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Are Scientists Averse to Using Web 2.0 Tools? Case Study 3

April 28, 2010

(This is the last of the case studies and will soon be followed by an entry with summary and recommendations.)

As the first case study in this series I analyzed the use of web 2.0 tools by one society discussion forum and for the second I analyzed the use of the same by two dedicated research teams. Now for the third case study I considered a blog aggregator and like in the previous case studies the discussion in the individual blogs is limited to research journal articles.

ResearchBlogging.org is an aggregator blogging service. Individual bloggers, experts in their own research field who write blog entries on exciting new peer-reviewed research, register with this service.  The aggregator’s computer code snippet installed on the participant’s blog automatically feeds the blogger activity to the aggregator’s main site and lists the entries there. The main site, therefore, is one convenient place for the users to go to and one can extract a list of entries based on topics or dates.  There is also advanced search functionality on the main page.

A total of 4,852 entries were listed for the entire calendar year of 2009 covering the 17 topics and of these 101 were listed under the Physics topic. The figure below shows the user activity on the blog entries in the Physics topic.



(click on the image to open in new window for better quality)

The top panel is the number of views for each entry and the bottom panel is the number of comments posted on each of the entries. In both cases the horizontal axis is the date each blog entry is posted (for clarity a few overlapping dates were slightly moved horizontally). The views information was obtained from the main site programmatically and the comment counts were obtained manually by visiting each of the individual sites. The information was collected during mid March 2010 and the tendency for a downward trend in the views (top) toward the year end (towards the right) is due to the shorter durations these entries were publicly available than those posted early in the year (towards the left).  It can be seen that the blog entries posted during the first half of the year averaged more than 500 views – this is a very significant number.  The bottom panel shows the number of comments for each of the blog entries (ranging from none to 37) and once again there is significant amount of commenting in the blogs.

I next looked at the source journals of the published articles on which the blog entries were based. The table below lists the top 10 source journals together with the number of articles from each that were used for the blogs.  JAP was the only AIP journal that was blogged with just one entry. Other notable ones, outside the top 10, are PRD, PNAS (2 each), Applied Optics, JAP, LoC, PRA, PRC, PER and RMP (1 each).

Table 1: Top 10 physics journals covered during 2009

Source Journal No. of Entries
arXiv 14
Science 12
Nature 11
Physical Review Letters 10
J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 6
Exp. Thermal and Fluid Sci. 3
Journal of Vision 3
Optics Express 3
Optics Letters 3
PLoS Biology 3

The table below shows the top 5 bloggers who have a combined contribution of one-third of the total in the Physics category. Obviously there are some dedicated souls out there and I feel the key is to get hold of some to blog on AIP content.

Table 2: Top 5 Physics bloggers in 2009

Blogger No. of
Entries
Optics confidential 13
weird things 10
Unruled Notebook 9
Upon Reflection 6
Physiology physics woven fine 5
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