Why I Don’t Use the BPR3 Icon

HST image of Sirius A and B courtesy NASA/ESA I’m a bit cynical about the revolutionary power of the blogosphere. I blog because it’s a fun and easy way to share things that I find exciting, it makes my writing better, and it helps keep my ginormous slavering beast of an ego fed in the manner to which it has become accustomed. I don’t blog because I want to have a scientific discussion with scientific colleagues about peer reviewed sciencey science. I would rather have sophomoric intellectual wank-fests about science policy, cockroach geologists, and structural inequity… um, but when I say “sophomoric intellectual wank-fests” I mean the good kind of sophomoric intellectual wank-fests.

I suppose I wouldn’t be sad if sciencey science discussion happened, but my goal here is to foster wank-fests among a lay audience, not to make blogs the new AGU conference beer break.

None of what I’m doing is incompatible with the goals of the BPR3 project, but the boosterism and the use of the icon I’ve seen has been so relentlessly serious that me and my light tone find it difficult to identify as a member of the tribe. Which might be why I’m not feeling the proper amount of bloodlust at the oncoming smackdown of a Discovery Institute blog for using the BPR3 icon in violation of the guidelines.

Anyway, the real reason you won’t see me using the BPR3 icon much, if at all, is that I’m lazy. Just look at all the work they want you to do!

4. The post author should have read and understood the entire work cited.
5. The blog post should report accurately and thoughtfully on the research it presents.

7. The post should contain original work by the post author — while some quoting of others is acceptable, the majority of the post should be the author’s own work.

We have to read the whole thing? Even the methods section? Pffft. Methods sections are boring.

I hereby promise that when I blog about a peer-reviewed paper, I will read the abstract and look at the pictures. Then I will attempt to come up with a flippant joke that is vaguely related to the content of the paper. If I can’t think of a good joke I might write a straight summary of the research, together with a blurb about why I find it interesting and how it relates to current problems in the field. I’ll read exactly as much of the paper as that requires, which probably means skimming the introduction, discussion, and conclusions, and then a little bit of random Googling background research.

Under no circumstances do I want the word “work” coming anywhere near my blog. I have enough of that with the thesis, thanks.


  1. PhysioProf wrote:

    Would it be inflammatory to assert that PhysioProf has no fucking clue what “BPR3 Icon” is?

  2. Maria Brumm wrote:

    PhysioProf, you have clearly been falling down on your blogospheric in-joke revolutionary duties. You are supposed to think that the BPR3 icon is the best thing since lolcats and also that it is blasphemy for the Discovery Institute to touch it.

  3. PhysioProf wrote:

    PhysioProf knows what lolcats are.

  4. Dr. Octoploid wrote:

    I’ve got to second Maria on this (though my own blog has been rendered nearly defunct by the demands of post-graduate school life). Blogging to me is an extension of the kinds of conversations about science I’ve had with colleagues for years. Sometimes it’s an in-depth examination of subject, but more often it’s “Did you see that article on ?” and an ensuing semi-related meanderings. I’m all for striving for accuracy in blogging, but really, if you get your information about scientific papers from blogs and not from the papers themselves, then who’s really at fault?

    And reading and understanding the entire work cited? Why should we hold people to a higher standard in blogging about articles than we do in citing them in print?

  5. BrianR wrote:

    I like BPR3 for stuff outside my field…I enjoy and participate in the wankfests within my own community and when the topic is broad enough to intersect other communities. But…there are so many dang blogs by scientists I simply don’t have the time or the effort to sift through others wanky fluff. Green Gabbro’s stuff…certainly…but not the 500 other blogs. So…for me, if I don’t feel like reading ScienceDaily or some other press-release-regurgitating thing I like the idea of reading an semi-informed bloggers thoughts on some recent and/or important study that is getting attention.

    Now…it hasn’t quite happened yet…but give it some time. The pessimist in me, however, thinks that those that can’t write scientific papers and aren’t actual science reporters might dominate with mediocre posts. But, the optimist in me thinks there could be some good stuff. I think it is simply too early to tell what it will become.

  6. Maria Brumm wrote:

    Engaging science writing is hard, especially if you’re trying to play it straight, and most of what I’ve seen on BPR3 has been uninspiring. (I’d include most of my own posts here too – I write really crappy leads and am trying to learn better.) I think people who are perfectly capable of writing good scientific papers will also contribute lots of mediocre posts.

    I do like that the aggregator is there if I ever get curious about a story, though. If they had some way of pulling out the best writing, or perhaps a checkbox that said “this post contains snarky unsupported speculation and/or juicy professional gossip”, I might read a “Best Of” feed…

    And Brian, I am honored that you feel my wanky fluff is worth sifting through. :)

  7. Lab Lemming wrote:

    “Even the methods section?”

    For years this was the only part of a paper that I would read, aside from the abstract and a skim of the references.

    Anyway, I take your prediction that BPR3’s have to be dull as a challenge, and a hypothesis to be debunked.

    But then, I’m shit at writing scientific papers, so I fall outside Brian’s subpopulation.

    Also, is “structural inequity” related to fault expression?

  8. (((Billy))) wrote:

    So, if I understand you correctly, you see blogging as a modern equivalent of the old “Worm Runner’s Digest?” Serious articles and discussions, interspersed with studies of the physics of a strapless evening gown?

  9. Ellery wrote:

    I agree, Maria, on this “BPR3 icon” silliness. Like you, I’m trying to reach out to students and those who aren’t experts in the field (That’s why I avoid the scientific papers themselves in the first place and instead stick with press releases, popular articles, etc… but I digress). I believe that DI’s use of the BPR3 icon shows how easily it can be misused (if you can really even call it that) and that such use was inevitable. The threshold for what is “worthy” of the BPR3 icon is wishy-washy. As you imply, the icon could soon be perceived by readers as the mark of dull post about a paper they haven’t read. It seems likely the BPR3 icon will become so overused (by both legitimate and “illegitimate” users) that it will loose any practical meaning — it will be as mediocre as everything else in the blogosphere. Instead, it would be just other link-icon-thingy that blogs use to get more traffic (and readers, advertisers, money, etc). Even if I’m wrong, you won’t be finding it on my posts anytime soon (especially most of them don’t qualify anyway). But you’ll be seeing that icon a lot more on DI’s site and others like it. And spoofs are almost certainly in the work (Maria’s “Sirius Post” is brilliant!).

  10. Maria Brumm wrote:

    Billy: That seems to be the model many people are pushing for. I’m not quite sure it’s mine.

    If we could dissociate the use of BPR3 with the concept of “worth”, in favor of just using it as a way to help people interested in talking about a paper find other people to talk to (even if all of those people are idiots and/or pseudoscientific douchebags), I think we’d be better off. Allowing people to give themselves a prize for being worthy only works in hippie children’s games.

  11. (((Billy))) wrote:

    One of the great things about the internet is it gives everyone a voice. One of the LOUSY things about the internet is it gives everyone a voice. Peer Reviewed Blogging sounds great to me. Of course, I’m an historian and, unless the paper, by some odd coincidence, happens to touch on something I am peripherally knowledgeable about, I would most likely read the abstract and a few of the responses. I know my limitations.

    The difficulty I see with this, is how does one separate out the ‘peers’ from the ‘pears’ (the fruits out there) while still encouraging a free exchange of information and ideas? It took the whole 19th century for scientific publications to figure this one out.

  12. Kim wrote:

    I’ve used the BPR3 icon twice, I think. I don’t know if the icon is useful for readers, but I’ve found the requirements useful to me, as a person reading articles. See, journal articles put me to sleep. Great cure for insomnia; not so great for keeping track of what’s new and exciting about the discipline. And I’m at an undergraduate institution, with a heavy teaching load – I can’t rely on smart grad students (and other colleagues in my subdiscipline) to keep my brain from atrophying. So for me, the BPR3 rules are an incentive to read papers more carefully, and more critically, than I might otherwise do. It’s not so different, really, from the various writing exercises that I force on students. And I was always one of those students who benefited from having to writing about what she read.

    So I use the BPR3 icon to push my own thinking. Perhaps it doesn’t result in great writing, but it might help me decide how to use a particular paper in class.

  13. Lab Lemming wrote:

    The other big disadvantage of B3PO posts is that nobody ever comments on them (at least not for me).

  14. Brodie wrote:

    Hi, I am an Earth Surface Systems major and I am a sophomore available for wanking. May I be of service?

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