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The Future Of Scientific Publishing 38

KjetilK writes: "The Nature web site carries a section with a debate on the future of scientific publishing. Prompted by the Open Letter on the Public Library of Science, this important subject has been brought to the surface. While arXiv.org for many years have provided services similar to that wanted by the Public Library of Science and services such as Astrophysics Data System has been developed to support researchers find what they are looking for and crosslink papers, it is not before now this debate has really taken off. /.-ers will find papers submitted by people they know well, such as RMS, Tim O'Reilly and Tim Berners-Lee, but papers have been submitted from publishers, scientists, database maintainers and so on as well. The whole site contains many very interesting articles. My personal perspective on this, is that I love things like ADS and arXiv.org, and it is fine if the dead-tree publishers are obsoleted, but it is very important that institutionalized peer-review isn't undermined in the process." We've linked to this Nature debate before, but they've added a lot of new content since, and this is such a nicely written submission I can hardly refuse it.
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The Debate About The Future Of Scientific Publishing

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  • Nah - stuff can still diffuse through the CD plastic. Actually, 50 years is rather optimistic -many cheap CDs (and I'm talking about the CD itself - there's little or no correlation between what the companies charge you for a CD with stuff on it, and how much the CD cost them) last less that a decade - and there's all sorts of strange things that can influence their lifespan, for example, some CD singles jewel boxes are made of cheap plastic that slowly releases organic solvents as it ages, which turn the CD plastic itself opaque. Oops..
  • While there are advantages to electronic publishing, let's not forget that the digital age is mostly powered by dead trees (and other vegetation/biota) - coal and oil - and we get some global warming to boot (blue smog if you live in LA). Oh, and has anyone truly figured out how to displose of all those dead PCs and monitors?!
  • There are several issues relating to scientific publication on the net, here which are covered in some fashion in various articles and comments on the Nature website, but I'd like to take a moment to cull them together:

    Well, you might say, the internet provides information in vast quantities to millions of users... Maybe, maybe not. If I do primary source research and produce a scolarly work, I have two choices. I can have it printed in a scolarly journal, or publish it on the internet. IF I publish it on the net, I then need to publicize it's existance. How do I do that? well, rencently search engines have begun to charge several hundred doollars in order to include new sites in their indexes. They claim that non-business content will eventually be indexed (I think the estimate at excite was 8 weeks to index new non-business content) but I havn't seen it happen.

    We have ecentially turned over the 'library card catalogs of the internet' over to corporations who's goal is to make a proffit. This is an interesting choice to say the least. These companies make no commitment to index any particular content, or to index new content within a particular period... introducing the potential to have valuable scolarly work lost amidst the noise of the internet. It's nice to have more information, but it introduces the possibility that truly valuable information is lost in the frey.

    Also, there is the possibility that information stored on the internet will disappear after sponsorship of that information disappears. In order for information to appear on the internet, someone needs to pay for the bandwidth and arrange for hosting of the material. What if Galileo or Aristottle has published their works onthe internet? Their ideas weren't widely recognized or accepted until after they died, and as soon as they died, the their sponsorship of the material would disappear. This raises the question, what happens to truly valuable information which is not recognized as such until years after the death of the originator of that information? Does it simply disappear off the net? Information nowadays is not nearly as static as it once was.

    How should the sum total of human knowlege be truly preserved? Is there a Correct answer here? It doesn't look that way to me.


  • There's a lot of group-think and unwillingness to consider ideas that aren't fashionable in a particular discipline. What really matters in scientific research is the ability of others to replicate the results. More emphasis on that and less on the politics of peer review would benefit science in the long run.

    Well said. Paul Feyerabend was one of the most famous philosophers of science in the last century and one its most ardent critics. Here's an excerpt from his acclaimed book 'Against Method'.

    "And a more detailed analysis of successful moves in the game of science ('successful' from the point of view of the scientists themselves) shows indeed that there is a wide range of freedom that demands a multiplicity of ideas and permits the application of democratic procedures (ballot-discussion-vote) but that is actually closed by power politics and propaganda. This is where the fairy-tale of a special method assumes its decisive function. It conceals the freedom of decision which creative scientists and the general public have even inside the most rigid and the most advanced parts of science by a recitation of 'objective' criteria and it thus protects the big-shots (Nobel Prize winners; heads of laboratories, of organizations such as the AMA, of special schools; 'educators'; etc.) from the masses (laymen; experts in non-scientific fields; experts in other fields of science): only those citizens count who were subjected to the pressures of scientific institutions (they have undergone a long process of education), who succumbed to these pressures (they have passed their examinations), and who are now firmly convinced of the truth of the fairy-tale. This is how scientists have deceived themselves and everyone else about their business, but without any real disadvantage: they have more money, more authority, more sex appeal than they deserve, and the most stupid procedures and the most laughable results in their domain are surrounded with an aura of excellence. It is time to cut them down in size, and to give them a more modest position in society."

    From 'Against Method' by Paul Feyerabend.
  • There are lots of interesting things going on with publishing and the web. The thing that traditional journals have is that the editor and the editorial board are all acknowledged experts in the field of the journal. This has benefits and drawbacks obviously: crap is usually weeded out, but radical ideas are also often weeded out. Journals are not "open" or "free". The web on the other hand is a very open and free publishing media. This has reciprocal benefits and drawbacks to the journal system.

    So that is all stuff everyone knows.

    What is really interesting are those web environments that try to balance openness with peer review. Slashdot is obviously one such environment, everything2 is another, etc. But what they lack is subtlety and organization.

    So, even though it's probably a karma bad, I'm going to do a blatant self promotion: oomind [oomind.com] is a web system that balances openness and peer review but also provides subtlety and organization. It is brand new, so there isn't much content yet, but please check it out. Here is the philosophy of oomind [oomind.com], and here is the more functional introduction [oomind.com].


  • Society in general puts a lot of money into preserving knowledge. It would seem to be a reasonable thing to do. Old journals do not exist because they got published, they exist ( or a subset exist) because libraries subscribe and preserve.

    You argue well for libraries getting heavily involved in the provision of search engines and the provision of a network of servers to maintain scientific publications after dead tree production stops.

    Your arguments do not provide a foundation to stop the inevitable.

    In fact if you look at reality, libraries are becoming less successful at their main function as the volume of material to be preserved increases. A lot of it now lasts a few years and is junked to make room for a new round.

    We need stable standards so something published now can be read in 100 years. And we need the volume reduction electronic production brings.

    Oh; and just like every thing else science needs to look at productivity gains. Spending a year doing a paper search when a computer can do it in a day is a nonsense society has already stopped paying for it and is unlikely to pay in the future.
  • The government is already paying for a lot of publication costs. Authors pay a fee (page charge) to submit their papers to many nonprofit journals, which (in the US anyway) typically is paid for out of their government grant.

    This varies a lot by discipline and country, for example some European countries will not pay page charges as part of government grants, and so the researchers are forced to submit their papers to for-profit journals which do not have a page charge. There are similar pressures for less well-funded researchers and disciplines.

  • If anything, I think CDs are much more durable than books.

    Eh? I can use most of my books as leg-extensions for my tables and chairs, or as coffee coasters, and they will still be as readable as they were before. I don't think that durability has been yet built into CDs!

    I am sure that, as new media become accepted, the old stuff will be converted to the new technology. After all, are we not converting books to CDs now?

    Only the stuff that someone will pay their time and / or money to keep.

    Don't get me wrong - I am sure there must be a better way to store info than on dead trees (dead trees are expensive and made of dead trees) - but sadly I don't think CDs are it.

  • by Bizzaro ( 14691 ) on Friday June 15, 2001 @04:29PM (#148020)
    Here are some of the issues that scientists (and publishers) are dealing with:
    • Copyright on scientific communications (published articles and so forth) belongs to publishing companies and not to authors, for most publications. Scientists wishing to share relevant communications, even their own in some cases, face legal challenges from publishers.
    • Publishing companies charge expensive subscriptions to access scientific communications. Scientists in developing countries and poorly-endowed institutions, although intellectually on par with their peers, are severely hindered by this.
    • These two problems have prevented scientists from gaining any access, even for simple searches, to the full text of these communications.
    • Scientific communications are published in journals segregated by topic. This has resulted in confusion as to the best place to publish, retrieve or extract (using computer automation) information (e.g., mathematical biology communications could be published in either a mathematical journal or a biological one).
    • Communications are also published in journals differing by publisher. This has caused the segregation of communications by the prestige of the journal (e.g., how difficult it is to be published in the journal and the composition of the readership). This has also allowed room for personal politics in scientific communication.
    • These two problems are compounded by the first two: with a limited budget, to which journals should one subscribe? What we are left with is an artificial selection, by publishers, of which communications are best suited to a scientist's field of study.
    • This may be the result of a competitive marketplace for readership, but is there an alternative to profit-based publications? Should there be? Can an alternative publication model be profitable for a publisher?
    • Additionally, even with the advent of computers, databases, and the World Wide Web, scientific communications are published as they were 100 years ago: as linear, printable text. And they are archived this way. While this makes good reading, it is not the best format for information retrieval or extraction.
    • All of these problems restrict information retrieval, extraction, and scientific inquiry. How do we resolve them? As the ultimate solution, should future communications be published in an "open-access, global knowledge-base"? Before or after information extraction techniques are applied?

    Bioinformatics.org [bioinformatics.org], an organization committed to freedom and openness in the field of bioinformatics (a very commercial field), is hosting a joint conference on open-access publications and informatiion extraction in the biological sciences [bioinformatics.org]. We have sought several speakers who can address how the above problems might be solved. They come from the Public Library of Science, BioMed Central [bmc.com], and PubGene [pubgene.org] (mentioned on Slashdot before).

    The conference will be in Copenhagen, Denmark, and there is room for more attendees. The first 50 can in fact register for free.

    This sort of thing has cropped up before. And it has always been due to human error.

  • I agree that government involvement may be a good thing. But what government? Scientific inquiry is not done exclusively in the USA.
  • Indeed, I have also been fighting my share of extreme traditionalism, unwillingness to change, and so on. However, I wouldn't blame it on peer review. There are on the other hand many things that could have been avoided if peer-reviewers had been doing their job.

    For example, it's all too common that papers are written as obscurely as possible, because, while you should have a lot of papers for your publication record, you also need to make sure that nobody else gets the idea and carry out the experiments you've planned. So, to make sure nobody "steals" the idea, people write obscure, non-reproducable papers (the other side of the issue is that people don't have the courtesy to stay away from something they know others are working hard on. It all boils down to how grants are granted, how scientists are evaluated). And the papers go through peer-review, because the reviewer knows that higher standards means it'll be harder for himself to use the same tactics the next time he needs it. What they should have done is insist on the study being reproducable, and refuse to publish papers that are deliberately obscure. And something needs to be done about the way scientists are evaluated.

  • In the modern world, we have 3 critical tools with which one can impress the notion that one is not a raving lunatic. 1. a tie 2. a haircut 3. a razor

    How much do I want to live in a world where in order to not be considered a "raving lunatic", I have to wear a noose around my neck, apply a razor each morning to my face and throat, and participate in a futile and costly ritual of cutting off a part of myself that keeps on growing back, for no reason except the way it looks?

    Stallman, for all his faults, is advocating a better world, and he lives that through the way he dresses, looks and speaks as much as through what he does. If he didn't, I personally would not take his freedom message seriously - it would look like he was pushing the same old shit as Mr Gates or Mr [insert name of maker of your local flavourless, mass produced food or beer here].

  • Hear a lot about "peer review". Are readers really unable to think for themselves? If you are experienced in a field do really care jack shit about the view of the guy down the hall, when reading the article written by the guy up the road.

  • As I wrote in another comment, I have been hugely impressed by CiteSeer [researchindex.org] (aka NEC ResearchIndex). The ease of the navigation and the comprehensiveness of its cross-linking make it a notably powerful resource for uncovering useful and interesting relevant papers. It seems to me that every author, and every publisher, would want their papers indexed in such a system. It is manifestly in both their interests to make the relevant material available for indexing, just as abstracts and citations are available at the moment in Physics Abstracts (etc) and the Science Citation Index.

    Clearly, it is also in the authors' interests (though not, one assumes, the publishers') to make the full text of papers as easily and freely available as possible, as highlighted in this article [nature.com] on the Nature site.

    Surely therefore the logical thing to do is to expect the publishers by default to charge for the online full-text papers, either by journal subscription or pay-per-view; but to offer authors the choice of buying back the rights to have their full text made available free to the end-user, if the authors will pay an appropriate compensation, rather like the page rates currently charged by some journals. (The exact level of the additional page rates would be another base of competition between journals). As I think RMS pointed out in his contribution to the Nature debate, such rates would usually be quite small in comparison to the overall cost of the research, so with luck both funding agencies and universities would see it as in their own interests to insist on a policy of paying the price for free access.

  • There is a big problem with data redundancy in scientific papers.

    I was unable to find any software to create, review, store & update scientific knowledge on any particular subject. In hot areas of molecular biology new papers are published daily. No one has time to search and read everything that is relevant to his field of interest. It takes plenty of time to find most important papers, to obtain copies of it (in print or pdf) and to dig throw all unimportant parts of the paper that has to be included because you can not link (hyperlink) directly to certain paragraph in another paper.

    I think that we need to switch from paper type publications (where earch paper consist of redundant data and is linked to other papers by references only) to knowledge-base like publishing. The knowledge base on any field of science may be stored in object oriented database with schema that is like table of contents taken from any "scientific bible" (i.e. "Genes VII"). The table of contents might be followed by another layer containing very condensed information (like in scientific reviews) that has links to titles of scientific publications, or better to one sentence summary of scientific finding of any particular publication. The next layer may consist of data taken from publication abstracts (containing everything impoprtant) with links to crude data. Each piece of crude data should be logically presented with rationale (reason for that experiment), discussion of crude result and links to exact paragraphs of other publications. Each fact stored in the database should be linked to crude data. The crude data should be taken from publications or direct submissions and of course before inclusion into the database it must be peer reviewed. The crude data may also include the probability of it's reliability (set by author or reviewers). The reliability is important because some results are obtained with methods that give reliable results, but many of the research in molecular biology provide only indirect evidence.

    This scientific-knowledge database will remove most of the redundancy found in all scientific publications published as articles.

    To create such a system you can start with object oriented database (i.e. ZOPE [zope.org] or object-relational PostgreSQL [postgresql.org] or MySQL that has good full text search). Please not that the database will contain trilions of hyperlinks, and link management will be very important part of it. It should have system for peer review (maybe similar to slashdot moderation). It will store crude results that are in hundreds of different formats. Each single crude result with additional data and files may be stored in one tar.gz or zip file. There must be also a some kind of versioning system. You will have to provide external editor or list of compatybile editors that suport XML format. Maybe OpenOffice [openoffice.org]? And last but not least - there must be a system that enable researcher to claim that this work is theirs. To obtain further funding scientist need to be able to show what research was done. In science the position of each researcher is based on how many papers he/her published in best scientific journals. Scientific journals has impact factro - if papers published in the journal are cited often - the impact factor of the journal is high.

    -Piotr [ibb.waw.pl]

  • It seems to me that a site set up like /. (although it would be updated with much less frequency) would be the perfect forum for this type of thing. The layout would need some tweaking (they'd want a spell checker ;P and some way to keep those pesky goatse.cx punks off, they'd also probably get rid of the anonymous coward option; .sigs could be changed into useful identifying information such as where the poster worked or something like that) but the basic idea behind slashcode would work well. Scientists who wanted to publish their work could put up a short intro on the main page, give more info under the "read more..." section and then post a .pdf for anyone to download. Peers could post reviews in .pdf files as replies and so on and so forth. Anyone else thought of something along these lines?
  • It is time to cut them down in size, and to give them a more modest position in society.

    An interesting guy. However it does sound like a case of sour grapes.

  • Hmm. Looks like you have discovered a small session-related bug in our system :-( If you would be so kind as to email me with information about your browser and if you have cookies turned off, I would really appreciate it.

  • I've figured out his problem. He thinks that physicians are scientists! Physicians are a lot more like mechanics.
  • by JPMH ( 100614 ) on Saturday June 16, 2001 @12:44AM (#148031)
    Another impressive site worth looking at is Citeseer [slashdot.org] (now the more prosaic 'NEC ResearchIndex'), which has saved me a number of trips to the library for papers on Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Compression etc.

    Citeseer spiders the web looking for postscript and PDF scientific papers, cacheing whatever it finds, and cross-referencing all the references -- so that even if it doesn't have a particular paper, you can still read what was said about it when other authors cited it. Citeseer also offers documents which it thinks are related because of a similar citation history, and an 'active bibliography' of the most cited documents which cited this one. And wherever it has found a document, its cached copy is available for download.

    For a typical Citeseer report page see eg http://citeseer.nj.nec.com/heckerman96tutorial.htm l [nec.com].

    I have been very impressed by how much value such a system can add, compared to just the dead trees.

  • If you scroll down the Nature web debate home page, you will see that Andrew Odlyzko is on the 'coming soon' list of authors already commissioned to contribute to the debate :-) Thanks though for all suggestions/feedback. Declan Butler d.butler@nature-france.com Editor of the Nature debate on "Future e-access to the primary literature" http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/ Thanks /.-ers for your interest in this issue...
  • An interesting guy. However it does sound like a case of sour grapes.

    I don't think you fully appreciate the fearless and irreverent philosophy of Feyerabend. Sure he had an axe to grind, but a wonderful and merciless axe it was. It is a pity we don't have more people like him to cut a few conceited and pompous scientists down to size. Science has for too long been an intellectually incestuous and elitist enterprise free of the checks and balances that characterise the rest of modern society. Feyerabend was not anti science. He was anti elitism. Here's another quote from Against Method. Of course, you are free to disagree.

    "Modern science, on the other hand, is not at all as difficult and as perfect as scientific propaganda wants us to believe. A subject such as medicine, or physics, or biology appears difficult only because it is taught badly, because the standard instructions are full of redundant material, and because they start too late in life. During the war, when the American Army needed physicians within a very short time, it was suddenly possible to reduce medical instruction to half a year (the corresponding instruction manuals have disappeared long ago, however. Science may be simplified during the war. In peacetime the prestige of science demands greater complication.) And how often does it not happen that the proud and conceited judgement of an expert is put in its proper place by a layman! Numerous inventors built 'impossible' machines. Lawyers show again and again that an expert does not know what he is talking about. Scientists, especially physicians, frequently come to different results so that it is up to the relatives of the sick person (or the inhabitants of a certain area) to decide by vote about the procedure to be adopted. How often is science improved, and turned into new directions by non-scientific influences! it is up to us, it is up to the citizens of a free society to either accept the chauvinism of science without contradiction or to overcome it by the counterforce of public action. Public action was used against science by the Communists in China in the fifties, and it was again used,, under very different circumstances, by some opponents
    of evolution in California in the seventies. Let us follow their example and let us free society from the strangling hold of an ideologically petrified science just as our ancestors freed us from the strangling hold of the One True Religion!"

    From 'Against Method' by Paul Feyerabend.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2001 @02:09PM (#148034)
    There's a lot of group-think and unwillingness to consider ideas that aren't fashionable in a particular discipline. What really matters in scientific research is the ability of others to replicate the results. More emphasis on that and less on the politics of peer review would benefit science in the long run.
  • by td ( 46763 ) on Friday June 15, 2001 @02:25PM (#148035) Homepage
    Remarkably, Nature doesn't appear to have talked to Andrew Odlyzko, who, over the last 5 years or so, has written a large pile of the best papers on the subject of the future of scientific publishing. [att.com]
  • This article contains many excellent ideas on the future of academic publishing. One idea I haven't seen put forth is the idea of added value: the idea that you can publish a portion of a paper for free, and add value later for a fee.

    This model is very farmiliar to anyone who has tried to purchase music online. What about using it for scientific publications? Publish something meatier than a simple abstract, but withhold experimental results and test data for subscribers.

    This seems to be a logical compromise between inhibiting peer review and compensating the publishing journals.

    All in all I noticed it was a very inclusive article.
  • One of things that has irritated for a long time is the bias in publishing to only print successful articles on successful experiments or research.

    While this may be a bit altruistic, but I wonder how much squandering of resources could be reduced, by letting people know that certain things do not work, rather than having them waste resources on developing a similar doomed experiment. I doubt that private industry will embrace this idea as it lessens their competitive edge, but it should be embraced by academia.

    The interent provides a perfect means to allow researchers to make their work (successful or failed) available to others with little expense. It will also allow for a great number of people to examine the failed experiments to see why the failed. Maybe the original researcher overlooked something or perhaps it was a bad design to begin with.

  • Web based publishing has been around for a number of years now. See www.molvis.org. This is a peer reviewed web based journal (It might even be the first, or nearly the first) that is free to access and importantly free to publish. To give you an idea of how expensive it can be to publish in a traditional subscription based printed journal, the article I am preparing now would cost upwards of $12,000-16,000 or even more to publish with all of the color images I need for this paper. Publishing on Molecular Vision lets me get the information out to the scientific community for little cost . Is this really publishing for free? Well, no. The site is hosted by Emory University and I am sure some of our taxes go to subsidize the publishing and the reviewers time (who are typically NIH funded researchers etc...). So, there is nothing that is really free, but it is certainly cheaper than traditional journals. And with .pdf's we can have almost reprint quality materials to read.
  • The not-for-profit publications are opening up to the idea. The for-profit publications say it is a terrible idea. The database owners say it is great, as long as somebody pays for their databases. The librarians say We need a big open library. The scientists say "Sounds good, but we need to cover our asses".

    Yes, the concept of a freely available archive of scientific research is a great idea. Who will provide the servers? the database software? the programmers? the bandwidth? the peer review? All of these things take money.

    I would be willing to provide some of the resources needed for such an endeavor, but it is far too large for any individual to take on, and too important to trust to any individual or corporation. Are there noted scientists out there willing to do first class peer review? (as opposed to usenet flame wars) Are there people with bandwidth to spare, and the committment to provide it for years? How about > 100K$ of reliable hardware, and daily mirroring to multiple offsite storage sites?

    If you want this to happen, vote with your skills and/or money and/or bandwidth, and/or real estate.

    Ex Libris Veritas
  • The thin metallic layer in CDs will oxidize after about 50 years...

    I was not aware of that. I had assumed that the clear (plastic?) coating would protect them against oxidation.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I guess they thought that there was no future in it.
  • by jmorzins ( 86648 ) on Friday June 15, 2001 @03:36PM (#148042)
    Of course experimental reproducibility is important, but don't knock peer review.

    How is a journal editor supposed to tell if an experiment is reproducible just by reading the submitted article? They ask a third party, "does this paper look reasonable?". That is peer review.

    Some papers are theoretical papers. Theory is right so long as the equations are right, although "right" is not the same as "useful". How do the editors know which theories to publish in the front of the journal as the significant ones and which ones to dump in the back? Ask a third party "what do you think of this?"

    Peer review weeds out crap. It's a lot like slashdot's moderation of comments, except that peer review happens before the article is published rather than while it is published. Asking for more emphasis on good journal articles and less emphasis on review is about as useful as asking slashdot for more good comments and less moderation of comments.

    (Yes, I'm a scientist. Don't get me started about academic karma whores. They exist.)
  • If I go out and buy a book or magazine, I can pretty much guarantee that, with a little care, I (and my children, and grandchildren) will still be able to go back and read that book for several hundred years. How many forms of "new media" can claim that? The recorded bits on floppy disks tend to vanish after three or four years. Mag tape is a little better than that. Writable CD's may last a little longer, but what's the probability that in 10 years, you'll be able to find a working reader that will grock the format of the pits and lands on the CD media?

    I am sure that, as new media become accepted, the old stuff will be converted to the new technology. After all, are we not converting books to CDs now? Besides, almost all written materials are in electronic formats and are in a form that can readily be adapted to new media technologies. If anything, I think CDs are much more durable than books. But then again, to really prove that, we might have to wait a few thousand years.
  • Peer review weeds out crap.

    Certainly but it also conspires to conserve crap that has become taken for granted, at least among theoretical scientists.
  • Yes, the concept of a freely available archive of scientific research is a great idea. Who will provide the servers? the database software? the programmers? the bandwidth? the peer review? All of these things take money.

    IMO, scientific publishing is in the greater of society at large. Everybody benefits from the advancement of science. After all,our tax money pay for roads and highways even though not everybody owns a car.
  • The thin metallic layer in CDs will oxidize after about 50 years...
  • I got the link wrong in the post. Here it is:

    http://biomedcentral.com/ [biomedcentral.com]

    This sort of thing has cropped up before. And it has always been due to human error.

  • This is an interesting perspective: I'd like to expand on it a bit.

    The trouble with search engines is that, as you say, they've got reason to have an agenda and punish non-revenue-generating content, being slow to list it or possibly ignoring it completely. When the Internet is seen strictly as a marketplace there's no way around this: the benefits of being 'featured' in a high-rated search engine are too significant for the search engines to not monetize this. It's a mirror of earlier forms of media where there WAS no access save through a narrow channel. The search engines you speak of replicate that narrow channel.

    However, the notion of a narrow channel on the Internet is a _myth_. It's an assumption carried over from earlier forms of media, and in at least some forms of internet content (certain musicians, 'all your base' etc) the proliferation of awareness about content takes place without _any_ reliance on a narrow, tailored channel.

    It becomes a problem of promotion in a context of wildly prolific choice. There is so much hype, so much promotion from so many directions, that it all cancels out... in a situation of such deep choice the only real 'magic bullet' is content itself. Publish or perish- work on your 'performance' rather than your publicity.

    When this is done, and a basic minimum of initial publicity is given (like telling your friends, mentioning what you've done to your peers), the content gradually takes on an popularity roughly equivalent to its real significance- if you average it. Wild bursts of publicity and insignificance are also to be expected, it's not anything like a steady 'readership' or listenership. The pattern actually resembles the fractal distribution of noise in signal transmissions... very striking fluctuations. Again, this is without external publicity such as featuring in search engines.

    Your last point is well taken- people who do not live long enough to see their ideas adopted are liable to lose out. Interestingly, this corresponds with the assumption that intellectual property must be defended- if only the creator is permitted to control the expressions of their ideas, then it is wrong to take them and post them willy-nilly elsewhere, and so when the person dies, their own little web page is no longer paid for and the content is erased. If there is no intellectual property, it only takes one person to copy the data to preserve it, and that person also winds up capable of redistributing the material, rather than being legally barred from doing so. In essence, part of intellectual property is to guarantee that a creator's works die with the creator unless proper arrangements are made.

    This is somewhat non-intuitive :)

  • There's a lot of group-think and unwillingness to consider ideas that aren't fashionable in a particular discipline.

    It disturbs me when people speak of "science" as though it were completely monolithic. There's quite a bit of variation from biology to physics to psychology.

    Firstly, this is true of any discipline, not just science. Secondly, it depends on the specific field within science. I can't speak for others, but I'm a researcher in a "hard science", where theory is rigorously attached to mathematics. When surprising results are presented, there has historically been disbelief and resistance at first, but it's pretty hard to be prejudiced against a proof.

May all your PUSHes be POPped.