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Science communication

[This is a cross-post from Field Notes, my other blog, where I write about science across the media.]

When I was at Science Online 2012 earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch. When I tweeted about transcribing the interview as part of the preparations for this article in Spektrum, some people asked if they could read the transcript. After Ivan kindly agreed, I can now say: Yes, you can.

Just a note in advance, though: It’s a transcript (minus some off-topic remarks and outside distractions…), not an edited interview, so it may meander a bit here and there. We talked about blogging and the role of journalism, specifically science journalism, about potential business models and a retraction mystery novel, about science as a human endeavor and a developing culture of error reporting online, about commenters and German readers, about dialogue and the role of humor – and much more. I immensely enjoyed listening to the kind and generous innovator I found in Ivan, and I hope you do, too.

So without further ado – the interview:

K: What motivated you to start Embargo Watch and later Retraction Watch?

IO: It was actually this conference that inspired me to start these blogs. I have been here every year, this is the sixth year, and I wouldn’t miss it. Because it’s just a wonderful group of people and you learn so much. And it’s just such a supportive goup and we can all criticize each other’s work in an incredibly constructive way, without it ever being a personal issue. You can even criticize speakers while they are speaking, on Twitter, and people will respond and we all are the better for it at the end of it.

On the subject matter, though: I had always thought a lot about embargoes. This goes back years. When I was at The Scientist, I wrote a few blogposts for the Scientist-Blog, about a couple of situations. And there is a book by Vincent Kiernan called „Embargoed Science“. It’s his thesis. He was a reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education for many years and then went back to get a PhD in communications or science communication. And his thesis was about embargoes and what effect they have on science and science communication, in particular journalism. So he eventually published that thesis as a book and I always followed his work, I thought very highly of it. And then there were some incidents with WHO, the World Health Organization, the New York Times, the New England Journal of Medicine had something else that happened with embargoes, so I would always write little items about it, you know, think about it a little bit, used the „Ingelfinger Rule“, it’s a fun word to use…

The nice thing about blogging is that it can give voice and a regular rhythm to your obsessions, right? And embargoes really are one of my obsessions…

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