Friday 29 October 2010

Why don't more science bloggers cite their images?

A rant.

This is a particular gripe of mine that I have brought up from time to time on various other blogs.  Seems only fair I bring it up here.
I wish more science bloggers would cite their images. The illustrations used are often completely uncredited, as if they are unimportant embellishments to the articles.  If they were unimportant, than they are unnecessary for a blog post.  I think most bloggers realize images are valuable hooks and enhancements of their points, yet they treat them like stickers to plaster on their primary-school binder.

To be fair, all the blogs I linked to above quickly linked the images - they're great bloggers I enjoy reading.  It's an oversight: a common one. 

And It isn't only science bloggers, I know.  Most science bloggers will go to the trouble of citing and linking the sources for their articles, however. Why not a quick caption?  A link?  A citation in the footnotes? 

 An illustrator has gone to school, is scientifically literate and works hard to contribute, and receives no credit.

Drives me bonkers.

Earlier this year, I attempted to raise some awareness by making this little badge:

Maybe I need to start a once-a-week list of bloggers who go to the trouble of linking and citing artists and illustrators. Or finding a way to graffiti their comments. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


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Anonymous said...

I'm guilty of doing this. There. I openly admitted it.

Please don't flame me...

But, I will make a concerted effort to cite everything from now on. I completely agree with your rant, even if I am a lousy hypocrite.

On the plus side, I rarely use other images - I make an effort to take my own photos etc.

That said, I'll reiterate the most important aspect of my comment: I won't forget to cite again, sir. Sorry :)

Sarah Snell-Pym said...

I tend to use my own images but don't think I ever say that that is what they are!

I get hacked off with friends who take my images and don't say anything and it appears in their fb albums and stuff though.

I make sure all the images I use externally are cited and linked and always have done.

Martin Fenner said...

Glendon, thanks for your rant ;). How do you want us to cite images in blog posts? A visible link and credit to the artist? Is embedding Flickr images (where the link is somewhat hidden) OK?

Glendon Mellow said...

AstridKitti, I don't want to flame anyone! To reiterate, the bloggers I linked to are some of my very favourites - I don't want to leave the impression I'm hanging them out to dry. They are ones I felt comfortable saying something to, either through association or the specific nature of the posts I commented on.

Sarah, that's one of the problems with some new media: it's not the media but the habits and cultures that get codified where people feel entitled to post every neat image they see. Tumblr seems particularly bad for that.

Martin, I don't know if there's a universally recognized way to do that. Both Blogger and Wordpress allow for a caption below an image. Name, alt-0169 and a link seem pretty good to me.

If the post has citations all at the bottom, as some science blogs do, name and link somewhere in there would be great.

davor said...

Thanks for this, Glendon. This is such a huge pet peeve of mine.

My personal rule is that I always caption my images with some variation of "Image by (credit), via (site)." Even if it's embedded from flickr, I'll do it. It's just common courtesy. Posts are simply more interesting with images, so you owe it to the artist, photographer, or even kind soul who scanned and uploaded the image. If I can't find a credit, I don't use it or make a point of asking for help in crediting it. This is pretty rare though, because finding a credit usually takes just a bit of effort.

I haven't tried blogger's caption feature yet, but I may give it a shot and hope it's not too buggy.

It's all about taking your blog seriously. Acting like a professional, even if you just consider it a hobby. Sort of like if I restored automobiles as a hobby, I'd sure as heck make sure it was safe to drive in.

So, Glendon: have you ever called anyone out on this on a blog post? I feel like it's my responsibility to, but a responsibility I've shirked.

davor said...

Follow-up, I see that you did bring those up in the comments of the linked posts. Cool. Time for me to man-up and do the same when I see it!

Brian Switek said...

I usually try to credit artists when I use images from papers or other sources. The trouble may at least partially be with the papers themselves. From what I have seen, artists are not usually credited in the captions of the images. Often the credit is buried in the acknowledgments or sometimes not included at all! This is not an excuse for not crediting artists, but may be part of the reason why people do not do it more frequently - it sometimes takes a bit of digging to find out who created the illustration.

Glendon Mellow said...

David, I also need to man-up about it and find a way to say so on a lot of blogs I frequent. I often lurk on some and feel like stepping in and saying something comes off as perhaps irrelevant to the post and whiny. I'm still working on ways to say it. Maybe an email is better than a comment, though I hope the comments also raise awareness to others.

It's a carrot and stick thing. I am thinking maybe if I try to reward blogs with the Image-Citation Citation it will act as a carrot. There's a couple of blogs I've given up reading because they're so heavily loaded with uncredited images I can't think of anything nice to say at all.

Brian, you are one of the best bloggers for citing images, hands down.

And from the papers I've read (not that many, I'm a pop-sci fan I think) you're right about how the illustrations are often treated. It's like they are mere wrapping on the gift of the paper, instead of the vital contributions they often are.

Martin Fenner said...

Something I would like to see for images is trackbacks. This would allow you as the creator of an image to see who is linking to you.

Glendon Mellow said...

That, Martin -that would be a game-changer. That would be excellent.

I'm bubbling over thinking of all the possible ways that could be useful.

David Tana said...

Glendon - this is a great post, and once again, you're bringing up a very important issue. Like others who have commented, I won't post an image unless it's mine, or I can adequately credit it. And if I can't find a credit, I don't post the image, but rather, hyperlink to it from a part of my text. But like Brian mentioned, when using images from actual papers, I too have to do a bit of digging sometimes to find out who credit should go to. I hate to admit it, but there has been more than a few occasions where I've spent more time trying to properly cite information and images in a post than I have writing the body of the post itself. And David O., do let me know what you think of Blogger's image caption feature. I've never used it either.

Lucas Brouwers said...

You hit the nail on it's head with this small rant. I completely agree. Especially science bloggers should be ware of the value of proper citation and credit.

I would love to see a universal and standardized way of citing images. Sort of what did for scientific citations..

Blogger platforms also have a responsibility in this. I can't even put proper links in captions of my self hosted wordpress site, for example! I've now switched to linking to the source images at the bottom of my posts..

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