Friday, October 29, 2010
A Diplodocus-sized pet peeve
Photo of Edward Gay from the Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr.
Glendon Mellow has taken image citation as his cause, and has posted another rant about it. I totally concur with him, and left a comment to that effect. I felt that it warranted a post here to further flesh out my thoughts on this.
Let's say you have a hobby. You want to do it well. You want to be respected among your peers. Let's say that it's restoring automobiles. Would you be satisfied with giving a car a pretty exterior while its engine is unreliable? Would you settle for a car that you wouldn't trust with children as its passengers? I imagine that you would strive to make it a trustworthy machine.
Writing a blog hardly carries the same dangers as building a street-legal car, but I think that it carries the same responsibility for professionalism. Especially writing a science blog. If you're writing a science blog, you're doing it to be part of a larger conversation. You're looking to share discoveries, to broaden your mind, to state your opinion and have it critiqued and to do the same to the opinions of others. You're probably going to need images. You probably won't be creating them all yourself. You'll rely on the work of artists, photographers, graphic designers, and archivists to illustrate your points. In other words, you'll be collaborating. Your collaborators deserve credit for their role in making your posts more impactful. It's even likely that your interest in science has been inspired by images as much as by prose.
As a science blogger, you're a member of the media. You may not like to admit this. You may not have even considered it before. But it's true. You owe it to your fellow bloggers to represent this segment of the media in a responsible way. I'm not calling for science bloggers to all write in the same style, or to constrain their attitude. The only ground rules I'd even offer are: 1) check your facts; and 2) cite your images.
Sorry. There's no excuse not to. So I'm going to make a better effort to bring this up when I see posts that haven't cited their images. It's not to be mean or to be the blog police. It's because I care about this form and want to see its quality raised steadily so its critics have less to gripe about.