It was a nice event with not too much mutual back slapping going on – Jack of Kent was also on hand to keep scientific egos in check.
I thought I’d go over a couple of the points that came up that particularly interested me…
“Climategate” was raised at one point but wasn’t really discussed much. Despite my interest in climate science, I think that not dwelling on the UEA emails was probably for the best. No-one that’s spent much time on that issue has come out of it well (apart from those fantasists that now have a fragment of reality to associate with their conspiracy theories). One point that I should have made was that it’s all very well flinging mud and picking at the science from the edges but until the “sceptic” bloggers face the same scrutiny as those they attack (both in the press and scientific journals) there’s no level playing field here and this, in my view, needs resolving.
Blog comments came up and was an interesting discussion, including the idea that readers could be charged for leaving comments! I’m particularly interested in reader comments as, from the point of view of climate science, I’m always amazed at how many comments climate blogs and newspaper articles generate. With Alok and Mark there, I would’ve loved to hear how trolling patterns have changed at The Times since the paywall went up and whether the Grauniad has any plans to restrict commenting to unidentifiable individuals.
Ed Yong brought up some work by the Pew Research Center that looked at the proportion of stories on science in new (10%) and old media (1%), citing this as a success for science blogging. This research slightly worries me because the Traditional Press column only adds up to 73% where the Blogs one gets to 100% but the bigger point, which Mark Henderson raised, was that the volume of science blogs is not necessarily a good thing as a lot of these blogs are written by, for example, climate change deniers and quacks. Well, nice point but a shame that The Times’ science supplement Eureka put one of the top climate change “sceptic” sites – Watts Up With That? – in its Top 30 Science Blogs earlier this year! Unfortunately, the event ended there and I didn’t get a chance to put this point to Mark (and maybe it would’ve been a bit mean.)
All in all, a great night out which I’m sure will generate many blog posts!