Friday 29 October 2010

Glimpse at image credits on science blogs

Thanks to those who tweeted and commented and posted about this morning's rant. To follow-up, I had a look at some science blogs, and who is citing images.

I'm not out to be a big jerk and point at exactly which blogs I looked at, so instead I've done this by network.
Looking at between about 11:45-1245 est today, I looked at the first 12 blog networks listed, and then looked at the 5 posts under each heading. And then I made this table:

click to enlarge

A few notes:  

  • I tried to use a colour-code from green (properly linked and cited) to red (what are you thinking?). 
  • If the image was clearly the author's own, (a photo of them, perhaps) I included that in the green bar, as a properly cited and linked image. 
  • I didn't count videos. 
  • I only counted images in the body of the post, not the sidebar or banner. 

My thoughts:

  • Weird the posts had no images whatsoever in that small random sampling. 
  • Not enough science bloggers use paintings or illustrations. I'm available for hire.
  • Wired came off looking good to my eyes.
  • I ain't gonna point to anyone.  But a couple of these had the Research Blogging badge on the posts with zero image citations or links.  Are we to automatically infer we have to go back to the paper for those? 

It'd be interesting to do this periodically to see the trends look like.

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Glendon Mellow said...

(Oh and if anyone really questioned it, I did save all the specific urls I looked at.)

scicurious said...

*feels really REALLY guilty*

I did see your tweet last night and accordingly cited some stuff. I will try harder!!!

Lab Rat said...

Hmm...I have a feeling I might have been responsible for a good few on the FoS sampling. I tend to try and put "figure from reference" on the figures I take from citations, but I do tend to assume the citation covers as an image credit a bit too often...

Will try to keep an eye out for that a lot more in future!

Glendon Mellow said...

Sci, Lab Rat, thanks. I kept a list of links in case anyone felt like quibbling with what I found, but I'm not aiming to point fingers at specific blogs as much as the phenomena.

Usually it's some of my favourite blogs in my Reader that do it...interestingly, I wonder if the mainstream media blogs do it less.

A lot of the images can be open source too: not necessarily art theft. It's sometimes a copyright issue, and other times it's just an etiquette issue, and I have my own myopia about it.

Joris said...

Nice work. I think it's pretty cool that some offenders are already pledging to better their lives :)...

Christopher Taylor said...

I'd also be interested to know if any of my posts were among the offenders. I try to maintain good attribution practice, but I'll admit to the possibility of error.

For the record, my own (imperfect) attribution process: ideally, the attribution, with link, will be in a caption underneath the photo. I used to insert it into the post text near the photo but changed to captions some time ago because I was concerned the attribution was getting buried (plus it was often quite awkward to work the attribution into the text). On rare occasions I do still place the attribution in the main text when having a separate caption would noticeably disrupt the flow of the post.

If the figure is from a published reference, there'll usually be an attribution but no link as the citation (and link, if one is available) will be among my references at the end of the post. I do often provide a link without named attribution for an image when the latter is not clear (such as because the source page is not in a language I understand, or the actual name of the image author is not clear on the source page). I can think of very few cases where I've placed an image completely unattributed (usually when its some popular media-derived image with no clear attribution, such as a picture of Carol Beer that I used for a post on misguided bureaucracy).

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Joris - for the most part, I wouldn't describe science bloggers as "offenders". It's a cultural myopia. I contend that since many science blogs already cite sources and papers, it can be surprising when images are left out.

- -

Christopher, I've always found your blog to be meticulous in every respect. I know there's no standard way to do it, and like David Orr, I don't have any desire to be the blog police, enforcing my own standards.

I would like to think of better ways of raising awareness about it though.

It's interesting, but I've written about it before and until I used the words "A rant" on Twitter and went directly to the heart of the issue (which tweets force us to do so well) it never had this much attention before.

Score 1 for being forthright and rant-angry.

Glendon Mellow said...

One more thing about my too-small sample in the table above:

19% of images were entirely uncredited.

66% had less than a link and creator name.

Interesting I happened to look when Scienceblogs had no posts with images. PZ is the most trafficked blogger, and he usually cites most images. On the other hand there are others who seldom/never do.

It's too small a sample, but I thought instructive in its way.

Joris said...

Sorry Glendon, that was tongue-in-cheek!

I really think it's very cool that science bloggers such as scicurious, Lab Rat and Christopher are genuinely concerned about this. I couldn't dream of such an open response in other circles!

Glendon Mellow said...

That's very true, Joris. Blogging and comment systems have changed my expectation for life: I expect to be able to give and take feedback everywhere these days.

And thanks! Sorry I misunderstood the tongue incheek.

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