Tuesday 24 March 2009

What's wrong with scholarly publication

At the recent grappa ehm liquidpub workshop, I maintained the following position:

1) In today's scholarly publishing and knowledge dissemination field, peer review is the scarce resource. There is not enough reviewing force; reviews are often done quickly, if not badly; there is almost no acknowledgment for being a good peer reviewer; etc.

2) The scholarly publishing and knowledge dissemination field is not learning from what is being done for quality control out there on the Web: Web 2.0 (whatever it is) exploits the wisdom of crowd to attach ratings, opinions, tags, etc. to digital objects, apparently in an effective way. Think of digg, delicious, reddit, ebay, epinions, slashdot, karma, etc. etc.

3) The scholarly publishing and knowledge dissemination field could do something similar by exploiting the "wisdom of readers": a scholarly paper is refereed by 2, 3, maybe 4 researchers, but it is hopefully read by dozens (10^1), hundreds (10^2), or even thousands (10^3, 10^4) of researchers. And these researchers usually form an opinion about the paper. And this opinion is usually left and lost inside their mind, or communicated in a very informal manner. We, the scholars community, are just using the logarithm of the reading (and reviewing/rating/judging/evaluating) power that we have!

Of course there's the issue of distinguishing good and bad reviewers/readers. On that, time ago, I published a (peer reviewed!) paper about an alternative/supplementary concrete mechanism to peer review:
S. Mizzaro. Quality Control in Scholarly Publishing: A New Proposal, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(11):989-1005, 2003. pdf (in a preprint version)
Also, recently we've been working at applying the same model to Wikipedia, where the rules are different from the scholarly publishing world: distributed authorship, dynamic/liquid papers, implicit judgments on the basis of the amount of editing, etc. We experimentally evaluated the approach, obtaining some encouraging preliminary results. That's a second paper:
Alberto Cusinato, Vincenzo Della Mea, Francesco Di Salvatore, Stefano Mizzaro. QuWi: Quality Control in Wikipedia. In WICOW 2009: 3rd Workshop on Information Credibility on the Web in conjunction with 18th World Wide Web, Madrid, 20 April 2009, forthcoming.
Time will tell if this model will be used, if it would work in the real world, etc. But for sure there is some stir about the scholarly publishing:

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