an important influence on public opinion and political decisions, they aren't much inclined to use them themselves to stay informed about developments in science, according to the latest study. Rather, they prefer traditional outlets such as newspapers and television. That seems, at least, to be the implication of a study published in the April 2013 issue of Bioscience (American Institute of Biological Sciences). The article by Allgaier and colleagues can be accessed ahead of print as an uncorrected proof at Bioscience Press Releases until early April 2013.
Opinions of neuroscientists were examined
The study, by Joachim Allgaier of the Jülich Research Center in Germany and four coauthors, examined the opinions of 257 neuroscientists working in Germany and the United States who completed an online survey. Although German scientists had a slightly lower opinion of the influence of new media than US scientists, most researchers in both countries thought new media were important even though they made "lackluster" personal use of them. Scientists under 40 made slightly more use of them than older scientists. Check out the March 8, 2013 news release, "Some biologists shun new media."
The findings could be misleading if those who replied are not typical of neuroscientists, and it is possible that neuroscientists' attitudes are different from those of other biologists. Still, the study is a significant addition to what is known about scientists' communication habits. It suggests, the authors write in the study, that scientists "continue to value the vetting process to which information is subject in media channels."
BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is a meta-level organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations.
The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the April, 2013 issue of BioScience is as follows. These are now published online ahead of print
Responsible Aquaculture in 2050: Valuing local Conditions and Human Innovations will Be Key to Success. James S. Diana, Hillary S. Egna, Thierry Chopin, Mark S. Peterson, Ling Cao, Robert Pomeroy, Marc Verdegem, William T. Slack, Melba G. Bondad-Reantaso, and Felipe Cabello
Energy use and Greenhouse Gas emissions from Crop Production Using the Farm Energy Analysis Tool. Gustavo G. T. Camargo, Matthew R. Ryan, and Tom L. Richard
Sensory Adaptations of Fishes to Subterranean Environments. Daphne Soares and Matthew L. Niemiller
Journalism and Social media as means of observing the Contexts of Science. Joachim Allgaier, Sharon Dunwoody, Dominique Brossard, Yin-Yueh Lo, and Hans Peter Peters
Learning to Reason about Ecosystems Dynamics over Time: The Challenges of an Event-Based Causal Focus. Tina A. Grotzer, Amy M. Kamarainen, M. Shane Tutwiler, Shari Metcalf, and Chris Dede
Progress and Perspectives on Question-Driven Coral Reef monitoring. Peter Houk and Robert van Woesik
More resources on science communications, social media, and the line between science and journalism
Social Media and the Decision to Participate in - Journalist's ResourceThe line between science and journalism is getting blurry….againLegacy's Media Offspring And Heir: Citizen Journalism - ForbesJournalists, Social Media, and the Use of Humor on Twitter | SethScan and Analysis of Best Practices in Digital Journalism