Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blogging Codes of Ethics

Over the last year, I have grown into the moniker of "blogger." There are many out there who still speak disparagingly of blogs and bloggers. (They are likely not reading this post!) But now that major media outlets all have their own blogs, it is less clear to me that blogging is a fringe activity. In the past month, I have started to think more critically about the blogger's roles of furthering knowledge, sparking conversation and providing venues for personal growth. This was first apparent to me when I started posting about patient encounters. Patient privacy and the law each have something to say about disclosing information related to patients, and bloggers must respect both. That is why I subscribe to the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics. Starting today, you will see a new logo in my sidebar referring to that decision.

As blogging becomes more prevalent, and as certain bloggers achieve more prominence, I think it is important for us to address the responsibilities we have as writers and interpretors. My blog is not strictly a science blog; lately it has taken more of a healthcare blog. There are also plenty of entries that hit a little closer to home than some of my readers care for. In the end, in all of my posts, I strive to balance interesting with informative.

I'm still not sure of the precise relationship between blogger and journalist. One of my friends from high school is successful at both. Perhaps more than personal blogging, science and health bloggers are journalists. The blogger's roles as informer are dependent on the same principle as science: truthfulness. The interpretation part of blogging is where truthiness becomes more prominent. Opinions and interpretation occur more in blogs than in the newspaper (aside from the op-ed page), and it is certainly not difficult to see the differences between discussion sections of scientific papers and the lengthy diatribes we bloggers occasionally partake in. Keep in mind that these two are only points along the same spectrum.

Is there a code of conduct that can be constructed for science bloggers? In response to discussions organized by Dr. Free-Ride at the 2008 Science Blogging Conference, she has built a Science Blogging Ethics Wiki where ideas for a code of conduct (including whether there needs to be one) can be bounced around. Three of the main sections of the code that have emerged so far include:
  1. Responsibilities to readers
  2. Responsibilities to other bloggers
  3. Responsibilities to sources
Periodically, I'll be pitching in over there with my ideas. I hope you will, too.

1 comment:

drugmonkey said...

I can't figure out why Dr. Free-Ride is pushing the "we want to be like real grown up journalists" thing. She was to one who worried over "losing the blogginess"...