Report - Emerging Trends in Scholarly Publishing - Update

EN: Ted Freeman from Allen Press invited me to give a talk (slides) at the 2007 Allen Press Emerging Trends in Scholarly Publishing Seminar in Washington (D.C.). It was a very stimulating meeting and I will try to give a small report on some of the contributions. The foci of the talks might be in some cases different than the points I mention, but the slides of all talks will be online soon so you might can figure them out for yourself.

Our session called With a Little Help From My Friends: Online Scholarship 2.0 was started with an interesting talk by Richard Akerman (he will also blog about the meeting, so maybe we will complement each other). Some of his messages were that if publishers don't give the platform for communities those will be built by the communities themselves. In his opinion open peer review doesn't scale well. He advised the publishers to make more use of semantic web technologies to make it easier for the readers to handle the articles. Josh Greenberg presented Zotero, a Firefox extension that helps to manage research sources. There will soon be (summer of this year) a server set up to share Zotero content with others. Also the API will be improved soon. Josh hopes that in future there will be more meta data added by the content providers so that less reverse engineering has to be done. Dean Giustini showed the impact of Web 2.0 on the medical world and mentioned examples like Ask Dr Wiki. I gave an introduction to wikis and their application is science, after that I discussed the experiences of the First EMBL online PhD Symposium.

The keynote was given by Jaron Lanier who is generally quite skeptical regarding the Web 2.0 paradigms (see e.g. his article Digital Maoism). For me personally it was sometimes hard to follow his line of thought as he jumped a lot and mixed many different, unconventional ideas. I guess that is the way a visionary has to think :). In my opinion the bottom line was that the anonymity of the web brings out the worst in people. The tendency to bad behavior was there before, but the web just enables this more efficiently. So complete open systems might not be the solution for things like peer reviewing. Hmm, I think that there were many other points here that I don't remember properly.

From the session Here, There, and Everywhere: The Great Promise of Research Data Commons I would like to mention John Wilbanks' talk who introduced us to Science Commons. He stressed that delayed data publishing blocks the whole process of science that takes place later in the pipeline and he encouraged publishing data as soon as possible to increase the speed of research. In his opinion scientific literature should also be treated as a scientific data source and should be made available as completely and accessibly as possible. This would increase the power of data mining enormously.

The third session We Can Work It Out: Peer Review, Dynamic Documents and the Wisdom of Crowds was a panel discussion chaired by Irv Rockwood with Jaron Lanier, Chris Surridge and David Baldwin. On one side David defended the classical peer review process, on the other side Chris, managing editor of PloS ONE, tried to sell the advantages of the open peer review approach.One point he especially mentioned that I wasn't aware of before: reviewing articles consumes a lot of researcher's time. As many journals are very proud of their rejection rate, a lot of man power is wasted when scientists submit the same paper from the top down through the prestige hierarchy of journals. If journals would somehow exchange the comments of referees quite some labor could be saved. But this is not the case.

This was just a quick overview of the impression I got. I am a little bit jet lagged so maybe I will improve this posting later or will post separately about some of the points. As mentioned, keep an eye on Richard's blog as he will report about the meeting, too. If anybody thinks I got something wrong please post a comment.

Update: As Chris Surridge noticed the talk slides and videos of some parts of the seminar are online now.

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