Are personal blogs merely personal diaries online, rehearsals of trivialities of

interest only to their creators, intimate friends, and nosy neighbors? Yes and no.

In some cases, personal blogs have been reconfigured so as to preserve the

immediacy inherent in the genre and the moral purpose inherited from famous

ancestors, like Boswell’s London Journal and The Diary of Anne Frank, works

that shape scattered incidents into meaningful lives. In Ivan Oransky and

Adam Marcus’s Retraction Watch, and Joerg Zwirner’s Abnormal Science,

everyday professional life is encountered, reflected on, and infused with moral

purpose. Marcus, Oransky, and Zwirner see themselves as successful only to the

extent that scientific journals openly retract erroneous, plagiarized, or fraudulent

articles and at the same time tell the scientific public exactly why they are

doing so. They are conservatives, motivated by the pressing need to keep science

true to an established principle: self-correction. In my view, Retraction Watch and

Abnormal Science succeed in the task they undertake: setting the scientific record

straight by turning their personal blogs into a form of investigative journalism,

reborn on the Web. They do so by activating a set of institutional imperatives,

shared by the scientists and science journals they criticize, norms first articulated

by the sociologist of science, Robert Merton (1968): the expectation that pub-

lished research is original, that it is generated by agreed-upon methods, that it has

survived the skeptical scrutiny of the authors’ peers, that it is free of the influence

of special interests unrelated to science, and that it will be shared freely with

one’s fellows. Because of this shared legacy, the error, plagiarism, and fraud that

Marcus, Oransky, and Zwirner expose and publicize cannot be easily dismissed;

nor can their insistence on open acknowledgement be readily gainsaid.