27.01.2017 08:34

WeScientistsShapeScience: Alternative Publications

Following are my thoughts from the first day of the workshop "Alternative Publications" at the very attended WeScientistsShapeScience workshop in Bern.

Publications exist as the prime means to communicate scientific results, to document and cite who made a discovery. In the digital age, especially in the fledgling world of linked open data, open science this paradigm need to be reconsidered.

It is not enough to think about how we can improve an article to make it a better, more efficient end in itself. It needs to be a tool to document new entries to the knowledge commons, the global knowledge graph that we ultimately wanted to build from the onset of the scientific endeavour in humankind. Now that we are getting close to be able to build it, we need to reconsider how we feed into the system.

Clearly, there is no direct solution. Some of our colleagues are not even aware of the concept of Open Access, most never thought beyond the PDF and article. For many it is a nuisance, and indeed they rather want to produce less of it, and do not like metrics based on their article output.

It has been pointed out that the transition from a printed article to a semantically enhanced, i.e. machine readable article with content types defined by commonly accepted vocabularies and embedded links to external resources, comes at a cost. A cost that is a transitional cost maintaining external resources, that need to be allocated.

Scientists in general do want to continue their research and thus they are not in favor to cover it. On the other hand, the taxpayer spends a huge amount of money on research that is increasingly not accessible - it becomes increasingly transparent that it is not because of the Internet - and need to think about building this infrastructure that has, better needs to be considered a public good and supported by a dedicated data infrastructure. We build the National Archive, National Library, the logical next step is a National Data Infrastructure.

Another question is what is the function of a publication in a publication process that is being increasingly open. From formulating a research question, to the grant proposal, the raw data, the analytical protocols, the results, peer review and the final paper. Is the latter needed in this context? Is there a final paper? Does it work as a quality control instrument for a set of results? Is it the claim of a scientific hypothesis?

Alone in the publishing world, there are increasingly more ways to publish data. Most though are focused on metadata - measuring the impact - rather than the content, data that is inside.

Thinking about why we publish, what we want to achieve, why we spend a lot of tax money on science, should complement the scientists’ view and tradition of publishing to find a solution. Without that, science will further lose its connection to the society, another theme discussed in the audience.