May 07, 2003

It's catching on!

Eagleman & Holcombe proposal. May 1st issue of Nature printed a letter from the above two authors. Although their proposal is not as extensive as TrackBacking implemented at, it is a possible first start -- baby-steps to get scientists entrenched in the "old ways" to get with the times. I wonder if the two authors of the letter knew about

I have a few points of contention with their proposal. First, there is no need for a designated moderator. If there are just as many users/readers of PubMed as there are of Slashdot, the users can self-moderate just like at Slashdot (and at Amazon as mentioned); however, the model depicted by Slashdot is better in that all comments are recorded and readers can set their "threshold" to a certain moderation level to browse/read/peruse the comments, rather than have comments completely deleted from the system. In fact, if the powers that be at the Community of Science worked together with PubMed organizers, we can have a system that minimizes libellous comments, i.e. reduces the number of anonymous posts. Second, it makes no mention of the blogging movement and its potential benefit for the scientific community. And lastly, individuals with limited access to the Internet and researchers without the funds to subscribe to all their relevant journals will be left out in the dark. Think about it, we have to have access to the papers to read prior to placing comments or reading other people's comments -- it's like going to journal club without having read the paper.

Allowing a common, well-known area for public comments of published papers is a "no brainer." I feel that problems within the scientific publishing industry have to be solved before the true benefits of this action are reaped. More specifically, until access to papers become easier for everyone, the benefits of a comments board will be minimal. I concede that my views may be extreme; however, I see the scientific publishing industry coming to a crossroads that the music industry underwent in 1997 when Napster came to the forefront. The publishing industry has to decide now whether to go down the same road that the music industry did, or they can pave the way for better and cheaper access and be leaders rather than followers and ultimately dinosaurs of the past.

Posted by johnvu at May 7, 2003 02:59 PM

Many major journals have stated that they are in the business of providing a permanent record of research and that they fully intend to be paid to do so. Other journals have gotten on the open access bandwagon, noting that free online availability substantially increases a paper's impact( I'm most excited about getting access to revealing commentary and critique of the published literature without having to wait for the commentary or critique to be itself published. The ability to be a part of that is just another good reason why scientific publishing should go open access. Nature has a good debate column( on this issue. Of course, there is value in providing a permanent record, and publishing houses which provide this service deserve to be paid for their efforts, but there are enough libraries which stock the print version and will continue to do so.

Posted by: Grady on May 11, 2003 04:15 AM
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