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Archive for August 2009

Science is already a wiki, just a really inefficient one

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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”.

Written by KontraMraku

6 August 2009 at 12:27

Posted in Quick Research

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OA is the beginning, not the end game, science needs rewiring

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John Wilbank in his recent blog post Integrate, Annotate, Federate makes some key points which i entirely share and work on. That is, Open Access is only the beginning. The most important work, on rewiring sciences, is about to start happening. And, like Wilbanks suggests, we have to loudly ask for it, work on it. It’s not going to happen “naturally”, we have to make it happen. Citations, as the only way of integrating scientific works, are not any more the only possible method, that has to change. Here’s his description of one of those principles:

Annotation is the second new essential function. The old method of annotation is through either writing a new paper that validates, invalidates, extends, or otherwise affects the assertions made in an old paper. Or if something is really wrong, there might be a letter to the editor or a retraction. In a wiki world, this is fundamentally insane. The paper is a snapshot of years of incremental knowledge progress. We have much better technology to use than dead trees.

Other than publishers providing annotation, Wilbanks suggests we need to move on and: “create an open platform that actually tracks the kind of annotation-relationships that the web enables”. Extending bloggers’ use of trackback, we should extend those protocols to connect articles, wiki pages, database entries …  which would make explicit, visible and trackable already existing links. A logical move would be to either implement pingback protocol in major software applications that are key for the other types of material. Or, if required to achieve that, to extend the protocol to support it.

Written by KontraMraku

6 August 2009 at 12:07

Posted in Quick Research

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Learned society members and open access

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Learned society members and open access: ‘Abstract: The individual members of 35 UK learned societies were surveyed on their attitudes to open access (OA); 1,368 responses were received. Most respondents said they knew what OA was, and supported the idea of OA journals. However, although 60% said that they read OA journals and 25% that they published in them, in both cases around one-third of the journals named were not OA. While many were in favour of increased access through OA journals, concerns were expressed about the cost to authors, possible reduction in quality, and negative impact on existing journals, publishers, and societies. By contrast, less than half knew what self-archiving was; 36% thought it was a good idea and 50% were unsure. Just under half said they used repositories of self-archived articles, but 13% of references were not in fact to self-archiving repositories. 29% said they self-archived their own articles, but 10% of references were not to publicly accessible sites of any kind. The access and convenience of self-archiving repositories were seen as positive, but there were concerns about quality control, workload for authors and institutions, chaotic proliferation of versions, and potential damage to existing journals, publishers, and societies.’

Written by Benjamin Geer

5 August 2009 at 22:06

Posted in Quick Research

Recent links on Open Access

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  • The return of FRPAA: if you’re a US citizen, please support this bill, which would require OA to publicly-funded research.
  • Converting to Open Access: guides for publishers on starting a new OA journal and on converting a journal to OA.
  • Rejecta Mathematica: an OA journal publishing only papers that have been rejected from peer-reviewed journals in the mathematical sciences.  They have a wonderful slogan: caveat emptor.
  • Google’s Big Plan for Books (New York Times editorial): ‘it is likely that as a result of the settlement, Google would be the only company with the right to “orphaned” works, books whose rights owners have not been located.’
  • Obama’s Great Course Giveaway: the US government plans to fund the creation of online university courses that anyone can use freely.  For an example of what they have in mind, have a look at Carnegie-Mellon University’s amazing Open Learning Initiative.
  • Open Teaching Multiplies the Benefit but Not the Effort: ‘In 2004 I began asking my students to post their homework on their personal, publicly accessible blogs. . . . The very first semester I began asking students to share their homework this way, a popular e-learning newsletter found and liked one of my students’ essays and pointed its readers to the student’s blog. When the visits and comments from professionals around the world started coming in, students realized that the papers they were writing weren’t just throw-away pieces for class – they were read and discussed by their future peers out in the world. The result was a teacher’s dream — the students’ writing became a little longer, a little more thoughtful, and a little more representative of their actual intellectual abilities.’

Written by Benjamin Geer

5 August 2009 at 19:46

Posted in News

Recent links on Open Access

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  • OA in Africa: ‘Developed world scholarly journals are simply out of reach, in an economic sense, to the vast majority of academics and professionals in Africa.’
  • Open Access and the divide between “mainstream” and “peripheral” science: ‘However, for many scientists in developing nations, they may discover that getting an article accepted in an OA journal located in a “central” country is just as difficult as being accepted in a toll-gated journal, and perhaps even more difficult if they have to plead for funds to pay the publishing charge. Many journals do mention possibilities of removing this barrier or lowering it for scientists from the developing world, but this does not remove the extra (and potentially difficult or even humiliating) step of asking for special financial treatment. This means that many of the problems associated with publishing in foreign “core” journals are again at work in this new situation and may even be occasionally exacerbated in the case of the “author-pays” business plan.’
  • University Press 2.0 by Phil Pochoda: How can you write a 3,000-word article on digital academic books and not mention open access even once?
  • What, exactly, is Open Science? ‘Transparency in experimental methodology, observation, and collection of data; public availability and reusability of scientific data; public accessibility and transparency of scientific communication; using web-based tools to facilitate scientific collaboration.’
  • Open Access Economics: How much does it really cost to run an OA journal?  Joseph Gelfer draws on his experience as editor of the OA Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality to discuss two recent studies that attempt to answer this question.
  • SCOAP3: ‘A consortium that facilitates Open Access publishing in High Energy Physics by re-directing subscription money. This answers the request of the High Energy Physics community.  Today: (funding bodies through) libraries buy journal subscriptions to support the peer-review service and allow their patrons to read articles.  Tomorrow: funding bodies and libraries contribute to the consortium, which pays centrally for the peer-review service. Articles are free to read for everyone.’
  • References Wanted: ‘This is a room to document the harm caused by closed/toll-access publication by collecting hard data to answer the frequent anti-OA attack “everyone has all the access they need already”. Post here citations to journal articles you’d like to read/need for your work, but can’t get without paying a fee.’

Written by Benjamin Geer

1 August 2009 at 09:26

Posted in News