It seems odd to be defending the role of web based communication on a blog, but Adam’s last post struck a nerve. He quoted from Reddy’s editorial in Science that stresses the need to communicate beyond the ivory towers of our institutions. I think that is a great goal and a necessary component of doing science especially on a publically funded project. I believe that the greater use of science blogs and wikis is also a vital part of this communication. Making the science we do as public as we can is an important part of public outreach. We need to make sure that our science and how we do it is freely available to the public and our peers. Journals like those at the Public Library of Science (PLOS) have started doing this in terms of peer reviewed research. What better way to help educate people about what we do then do show them the process too. There was a fantastic article by Batts et al (2008) about blogging and other web based resources in PLoS Biology last semester that is certainly worth a look.
In terms of my own personal response to making my science accessible, I have maintained an active academic website of my research since I stared at WSU. Part of the website has included resources such as mini HOWTO manuals that I wrote for various classes or when I was a technician and it was a well used way to pass around information. As part of a journal club that I manage (Coevolvers), I tried to start a podcast of our discussions, but have turned to blogging about our discussions instead ( http://coevolvers.blogspot.com/ ). The goal of this blog is focused on increasing communication. It can serve to expose science students to research topics on coevolution. As a more academic goal, it can facilitate discussion between lab groups which focus on species interactions or coevolution. Graduate education consists not only of building a solid research program but also developing connections within the scientific community (e.g. attendance of scientific meetings).
Challenge for future IPEM fellows and faculty: Let’s make the IPEM seminar series go up to eleven. Each week of the seminar is a perfect opportunity to discuss a new research topic online especially since the speaker is only on one campus, but fellows and faculty are spread across the state of Washington. I find the questions that people ask are thoughtful and I often find myself thinking later of questions I want to ask the folks at UW or WSU Vancouver. I could imagine that each week the fellow or faculty who invited the speaker could easily make an initial blog post on the IPEM blog. This could serve as an initial catalyst to spark debate and conversation as comments or more posts. What better way to advertise what we are doing than to make it public.