Writing research articles vs writing blog posts

Is there any difference between writing a research article and writing a blog post on a research subject? This is what I would like to understand.

In my mind research articles should become a subset of … how should I call them, maybe “research posts”.  There are obvious advantages on the side of the research posts, as well as some disadvantages. I think it is revealing that the advantages have an objective flavour, while the disadvantages have more of a subjective one, mostly being related to the bad image the blog posts have among the “serious” researchers.

I have already experimented with this idea:

  • the Tutorial on graphic lambda calculus has served as the template for  arXiv:1302.0778   On graphic lambda calculus and the dual of the graphic beta move,
  • the post Geometric Ruzsa triangle inequalities and metric spaces with dilations became  arXiv:1304.3358  Geometric Ruzsa triangle inequality in metric spaces with dilations, with very few modifications,
  • I just submitted on arXiv  the article arXiv:1304.3694 Origin of emergent algebras, based on the posts The origin of emergent algebras, part II and part III, as well as parts of Emergent algebra as combinatory logic (part I),
  • now I am struggling with writing a shorter (and somehow dumber) version of arXiv:1207.0332  Local and global moves on locally planar trivalent graphs, lambda calculus and \lambda-Scale, because I was too hurried and spoiled by the freedom this blog gives me to do research, so in the first version of the article I just write too much, without enough motivation. Therefore I decided (based on a peer-review which I appreciated) to concentrate first only on what the graphic lambda calculus can do with the gates corresponding to the application, the abstraction and the fan-out:  the lambda calculus part of the graphic lambda calculus, along with the braids formalism part. The emergent algebra part is for later.

The format of the articles  from this list is as much as possible similar with the one of the research posts.  As an example I mention  the use of links inside  the text, including direct links to the (preferably OA) versions of the cited articles. See the post Idiot things that we we do in our papers out of sheer habit by Mike Taylor for more examples of the same “habits” which I already renounced in some of my papers.

The new  habit of giving exactly the link to the article, instead of a numbered citation in the bibliography, as well as giving the link to ANY  source which is used in the research article (as for example a wikipedia page for a first time encounter of a term, along with the invitation for further study from another sources), is clearly one of the advantages a blog post has over a traditionally written article.

However, it is difficult to find the good balance between the extreme freedom of a blog post and the more constraint one of a research article (although the blog of Terence Tao is a very good example – maybe the best I know about – that such a balance may be attainable).

My guess is that at some point open peer-review  and this change of habits concerning writing research articles will meet.________________

UPDATE: See the post Blogging as post-publication peer review: reasonable or unfair?  by Dorothy Bishop, as well as the comment by Phillip Lord which I reproduce here:

Why stop there? If Author self-publishing can provide rapid feedback on “properly” published science, then they can also provide dissemination of that science in the first place.
Scientific publishing has too long been about credit and promotion. It’s time it returned to what it really should be and what it originally was: communication.

2 thoughts on “Writing research articles vs writing blog posts”

  1. The formal publications that result in credit and promotion part should be viewed as the apex of a pyramid of a work, and all the informal communication that went into it should be viewed as a record of the process that went into it. The only thing that needs to be technically achieved here is the record of publications: they should be registered through some mutually-trusted system, basically.

    Your thougths?

    1. I don’t agree with the pyramid image. Two aspects here: (1) research communication and (2) research(ers) management.

      (1) Ideas and research work are just memes, some survive, some spread, some mutate, some disappear. Formal publication gives a (slight) advantage for spreading, but other means of spreading may become as effective, or more. Related to this is the question if the research article format will change, I think will do.

      (2) Management of researchers is an independent matter. The pyramid you mention takes its shape because researchers bodies need some criteria for promotion, this has not much to do with research work, other than as a mechanism which indirectly influences the spread of memes. It’s a classical case of map vs territory, where the bureaucracy uses the map it produces (of research work, subjects, products) as if it is the territory. Then people adapt by satisfying formally the criteria, which leads to the weakening of the research results.

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