Readership Report

Una Smith smith-una at
Wed Feb 17 16:33:29 EST 1993

kristoff at NET.BIO.NET (Dave Kristofferson) writes:

>[...]  It's a
>guess as to whether or not excluding hundreds of computer science
>sites is compensation or not in terms of reduced noise.  My
>guesstimate is subjective and is based on the number of layperson
>biology questions posted to versus the bionet groups.  If
>someone has a good argument to convince me otherwise I am open to
>hearing it.

If Brian Reid's stats on the number of Usenet sites, then the 50%
of sites that don't carry Usenet ammount to tens of thousands.

It has been my experience at 3 American universities that Usenet
services are run by the Computer Science department, one system
for themselves and a second system for everyone else, on a contract
basis.  If this is the case at most universities, American or not,
then either an entire university community has access to the bionet
groups, or it doesn't.  I would expect most universities to partici-
pate in the Usenet arbitron survey, so despite the low percentage
of Usenet sites carrying bionet groups, I suspect there are very
few biologists who have ready access to Usenet but not the bionet
groups.  This is an argument against pushing for a wider distribu-
tion of the bionet newsgroups. 

Another reason for leaving things alone:  to become "formally"
accepted in Usenet, the bionet domain would have to satisfy
certain procedural conditions.  Although I favor implementing
those conditions, they would involve more public meta-debate
about the role of bionet than we already have, and many readers
may not want to tolerate that.  As it is, David Kristofferson
does things for us that we would, as proper Usenet newsgroups,
have to discuss and do for ourselves repeatedly.

Reasons for "formal" Usenet identity:  as scientists I believe
we have certain responsibilities, including the avoidance of
an overly elitist culture, an obligation to perform our work
in public as much as is practicable and to explain what we do
and what our research means to curious lay people.  I reject
the notion that "noise" would be a direct and unavoidable
consequence of wider distribution of the bionet newsgroups.
And I think it is often quite educational for biologists to
face the questions of non-biologists (many of whom are scien-
tists or at the very least college-educated).


      Una Smith      Biology Department       smith-una at
                     Yale University
                     New Haven, CT  06511

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