Peer review is only a first, preliminary hurdle for a paper to cross; passing peer review and getting published does not mean that your work is right. Some incredibly awful papers get through the review process, somehow. Getting published only means that now your paper is going to be opened up to wider criticism. Don't take the attitude that publication means vindication; I know reviewers, and I've reviewed papers, and I know that reviewers are sometimes lazy, sometimes susceptible to croneyism, and always overworked, and that publication doesn't mean you are right. (my emphasis).Boy, don't I know it! Publishing paleoanthropologically-themed research can sometimes feel like you're entering the Thunderdome, a lesson I learned first-hand in my very first peer-reviewed publication! And Myers makes a good point: when something gets published, it only means that it's serious enough that other experts in the field recognize it's worth discussing, that other professionals can now have a go at it, if you will. Actually you should read the whole post, which is about how people think of blogs, comments on blogs, and the contribution this can make to scientific discourse. It's a thoughtful piece, and one in which PZ - whose writing style can occasionally be, errr, fiery - cogently lays out the case for the usefulness of blogging to make scientific research and its conclusions accessible to a wider audience.
And as for the writing style of blog posts, I also especially liked this quote (which came in second place for quote of the day): "Explain your answers as you would to an undergrad or bright high school student. If you can't, it implies that you aren't looking for an equal opportunity, you are looking for a way to avoid probing questions." Now, that doesn't mean you need to 'dumb it down' or that everybody needs to do this. In my view, it highlights how the web can be used to democratize and favor the diffusion of science. After all, in a time when funding for scientific research increasingly comes from public agencies, it is important to present our work in a manner that is accessible to a well-educated public. This is part of why I have this humble little blog here.
And because common ideas seem to strike different people at the same time, check out John Hawks' recent post on the issue. His take? "I wanted to point to Orac's post, since it is what the blogosphere is the best for: clear, factual critiques that focus on methods." And it's fitting that I mention Hawks here, since he was one of the parties in one of the best 'real-time' virtual debates on Early Upper Paleolithic chronology, a topic near and dear to my heart. On January 12, 2007, John blogged about a new Science paper on the EUP chronology of Kostenki, Russia, criticizing some aspects of the paper's conclusions. Four days later, on January 16, 2007, one of that study's authors, John Hoffecker wrote a reply to Hawks' post, posting it on Kris Hirst's Archaeology Blog, addressing in a detailed manner some of John's critiques. And two days later, on January 18, you guessed it, Hawks had also posted a lengthy reply to some of the points raised in Hoffecker's guest post, situating the debate in a broader context to highlight the significance of the paper he originally blogged about.
OK, lengthy summary to basically highlight that, in the span of just over one week (literally, a blink of an eye in 'journal time'), you had a serious, thought-provoking and scholarly back-and-forth debate on a paper that had just been published. If this had taken place in Science itself, it would have probably taken at least 6 months to get published, far after the paper had faded from public consciousness. Now, this would be all and well for the paleoanthropological community, but for the public at large who might have been interested in the issue, it probably provided a rarely seen instance of how scientists can disagree on details (the specifics of the chronology of the 'transition') while nonetheless agreeing on fundamental issues (that the transition was an important process in recent human evolution). So, yes, blogging can and does serve a very useful purpose in the discourse of science.