Print vs. web in science

By Razib Khan | January 10, 2011 10:26 am

I have some Google Alerts set up relating to human evolution and such, and a few days ago I noticed a spike in articles about the evolution of clothing and lice. Like this: We were all naked until 170,000 years ago. Since I blogged this in September, The naked years, I was confused. Here’s the explanation in USA Today:

The study, in this month’s print edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, finds that the one louse species began to diverge into two about 170,000 years ago, 70,000 years before humans started migrating to colder climates, which began about 100,000 years ago.

The paper was on the website in early September, but didn’t make it into the print edition until 2011. I have no idea how this sort of stuff works; contrary to perceptions of many I’m not a science writer. Perhaps they blasted a new wave of press releases? Whatever they did, it worked. A huge plume of articles has been welling up over the weekend on the topic.

But it does make me wonder as to the possibility of getting new publicity for “old” science. There are certain papers which are going to make a big splash, no matter what. This is a case where there is a “hook,” but it isn’t a sure thing. And the core of the research on the evolution of lice morphs is a somewhat abstruse statistical method.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science
MORE ABOUT: Media
  • Lucy Stewart

    Perhaps this paper got a fresh round of publicity when it went into print because other print media (like, say, USA Today) are set up to watch for things in print copies of journals, rather than web-only releases (unless it’s really well-publicised when released online, like the now-infamous arsenic paper.) Or it may seem more “real” if it’s in hardcopy, and therefore more likely to be written up. Totally contrary to how scientists work with papers, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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