AbstractHow we can align open communication seen on blogs with career-advancement garnered from publications. Three key aspects of scholarly communication need to be made available for bloggers: 1) DOIs, 2) Review, and 3) Archival.
Scientists are, by and large, a group of people that want to solve problems and help mankind. They are good people. Scientists, however, also have to deal with paying mortgages, student loans, and other living expenses. This complicates how they approach scientific problems. Indeed, this “complication”— being a human and being alive—can cause scientists to behave in rather unscientific ways. They may choose to approach problems they already know the answer to instead of big unsolved questions, they may ignore or simply leave out an experiment that goes against five other experiments they have already performed, they may take one paper and slice it into five in order to increase their publication count, they may concede their copyright and publish behind paywalls because of the prestige of the journal. In short, they may focus on things that are peripheral to science but that they think are necessary to do in order to pay their bills… and we all have bills. It is because of this (and ego) that we care about things like impact factors, H-indices, and whatever metric of success we will come up with next. How can we improve this system, that even early grad students can recognize as severely flawed (Chuen 2014) or does a better system already exist?
Does a better system already exist?
In truth a better system does already exist where writing and research is done to start discussions, not stop them. Where ideas are tossed around in their infant stage and improved from the crowd and where the truth is vigorously debated. It is a place where individuals are publishers themselves and the work is open for anyone to read and review—it is the scholarly blogosphere. Despite the wide range of blogs and their importance in scholarly discussions, they simply don’t “count” (Nicholson 2014). There are probably multiple reasons for this: 1) they are called “blogs” an entirely informal name, 2) they are constantly disappearing and 3) they are missing some advantages that traditional publishers offer. This can be changed and we can align open discussion occurring on blogs with career advancement garnered from publications. We can transform posts into publications. (It should be noted that other platforms such as Stack Overflow also fit the above description and would benefit from the proposal below.) To transform posts into publications we need to do the following:
1. Be able to assign digital object identifiers (DOI) to blogs
A DOI is a unique alphanumeric mark (e.g 10.15200/winn.140268.84031) that signifies to the reader and citer that content will be present and unchanged. This is important as it helps create order in an ever-changing dynamic environment—the Internet. It allows different parties to utilize content with confidence and is thus a great tool for the scientific community that relies on citations for building ideas.
2. Be able to accommodate reviews and make edits
The power of blogging comes from the ease of writing and responding to a post. This is also what can make your work “peer reviewed.” Have 10 different comments on your writing? That is probably more than most scholarly publications have. Of course, comments and reviews may not be identical in nature. Comments are typically informal questions or suggestions aimed at improving the overall topic whereas reviews are typically a more thorough analysis aimed at improving the idea and the paper. Both are valuable and both deserve to be evaluated openly by readers.
3. Be archivable
A key difference between blogs and publications is their lifespan. Blogs can come and go but journals, even if they disappear, are preserved. There are a variety of institutions that accomplish this, such as Perma.cc, Portico, and CLOCKSS, all of which work by keeping lots of copies in different places under the control of the archival organization, libraries, and/or publishers.
So in an effort to start this transition, I hope that you will leave your reviews below on this “bloggication.” I also encourage you to read other “reviews” on the topic at the following links, which I hope may one day be archived:
Chuen, L. 2014. "Science is broken. Part 1." The Winnower. doi: 10.15200/winn.141680.08615.
Nicholson, J. M. 2014. "Making Scientific Blogging "Count"." The Winnower. doi: 10.15200/winn.140286.62987.
Showing 9 Reviews
Broader cultural change is what is needed.
You have hit the nail on the head. These three changes would make all the difference in the world. If blogs were "publications" I would have hundreds of them.
There is just one issue you missed. Everything that those with the power to make a young researchers career associate with legitimate publication derives from printed paper. Every safeguard and procedure put in place by the traditional pre publication peer review and no commenting journals derives from the limitations of the printed page. What is needed in addition to your three points is a change in our collective perception of both the purpose of publication, and the purpose of reviews.
The view of just what makes a legitimate publication will likely change as the population of scientist changes. Senior people retire, and those who have grown up with ubiquitous electronic media become senior. A great physicist once said science advances not because senior scientists change their minds but because they retire. This may be the case with publishing.
I think you have a good idea here, but I think that there are a few concerns.
First, DOIs are not all that you make them out to be; indeed, you contradict yourself in the post as you want it to be unchangeable and yet, you want to make edits. And second the use of CLOCKSS. You say that these articles are archived, but there is no way to check on this while CLOCKSS is a dark archive. Of course, I am not suggesting your are lying here, but what aspects of the presentation are preserved in CLOCKSS? And what if these are important?
For me own blog, I have used purls to give a two-step redirection to blogposts and archive.org for archiving. PURLs because they are free, and archive.org because it does not suffer from the darkness of CLOCKSS.
Having said all of this, I think this does make a very valuable contribution. In the scientific community DOIs have a magical value placed on them. CLOCKSS less so, as fewer people have heard of it, but it is still there. I do not know whether the application of DOIs and CLOCKSS here will increase the value of posts on winnower, or decrease the magical value of DOIs, but either would be a good thing.
This is rather a suggestion than a review: there are weird \ns in the 3 first URLs. Not a big deal since the href is correct, but don't work if cut and pasted.
Also, this sentence
How can we improve this system, that even early grad students can
recognize as severely flawed (Chuen
2014) or does a better system
Could be rephrased as
Should be build on this system, that even early grad students can
recognize as severely flawed (Chuen
2014), or does a better system
(rephrase first question so that it matches the "or" and add comma)
Good idea. In the area of nutrition, for example, I think a number of bloggers have made valuable contributions and, maybe just as importantly, speculations. In that field, grants and general lines of thought have been beholden to powerful forces that have a vested interest in older paradigms. But it's been obvious that much of the older paradigm is mistaken, and I think bloggers have done a lot to point that out and improve our knowledge. I don't know, but perhaps much the same could be said about other fields of science.
The downside I see to this is whether any old blogger would have the ability to assign a DOI and thus perhaps cheapen the pool of scientific research.
This is a useful enumeration of three key qualities that typically distinguish recognised scholarly articles from blogs (DOIs, peer-reviews and archiving), but it only hints at the solutions that would enable blogs to participate more fully in the scientific discourse.
More fundamentally, while discussing mechanical differences between blog-posts and papers, this article overlooks the more fundamental difference between them -- one of intent. A paper is intended to stand as a complete, rigorous summary of a self-contained unit of research, whereas most blog-posts are intended to communicate a single thought, observation or opinion, not necessarily providing justification or other background. This is not a criticism of blog-posts, merely a recognition that they are a different kind of thing from papers, and for reasons deeper than those discussed here.
Ironically, my concern about this arises precisely because I am trying to treat this contribution as a short paper rather than a blog-post (hence this peer-review). If it were a blog-post it would be just fine. As a paper, it falls short of what we expect from that form. The Winnower's goal is to provide mechanism for publishing papers as easily as blog-posts, but there is work to be done in figuring out exactly what kind of contribution this is appropriate for.
For more discussion of these issues, see the following posts on the Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week blog, and especially their comment threads:
Now onto some specifics of this version:
"This doesn’t make them bad per se but it complicates how they approach scientific problems" -- I would cut "doesn’t make them bad per se but", which doesn't need saying and risks setting a negative or adversarial tone."They may concede their copyright and publish behind pay walls" -- "paywalls" is usually a single word."A DOI is a unique alphanumeric mark (e.g 10.15200/winn.140268.84031) that ensures, as best as it can, that content will be present and unchanged" -- This rather lax language hugely overestimates what DOIs can do. They are only identifiers with a redirection service. Persistence and immutability are important, but must be provided by other means."Have 10 different comments on your writing? That is probably more than most scholarly publications have" -- this is true, but misleading, as it does not allow for the huge range in comment value. A typical peer-review probably contains an order of magnitude more constructive feedback than a typical blog comment. Not only that, traditional peer-reviews are focussed on improving the paper, whereas blog comments more often develop the argument, often in completely different directions. Reviews and comments are both valuable, but they are not the same thing and should not be equated. (The Winnower platform would be stronger if it allowed, and distinguished between, both formal reviews and informal coments.)"This is traditionally achieved by the CLOCKSS archive" -- but then a brief description of LOCKKS is given. They are not the same thing. This section needs a clearer write-up. Also, CLOCKSS is only one candidate: others include PubMed Central, Portico and arguable WebCite.Finally: it's silly that references, especally those to other Winnower articles, are not rendered as links. (This is of course a comment on the platform rather than on this article.)
Nice post Josh.
Take a step further. Why not something like Stack Overflow, which is essentially a Q&A site operated by professionals and amateurs in real time? http://stackoverflow.com/
Research can be published as it is done. Review can come from the academic community, or further. Quality standards and filters are defined by the community.
There is no cost, and no delay of publication. There is no prestige, there are no page charges. Oh, and I guess it's all open access too.
Data? Combine it with FigShare.
What you've just created is a full community-driven, open, workspace, that completely negates the need for traditional publishing. You can even have proxies for prestige, through the commenting system - much like PeerJ currently have.
Just a thought.
I understand from the article that researchers do behave rational when they still publish in legacy journals, even if the newer avenues for publication are much better at disseminating the work.
This is a subtle point, and also an obvious one, once you got it. Indeed, researchers publish in legacy journals (and don't appreciate other possibilities and formats, like blog posts) because this pays the bills. In other words, researchers get an advantage from publishing in the old way.
On the other side the same researchers read from the Net.
So they read from the Net but publish on paper, to simplify. This way, as authors, they don't appreciate research blog posts, for example, but they do appreciate them as readers.
A very rational behaviour indeed.
In the short term. In the long term the disconnection between what we read and what we write will have disastrous effects. It already has, I think: nowadays you can write anything, there is always somebody who will publish your creation and somebody else who will cite it without reading it.
Now let's think why exactly if we publish in legacy journals then we can pay the bills?
I agree with Mike that a blog post is not an academic paper for reasons that have nothing to do with the DOI. I feel strongly that there is a good reason to keep them separate.
I see this as a sort of identity crisis for your platform. Is it for self-publishing of academic papers? If yes, then you are competing with PLOS, PeerJ, F1000Research, and most of all, bioRxiv and arXiv. Bad news is that even PeerJ and F1000 have a hard time competing in this space.
Is The Winnower a blogging platform? If yes, you are competing with Tumblr, Wordpress, Blogger. That's even harder than competing with PLOS.
So it seems you have decided to make The Winnower unique by turning it into a blog-paper space. Doing so, you may have removed all competition. Fantastic. I fear that you have also thus removed all demand. It will be hard to get submissions if authors don't understand whether it's for papers or blog posts. It will be even harder to get regular readers.
This article and its reviews are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and redistribution in any medium, provided that the original author and source are credited.