Ran across the tube containing Standards in Science Blogging and My Inbox. I’m interested in standards of science blogging, so I gave it a read. The author almost gets it right when talking about the right way and wrong way to support your argument.
There is a right way and a wrong way to buttress one’s viewpoints on controversial issues involving science and society.
The right way is to do a comprehensive search of the literature on the topic and to find a group of peer-reviewed articles that support one’s argument. In a popular article, it’s OK to also quote popular sources, but if the subject is science, the focus should be on peer-reviewed mayerial.
I think you need to take it one step further. Finding articles that support your argument is the lawyer’s way of making a case. The scientist looks at all of the material, or at least a reasonable sampling of it. In any widely-researched area there will invariably be some literature that is unsupportive, contradictory or at least ambiguous, and it is not scientific to cherry-pick results. This is just the nature of, well, nature — you get statistical results, and sometimes those results are the outliers rather than the average.
So make sure it’s carefully-done research (peer-review helps with that). But survey the whole body of it, and make sure the science really is supporting you. There are people who will point to a poorly-done study and build a position from it, oblivious to the fact that it contradicts mounds of other works — these are not good arguments.
I think it that science bloggers and journalists should work toward a standard of ethics that their scientifically-related posts and articles will contain at least a minimal number of links or citations to peer-reviewed material.
Obviously, if blog posts aren’t about science, there’s no such need for literature citation.
I think this is true, remembering the context of discussions of science & society. One also needs to remember the difference between fact and opinion. There are quite a few people out there who post their opinions as if they were facts, or dismiss facts as if they were opinions.