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Are Scientists Averse to Using Web 2.0 Tools? Case Study 2

March 25, 2010

In writing a sequel to the earlier post, I had trouble settling on one of the two blogs I had been considering for a case study and finally decided on including both. One rationale in selecting these two blogs is that the posts in these blogs discuss citable research articles in physics.


the physics arXiv blog’ hosted by MIT’s Technology Review provides daily posts of new ideas from papers uploaded to the preprint server. Since there is no a priori peer review on the arxiv server, focusing on distinguishing between the good and the not so good is valuable and this blog seem to help achieve that. This blog is a human curator watching over the stream of articles entering arXiv and decided to blog about selected ones.

Here is a quote from someone: this is huge not only because it will bring exposure to arXiv and to more peripheral scientific research, but because it sets a small but substantial milestone in the acceptance of a commit-then-review scientific publishing world (opposed to the de-facto standard review-then-commit model that has been in place for centuries).

Since there are a number of entries in this entire blog, I choose a single month (Jan 2010) for data analysis (unlike in the previous case study the data is not readily available, I had to gather and compile manually). In a single month of Jan 2010, there were 20 blog posts; these are shown in the list along with the number of comments.

67 The Case of the Collider and the Great Black Hole
23 Dark Matter May Explain the Puzzling Change in Earth-Sun Distance
13 Deriving the Properties of the Universe
9 Starlight Reveals a Clue to Biomolecular Handedness
8 Quantum Darwinism and the Nature of Reality
8 Moon May Have Formed in Natural Nuclear Explosion
5 The Global Shipping Network Is Finally Revealed
4 The Sudden Strange Speedup of Pulsars
3 Characterizing the Perfect Golf Swing
3 How to Build a Dark Energy Detector
3 RFID Data Reveals London’s Polycentric Pattern of Commuting
2 A New Way to Deal with the Cargo Container Security Problem
2 To Understand Congress, Just Watch the Sandpile
2 Physicists Discover How to Grow Graphene
1 Neutrino Telescope Measures Temperature of the Ozone Layer
1 The Truth About Digital Sweat Shops
1 Making Light of Ion Traps
1 Virtual Reality for Fruit Flies: Plans Unveiled
0 How to Halt Disease with Limited Amounts of Vaccine
0 Physicists Shrink Heat Engines by Seven Orders of Magnitude

The conclusion from this data is that there is a significant user activity on this blog site. What is intriguing about the first entry is that the associated arxiv paper is not actually based on physics, but on a court case . However the comments that followed (of course not so much in the scale of that following a Times OpEd piece) discuss important scientific and ethical aspects of the LHC experiment.

In spite of the usefulness of the blog, some important technical features are missing – no search functionality, no categorization, no archive linking, no tagging, no easy navigation to older entries. It seems to me that only frequent visitors can find this site of any significant use.


This blog publishes semi-popular level articles and reports on key developments in various fields of Physics. The blog posts include (i) reviews of published articles by authors of refereed journal articles, (ii) expert reviews of newsworthy articles and (iii) guest interviews and news.

There are no search tools to facilitate data collection and there were only 45 entries during the entire 2009. The number of entries in each type along with the number of comments is illustrated in the figure.

J Phys Soc Jpn 1
Nature 8
Nature Mat 1
Nature Phys 5
Science 12
Sci Express 2

The source journals for all the entries in this web site are listed in the above table with the number of times each source journal based. In spite of the good efforts of the authors and subject experts, the low level of commenting on this web site seem to be due to a lack of branding, it would be interesting to know the usage traffic on this web site.

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