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Science

Crowdsourcing and Scientific Truth 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the truth-by-committee dept.
ygslash writes "In an opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review, Jack Hitt states that comments posted to on-line articles, and elsewhere on line, have de facto become an important factor in what is accepted as scientific truth. From the article: 'Any article, journalistic or scientific, that sparks a debate typically winds up looking more like a good manuscript 700 years ago than a magazine piece only 10 years ago. The truth is that every decent article now aspires to become the wiki of its own headline.'"
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Crowdsourcing and Scientific Truth

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  • It's long been true that a top reason to go to academic conferences isn't only for the paper presentations, but rather for the hallway/dinner/bar conversations about those papers. More formally, many scientific journals will publish short letters or commentaries about papers they've previously published, and that practice used to be even more widespread (at some journals a "letter" has morphed into a mini-paper, but they used to really be letters to the editor).

    The same is now true online with something like Terence Tao's blog [wordpress.com]: it's interesting as much for what other mathematicians post in reply, as for what Tao himself posts (though his posts are quite interesting). The main difference as I see it is that the number of people participating is much greater (which has good and bad parts), and, in comparison to hallway conversations, the conversations persist and get referenced back to more, since they're in a semi-durable written medium (that's the "wiki-like" aspect the article discusses).

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:28AM (#39908149) Homepage Journal
    Since you're our resident first-poster for this article you're forgiven for not having RTFAed. :) The article actually sings the praises of comments sections in their ability to dissect evidence more efficiently than one or a handful of time-constrained professionals, points out how similar annotations in old books gave rise to the first dictionaries, argues that we need to treat 'comments' sections more respectfully as a result (and call them perhaps 'glosses', borrowing the term used for said mediaeval–Renaissance marginalia), and then insinuates that the original article was undoubtedly in error, particularly since the bird has been "sighted" very several very convenient times in the past when conservationists' efforts were frustrated.

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