Blogs can’t see wheat from chaff…should we defend our position?

Blogs cannot separate wheat from chaff.
Burt RK, Snowden JA, Burman J, Oliveira MC, Sharrack B.
Science. 2017 Nov 3;358(6363):602.

Should we accept this claim or defend our position?

Concerns about unregulated stem cell trials were voiced on a blog (CLICK) and prompted a response in Science magazine (in black). 

I disagree with the title. It should not stand up to peer review, but this is what you get when you have “pop science”. This wants catchy titles. I feel that we can separate wheat from the chaff.

It is is not the blogs, but the writers of the blogs that sometimes can’t spot the chaff. 

If scientists write blogs, they are also capable of writing papers to say similar things even with peer review. 

Maybe they can spot chaff and maybe the wheat does not realize what it is.

Reviewers of journal articles do not have a monopoly on fair play and it is sometimes a constant battle.

However, providing a view point is what blogs can do. We don’t always get the tone right, and someone is always going to be unhappy with what you write. 

In this article  they are responding to a 3 part blog they say

“Our research was one target of….criticism”……”By publishing his opinions on a blog,” the blogger “avoids the accountability inherent in peer-reviewed journal publication. Meanwhile, scientists involved with regulated clinical research must abide by strict rules about what they can say and write. 

“Physicians and clinical researchers, constrained by patient confidentiality……recognize the pitfalls and dangers of social media. We must convey to the public that bloggers, even those with university-affiliated sites, may be unaccredited, unvetted, and unsupervised”.

Yep this is absolutely true and so you should take what we say with a pinch of salt. Get alternative opinions and make up your own mind.

However, blogs give a means to provide an instant response rather than waiting 6 months to a year for the peer-review and publication process to  occur. 

Should it stop people reporting items you don’t want reported (CLICK), when you will feed off the same hand when it suits your purpose, so should it stop reporting of claims (CLICK). 

In the US there is the first amendment in the constitution…then again there is litigation.

“Institutions should revisit oversight policies for social media activity bearing their imprimatur, as well as restrictions on researchers’ responses to claims made online. Allowing unscientific accusations to proliferate and gagging those qualified to refute them undermines science and could lead to harm to patients”.

As a peer reviewer I would ask what is the evidence that the  scientists were gagged?  

Is seems that the blogger was not given an opportunity to respond to the article in Science.

I don’t want to get embroiled in the rights but what I can say is that 
“At the Limits” meeting to be held in London should be interesting as HSCT will feature. As long as the organisers have sponsors, the meeting will be live streamed on “The Lancet” website.

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  • I feel the comment is a bit rich coming from the team that sold HSCT to the BBC. Now on the basis of a case series conducted in people with severe disease, those of us with "just" MS have to tolerate the eternal optimistic comments of "well, you can cure MS – why don't you have those stem cells".

    Blogging is just a form of media, like television. Contribution to either is a great responsibility.

  • I don't understand the reason why you are agitating this issue so many months later, especially now that the first positive results from the HSCT trial are out. Is it a passive aggressive humble pie?

    • I saw the paper last week whilst grazing the literature and decided to comment on it.

      I also meant to include the links to last year's At the limits talks as I have the link to the filming. I understand Dr Burt is coming to the next one.

      I love pies but humble is not a flavour I like:-)

  • Me neither (pies)

    The timelines issue echoed for me. Despite patient, careful work (such as the year that researchers spent validating their results in EDGES the worm is turning faster and faster.

    The time-to-journal or time-to-Completion is a time during which the foundations of knowledge have shifted…

    Honours research and the ten minute, YouTube, lecture are two of the Federation University responses that I am aware of.

  • you could also take the point that blogs and science journals are separate mediums and are used for different purposes.

    scientific journals rely on the peer review process to be scientific.

    blogs are more often used for dissemination and activism.

    so they can exist alongside each other as long as scientists remain scientists and don't cross over to the dark (pop culture) side

    kinda like when journos write opinion pieces and at the end there is a spiel about how the views are that of the joruno and not the publication.

    i think saw that somewhere in a disclaimer on this site too

    how is the cold war with russia going?

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