Social Media

Example of Blogging Impact on Conduct of Science

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It has been previously suggested that science blogging has facilitated the finding of collaborators for joint authorship (Batts, et al., 2008) or the gathering of benefits from users’ comments (Butler, 2005).

In various posts found in the blogosphere claims have been made about the influence of science blogging on the practice of science itself.

The story that’s usually mentioned is about a scientist blogger who becomes a co-author on paper as a result of his blog. The story is of the PhD student in genetics at the University of Georgia, Reed Cartwright. In 2005 he disagreed with, and consequently wrote an alternative interpretation of a published paper about the mutant hothead gene of Arabidopsis (Lolle, et al., 2005) in his blog De Rerum Natura. Luca Cornai, at the University of California, Davis was publishing a similar interpretation in the journal Plant Cell, several months later, when he found out about Cartwright’s blog and the already published similar interpretation. Cornai extended the offer of co-authorship on the Planet Cell paper to Cartwright (see Comai & Cartwright, 2005).

This story has been told in The Scientist (Secko, 2007), by Bonetta (2007), by Batts, et al., (2008) and most recently mentioned by Trench (2012).

I think there may be another story to add to this list.

I came across this story in the blog Retraction Watch 28 June 2012. The blog post is entitled, ‘Controversial paper on life-extending buckyballs corrected after blog readers note problems.’

In a nutshell, a group of researchers published a paper (Baati, et al., 2012) in Biomaterials, which claimed that Buckyballs coated in olive oil could extend the lives of rodents.

Adam Marcus of Retraction Watch explains that this news was then picked up by Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline blog. Lowe expressed both puzzlement and praise towards the work in question.  However, as soon as the next day, a problem was identified. Lowe’s readers directed him to a blatant case of image duplication within the article. Sure enough, that was the case! Do refer to the post from Retraction Watch for more details.

The journal ended up printing a correction for the article.  (It addressed the histology of the article as well as another image.)

So blogging can indeed have an impact on the conduct of science.


Baati, T. Bourasset, F., Gharbi, N., Njimb, L., Abderrabba, M., Kerkeni, A., Szwarc, H., Moussa, F. (2012). ‘The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of [60] fullerene,’ Biomaterials (in press): 1-11. (Found here.)

Batts, S.A., Anthis, N.J., Smith, T.C. (2008). ‘Advancing science through conversations: Bridging the gap between blogs and the academy,’ PLoS Biology 6(9): e240. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060240

Bonetta, L. (2007). ‘Scientists enter the blogosphere,’ Cell 129(3), 443–445. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2007.04.032

Butler, D. (2005). ‘Joint Efforts,’ Nature 438 (1 December): 548-549. doi:10.1038/438548a

Comai, L, Cartwright, R. (2005). ‘A Toxic Mutator and Selection Alternative to the Non-Mendelian RNA Cache Hypothesis for hothead Reversion,’ The Plant Cell 17: 2856-2858. doi:

Lolle, S.J., Victor, J.L., Young, J.M.,  Pruitt, R.E. (2005). ‘Genome-wide non-mendelian inheritance of extra-genomic information in Arabidopsis’ Nature 434 (24 March 2005), 505-509. doi:10.1038/nature03380

Secko, D. (2007). ‘Scooped by a blog,The Scientist 21(4): 21.

Trench, B. (2012) ‘Scientists’ blogs – glimpses behind the scenes,’ In: Rodder, Simone and Franzen, Martina andWeingart, Peter, (eds.) The Sciences’ Media Connection – public communication and its repercussions, Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 273-290. ISBN 978-94-007-2084-8