I have been thinking lately about the use of Web 2.0 tools (and specifically a blogging platform like this) as a way to increase exposure and draw feedback on research. I have been thinking about how we used to (and still do) get together at yearly conferences in meat space, and that was enough. Especially in paleo — a field I think is notorious for a slow turnaround time — getting together once or twice a year was just fine. I don’t expect the old boys (and they are overwhelmingly that) to change and start blogging in the field (“OMG! U will blow ur mind when u c this fossil!”), mainly because it would do them no benefit. I think when you have a way of working, and it works well for you, that if you are 5 years from retirement it ususally doesn’t make any sense to change a working formula. However, for those of us raised in the time of the interwebs, I think our brains actually work different in some ways. Personally, I want my data to come to me, not to have to go to a library for journals (although I still think libraries are great places for actual books and a nice place to sit quietly and study), however I know plenty of people (much older than I) who still like to print off their email.
But back to my main point: openness in science. Blogging can be a useful tool for sharing what you are doing when it comes to research, and may even lead to collaboration if someone else working on similar material stumbles upon you (I know I cruise google often, looking for things similar to projects of my own, usually for references). There is always the possibility of someone poaching your project, but I have to be convinced that blogging would make it worse than it is. Also, I think the in progress comments and feedback that could be possible is another good reason for it. I know I feel isolated in my lab, working on a project that is virtually unrelated to everything everyone else is working on. I would love to have more feedback on my work that is more meanful, and I think a lot of others would as well.
Another reason I advocate for the web 2.0 tools is the idea of making interactions searchable. I would love to have a better way of keeping track of people and ideas, so that when I come up with something, I can look to see if it is already done, or to see what other people are doing, without trying to rely solely on my memory. Any more, there is getting to be too much in the way of researchers and projects for me to keep straight, and I need some way of looking stuff up. I have started trying to do this with my own thoughts as well, in that I have started to use Tomboy Notes to keep track of new ideas so that I can easily search for specific things later, without trying to remember where I wrote it down. Anyhow, just a few thoughts for the moment. I’ll be coming back to this idea a fair bit, I think.