Monday, 8 June 2009

Should blogs be censored?

Although this is now my 'real' blog, I started blogging elsewhere, on Nature Network (and I still occasionally post here at my old blog, where it's a purely sciencey topic). Nature Network is an excellent environment for people in the science arena to share information, set up by company behind the world's leading science journal.

However, recently, a Nature Network blogger has been censored. One of his posts was pulled by the management. Ironically, it was a post that was inspired by the current attempt by the British Chiropractic Association to sue Simon Singh for libel because he referred to a claim as bogus.

I have seen the original post, and I can see why the management was nervous. It mentions several individuals, mostly big name scientists, who are either trading on their name to make money on products that make dubious scientific claims, or leading people astray (in the blogger's opinion). However, it's worth saying that the suggestions that worried the management have all been made elsewhere (one of them on this blog), especially on Ben Goldacre's excellent Bad Science blog.

On the one hand, I can see that the management at Nature Network don't want trouble for themselves or for the blogger in question - but equally this seems to play into the hands of those who want to use the UK's outrageous libel laws to suppress science and personal opinion. There is a campaign to get this changed - you can sign a petition to this effect and read more about it here.

If Nature Network's actions interest you, you can see the reactions of the bemused blogger here, the response of the NN management here (and it's rumoured you can see the original post here).


  1. Brian, a correction to one of your statements, that Nature Network was "set up by the world's leading science journal." Not so, Nature Network is on the platform, but other than sharing that platform, it has no editorial connection with the journal Nature. Some Nature journal staff use Nature Network (myself included) but NN is an independent product, with its own editor (Corie Lok) and publisher (Timo Hannay). (Nature's publisher is Steven Inchcoombe and its chief editor Philip Campbell.)

  2. Thanks for that correction, Maxine, but I'm a bit puzzled.

    At the bottom of the Nature Network site it does quite clearly say (c) Nature Publishing Group, which would seem to suggest it was set up by the same company.

    I wasn't suggesting it had editorial connection with Nature, I meant a connection in the business sense - it appears to be the same company (unless you tell me otherwise).

  3. Happy to clarify. Nature Publishing Group is the company that owns Nature (the journal) and Nature Network (a free social networking website for scientists), and many other journals and products.

    That is, Nature Network was set up by Nature Publishing Group, the company, and not by Nature, the journal.

    I suppose an analogy would be to say that if Sky TV launched a new channel, one would not write, "Sky TV, set up by the Times, launches a new channel...." just because they are both owned and produced by the same company.

    I think the confusion re Nature/Nature Publishing Group is the word "Nature" which crops up in both names. You are not the only person to find these distinctions puzzling!