Science is already a wiki, just a really inefficient one
In another excellent post, Publishing science on the web, John Wilbanks reacts to discussions he had with British Library staff and leaders, who told him that:
Publishers frequently claim four functions: registration (when was an idea stated?), certification (is the idea original, has it been “proved” to satisfactory peer review?), dissemination (delivery), and preservation of the record. The journal thus provides for both the claiming of ideas by scientists and for the “memory” of the sciences.
He reponds by saying that the Web already does a lot of this, outside of journals and existing scientific and publishing mechanisms: “Wikis and blogs provide almost costless registration and dissemination of new scientific communication.” However, resistance to integration of the Web into science is strong. Referring to science as an inefficient wiki, he states that, in the current model of scientific production “the incremental edits are made in papers instead of wikispace, and significant effort is expended to recapitulate the existing knowledge in a paper in order to support the one-to-three new assertions made in any one paper”. Another major problem he underlines, one that i find hugely problematic in my own work, is that each disciplines has its own highly specialist language through which it operates. This is a problem for creating scientific mashups:
Right now the problem is we still think about cross disciplinarity as a function of people choosing to work together. But the internet and the Web give us a different model. What’s more cross disciplinary than Google?
Although we use Google daily in our research, and it leads us across scientific fields, the obstacles are still both the language barrier between fields and “lack of knowledge interoperability at the machine level”.