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Higgs Boson Blog Controversy

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Chris Vallance | 18:12 UK time, Thursday, 3 May 2007

Pleasantly surprised to discover that Physics World has added Five Live to its press subscription list (perhaps it is an attempt to help us understand reverse swing), I was even more astounded to find that the magazine had entered the great, blogging debate.

Apparently "Blogs [..] threaten the traditional ways of releasing scientific results at seminars and conferences". The magazine reports that early news of the discovery of the holy grail of particle physics, the wonderfully named Higgs Boson particle, was based on blogs written by researchers. Although a number of mainstream news outlets reported the possible discovery the data wasn't all that strong, enough for a scientist to write an excited post to a blog, but far from enough to prove all that was claimed in the articles in the popular press. In fact it's far from clear that anyone has conclusively found the elusive Higgs Boson.

The issue of scientific blogging is a tricky one. Researchers will naturally want to blog the developing naratives of their research, but no matter how many caveats they put in their prose, there's always a risk that journalists will jump the super-colliding gun and prematurely report promising early signs as major breakthroughs. It's another of those issues where we find blogs occupying a no-mans-land between conventional publishing and a means of communication within a community.

UPDATE: Craig in comments thinks its journalists who need to smarten up their act. I agree, I'm certainly not suggesting scientists shouldn't blog about their work.


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