Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wikis & blogs in STM?

Great post from Jake Young summarising the session at the Society for Neuroscience meeting entitled '(R)evolution in Scientific Publishing: How will it Affect You?'

I heard that the attendance at this session was on the sparse side, which is as surprising as it is regrettable as it seems many timely topics were under discussion - although perhaps with not as much passion as may have been expected.

Jake laments the lack of awareness and willingness amongst the publishing community (both publishers and researchers) to use blogs or wikis to spread their research further. I have to agree that the take up of blogs amongst scientists is on the low side and meaningful 'wiki-journals' are still some way off yet (years rather than months). However it isn't always for the lack of trying that publishers don't offer these things, there just doesn't seem to be the same appetite for them amongst researchers as a whole as there is amongst a small group of evangelists. And I say that as an evangelist. It's just a fact.

I also have to pull myself up occasionally and remind myself that the blogosphere is a somewhat rarefied environment of a small percentage of reasonably advanced computer uers. I would be willing to bet if you went into any school, college, university or commercial R&D centre and asked people if they knew what 'blogs' or 'RSS' were, fewer than half the people would put their hands up. The same could be said of publishers too, by the way.
The majority of people in the world don't read or write blogs - and even fewer read or edit wikis - so until some tipping point occurs, these will always be minority publishing fora.

That's not to say that they can't co-exist. I'm still waiting for someone to build something like Plastic for arXiv or all open-access journals (hell, why not all journals full stop? - the abstracts are nearly always freely available at least). Would this then become your first stop on the web each day?

I can't wait until blogs and wikis represent a large part of a scientist's publishing options, but the tentative experiments I know of in this area mean that it is unlikely that any of the major publishing houses will be at the bleeding edge of this development. Maybe it will be up to the smaller publishers to take a chance - or maybe, even, scientists will embrace the punk ethic and do it for themselves. If they can sort out the archival and citing issues, maybe things will happen faster than expected.

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