27-11-2013. Are you struggling to create and maintain a website for a research program? View the Water, Land and Ecosystems CGIAR research program for a while. In my eyes, an inspiring site that excellently serves readers, the blogsite is particularly interesting because it stimulates discussions in controversial fields including ‘land grabbing’ in developing countries.
In my role as a science journalist, I follow research news in controversial fields. The greater the contribution from a research program to a topical issue, the better.
For instance, yesterday, while surfing on that CGIAR-site, I found an interesting blog about the amount of agricultural land (in hectares) that has been ‘grabbed’ in developing countries. A couple of years ago, Oxfam claimed that an area almost the size of Western Europe had been taken over by foreign investors. But then a recently published report claimed that most of these big ‘land grabs’ never got beyond the planning stage. So what is the truth? Accordingly, journalist Fred Pearce (author of ‘Land grabbers’) started researching different sources and figures (including figures from CGIAR). The result is a convincing blog/story that NGO”s such as Oxfam are probably right, but that they used the wrong figures to support their claim.
Such independent blogs help a discussion further.
In this way, (blog)sites are fulfilling the traditional role of a professional journal, but with a broader based, more diverse audience. Journals calling themselves independent have a comparable goal of being a platform. And when research programs start inviting or recruiting good journalists such as Fred Pearce to actively participate, the difference between the professional journals and quality blogsites are negligible. Except the fact that it is easier to start a (blog)site than a new journal.