Title: Implications of Scientists' Use of Social Computing Technologies for Scientific Communication, Science Policy, and Public Understanding of Science
Author(s): Christina K. Pikas
Affiliation: University of Maryland
Presented At: STiS 2008
Primary Topic Area: Science and the Public
Scientists' use of social computing technologies (SCTs) such as wikis and blogs is changing how they communicate with other scientists, policy makers, and the public. However, due to the recent development of SCTs, their impact on scientific communication is largely understudied. SCTs differ from previous modes of scientific communication in that their content is created by many more users, in a more distributed fashion, and is more easily shared.
This presentation reports the findings of a qualitative research study of how and why chemists and physicists use blogs. Research methods included qualitative content analysis of scientific blogs and semi-structured interviews with scientist bloggers. The study found that blogs constitute a new form of communication that does not fit neatly into the dominant model of popularization or the standard models of scholarly communication. The scientists intended to use their blogs to communicate to the public, yet the primary readership for many of the blogs is scientists in adjacent research areas and the blogs are perhaps most useful as shared notebooks. The bloggers must negotiate policies for what is appropriate for their blog.
The implications of this research for science and technology policy will be explored. A novel research agenda for exploring the impact of SCTs on internal communication within the scientific community and on the scientific community's communication with policy makers and the public will also be presented.