Monday, May 21, 2007

Unbundling review, highlight, distribution, discussion

The net has made it possible to unbundle the various roles of traditional science venues:

  • Review: Maintain good scientific standards. A paper that passes review should be sound (within the limits of human ability to check), understandable, and reproducible.
  • Highlight: We all have opinions about which sound papers are most significant. We also tend to trust certain people or venues to select or highlight the most significant papers. This function is separate from basic reviewing. For example, PLoS ONE will publish any paper that passes review, leaving aside subjective importance criteria. This is possible because there is no page limit on an net journal.
  • Distribution: Open access distribution is easy, cheap, and does not need to be tied to physical venues (dead trees or meetings).
  • Discussion: Online discussion, as the PLoS journals offer, and meetings offer complementary channels for communication and discussion of ideas. Highlighting can draw attention to particular papers for more intense discussion; meetings with separate tracks or talk/poster distinctions do this implicitly.

My proposal for connecting an open access journal with an annual meeting is just one way of re-bundling these functions in a different way from what is currently available, which is designed to promote better reviewing, easy distribution, effective highlighting through the tracks of a meeting, and increased discussion over what a journal alone offers.

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