Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Evaluating website information

Dr. Hsien Hsien Lee from Genetics and Health has proposed that all science bloggers have an obligation to answer 10 questions that she derived from 10 Things To Know about Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web, a web page from one of the NIH institutes, The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This provides kind of a disclosure statement so that readers can understand our biases and better evaluate the information in our blogs.

I don't claim to provide any medical information, but I like this idea, so here are my answers.

1. Who runs this site?

Part of the answer is Blogger, a free (so far) blogging service owned by Google.

The other part of the answer is that I run the site since I write the content. My Ph.D. is in microbiology and I've been involved with digital and molecular biology and biotechnology for about twenty-five years, both as a researcher and tenured instructor in a community college biotech program. I currently divide my time between developing instructional materials and doing a bit of digital research. If you're interested, you can read more about it in our papers, abstracts, or posters.

Our paper page is labeled "white papers." Not all of the publications on this page are white papers. But I've learned that most people in the software industry do not know or care about the difference between a white paper and a peer-reviewed publication. Definitely a topic for a future blog (or rant?).

2. Who pays for the site?

Once again, part of the answer is Blogger (and Google) since they provide the blogging tools and site free of charge. But, of course it's more complex than that. The other part of the answer is that I do, by donating my time and writing content. I don't receive any income from the site at the present time, nor does my salary fund this activity.

I think the purpose of this question is to enable readers to determine if a writer is providing unbiased information. To answer that question, since I'm not anonymous, I do have to be sensible about what I write. If I write about Geospiza, or our education projects, my writing will probably have a positive bias. Okay, you've been warned. Read with a critical eye.

3. What is the purpose of the site?

I started this blog because it provides a quicker and easier way to share information about Geospiza's educational materials and report on our NSF-funded project in bioinformatics education. Geospiza does have an official education section, of the company web site, where many of our instructional materials are located, but it's still easier to post new articles through Blogger.

In summary, the purposes for this site are to:
a. Help students and teachers learn about biology by providing examples that show how biological research can be done with digital tools

c. Disseminate instructional materials from Geospiza's NSF-funded education project and provide information about instructional materials that we've developed and published.

d. Obtain feedback on new materials.

e. Share my humble ideas on science and teaching. ; ^ )

4. Where does the information come from?

I write about the instructional materials that were developed through Geospiza's NSF education project, my research experiences (some serious and some just for fun), and about research published in scientific journals. Some topics are based on current news. Citations and references are provided wherever I can. When I write about digital experiments and instructional activities, I often provide sites and references so that others can repeat the experiments for themselves.

5. What is the basis of the information?

This site will discuss my experiences and results plus experiments and findings that have been published in scientific journals. I will do my best to distinguish between objective information and my own opinions.

6. How is the information selected?
Topics are chosen for many reasons. The topics are largely centered around instructional materials and activities but they also derive from my interests, suggestions from others, and questions that people ask.

7. How current is the information?

Blogger adds a timestamp to every article showing when the information is posted. Articles that are related to instructional materials are likely to be updated.

8. How does the site choose links to other sites?

I pick links to sites that I either use for research or simply enjoy reading. The sites that I reference in articles are usually sites that scientists use, like the NCBI. Sites listed in the blogroll are mostly chosen because I enjoy reading them.

9. What information does the site collect, and why?

I measure web traffic so I can report this information to funding agencies. If you subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, I store your e-mail address. The Geospiza Education e-mail list is not provided to others and you can unsubscribe at any time.

10. How does the site manage interactions with visitors?
Visitors are welcome to send e-mail or post a comment. I do moderate the comments and will not post comments that inflammatory or comments about grow lights, discount pharmaceuticals, refinancing, or developing new and unusual body parts.

Visitors can also subscribe to RSS feeds and/or sign up for our quarterly newsletter by submitting a current e-mail address.


Anonymous Hsien Lei said...

Thanks for joining in! You've been added to the honor roll.

6:12 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home