Friday, July 9, 2010

My internet has changed!

There was a big implosion at Scienceblogs about the inclusion of a blog by Pepsico about called "Food Frontiers". Pepsico was going to pay for the privilege of hosting its blog on the site. It wasn't introduced to the existing bloggers well and bystanders got to see, and chime in on, the messy admin stuff usually kept behind the scenes. No surprise that a science librarian would have a thoughtful viewpoint with great overview of the kerfuffle.

Zuska looked at an equivalent media decision made by Ms.Magazine when they accepted advertising. Apparently Scienceblogs didn't make the same kind of thoughtful assessment of the effect of this particular advertising stream then bowed to the pressure from bloggers and readers. To an outsider, skepticism appears to be reserved for religion, corporations and conservatives. Pepsico is corporate therefore bad and should be summarily expelled before posting anything of substance.

The person writing an opinion piece in the Guardian explained why she threw this out to the wider world. Seed has shown a pattern of lack of integrity in terms of editorial content for both Seed and the Scienceblogs network. This explains rapid exodus of bloggers, who seemed on the edge of leaving in any case, as well as the lack of following any kind of pre-existing media rules about how to integrate paid with free blogs with full disclosure.

I thought the blog sounded interesting. Ideally the researchers would have time during work to blog about anything that was not confidential research, PR people could ensure that researchers read/answer more specific comments and we could all learn how food research is done. Pepsico brand includes fruit drinks and Quaker Oats. Like it or not food for the masses is big industry* now. The food industry does a lot of research into preservation, added nutrient value and should fund more basic research. With the right people this could have been window into a world we don't usually see.

As for science news. Scienceblogs was starting to be kind of American echo chamber for me. It seems like several bloggers would comment in the same way on the same topic. Lots of the writers moved on to Discovery Magazine's blog network so I have too. And I listened to my first Dr Kiki Science Hour and loved it. Sometimes you have to be shoved out of your comfort zone.

*disclosure, I work for a multi-national agri-business.