almost 4 years, to see how this new medium has evolved. You could either try and put some rules down in order to control it, or give it some breadth to see how it evolved, and we have chosen the latter path.”
John Miller with the Department of Energy asked Moore if she thinks the activity on Research Blogging might eventually replace the peer review system for journal articles. Moore responded that in her personal experience as a journal publisher, she definitely thinks this is a possibility on the horizon. She said, “What I find fascinating about Research Blogging is that a lot of these blog posts are filling the gap between the article being published today and then some months or maybe a year later when you see the letter to the editor appear in the published journal. So as thousands and thousands of people are reading these journal articles, only a few actually take the time to write up a formal letter to the editor. Then it goes to peer review, and then it may or may not be published. Because blogging is the medium that it is, we are able to see what people are spontaneously thinking and writing about right away, and that accelerates the discussions about the papers.” Moore added that Research Blogging also improves communication from scientist to scientist, not only to the public. She said that somebody who has read the paper knows what it is about and they can digest it and explain what they think is important or what might be questionable. She said Research Blogging is serving the purpose of “meta-analysis of the literature, as opposed to a formal peer review.”
Chemistry as the Supporting Actor, Not the Star
Steve Lyons commented that he was struck by the fact that both Ivan and Joy mentioned that one reason chemistry is not more visible is that it is often in a supporting role. Lyons asked if there was a way to get the public to recognize the critical role that chemistry plays in stories that are perceived to be about something else.
Amato said, “There is a chemistry back story, if you can have what you might call an explainer story in journalism.” That is where chemistry is not the main story but it is a big part of the story. For example, in the big oil spill there is a lot of chemistry to discuss, such as the dispersants and the chemicals used in the drilling industry. He said that there are some stories like that coming out, but not many.
Another example Amato mentioned was when the “Cash for Clunkers” story came out. The killing agent for the engines was a sodium silicate solution, which is essentially “liquid glass.” He ended up learning all about the sodium silicate market, how the compound is made, and what it is used for. Amato said they ran an explainer story online in Chemical Engineering News that was eventually picked up by the Wall Street Journal.
Amato also gave an example of a story he wrote about the Russian Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed by polonium poisoning. He wrote a detailed article about how polonium actually kills. Wired magazine later ran the story. Amato said it was a lesson on the power of social media and how stories can end up getting much, much wider exposure, “If you have the interest and it is a good topic, you can end up getting these chemistry stories out to where you wouldn’t expect them.”