Old news gets the shaft

I was recently reading a number of old papers on memory and synaptic tagging and found myself wondering whether they were bloggable. My instincts said yes but the more I thought about it the more I realized they’re several years old and that is ancient by the standards of Twitter and the blogosphere*. I enjoyed reading them but would my readers enjoy them? Is it useful to report on “old” science? If it is then why is it so rare?

Here’s what I came up with:

1) Unlike new discoveries, older discoveries have been validated and are perhaps even being expanded upon. While they’re not the latest & greatest findings, they are new fields. In fact, you could argue that, having been validated, an emerging field is actually more exciting since it reflects a definite advance in scientific knowledge (as opposed to an exciting new study that may or may not be replicated and is, at best, only potential).

2) As scientific disciplines become ever-more focused and specialized there becomes more and more background needed to understand them. For example, this issue of Journal of Neuroscience had two new articles on synaptic tagging. Neat! Maybe I’ll blog about them! But wait – the theory of synaptic tagging as a cellular basis memory is fascinating in its own right. So what’s more valuable – writing about the latest details or explaining the basics of the theory itself?

3) Say there already are a lot of great reviews on synaptic tagging out there. Well, it doesn’t matter because they’re all paywalled. I never really appreciated this problem until I began blogging and kept finding myself looking for decent references that my readers could actually access, often settling for Pubmed abstracts or Wikipedia entries.

4) Lastly, just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be news. A fun example if this is when an old piece of news sneaks its way into someone’s twitterstream and they feel obliged to follow it up with an apology. Old news gets the shaft.

*sorry I really could NOT use twitterverse and blogosphere in the same sentence


  1. Good post and I agree this is an important topic. I’m a big fan of blogging, tweeting, etc., old papers.

    This goes far beyond just science though. Look at the majority of newspaper readers who are obsessed with the most recent political news but don’t care to read about long term trends and patterns in a history book…

  2. I agree with you. Interesting perspective and analyses are always interesting perspective and analyses. Though I was constrained from divulging any “hot brand new” data from the meeting I just attended, I actually found that tweeting the older, background key points (the “bedrock” of a field, no matter how new) garnered the most response. I believe people can distinguish the very important from the “new and potentially hot!”

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