Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thesis on Wiki Interest

There was quite a spike in our traffic to UsefulChem today.

The fact that Alicia's masters thesis "Synthesis of Diketopiperazines, Possible Malaria Enoyl Reducatase Inhibitors Using Open Source Science" is being written on a wiki was noted by Pharyngula, A Blog around the Clock and Pimm - Partial Immortalization.

I am particularly happy that Attila from Pimm has obtained permission from his supervisor to write at least part of his thesis on his blog. Outside of the sciences, I recall Mark Wagner doing something similar for his thesis on educational gaming. Also see Laura Blankenship's thesis on blogging in the classroom.

But there are some advantages to the wiki over the blog. Since every version of every page is archived, it is possible to view the evolution of the thesis over time. Also, as Alicia's supervisor, my comments are tracked - as well as her responses. One member of her thesis committee also agreed to provide feedback via the wiki. Not everything was captured here because we did have face to face meetings and used email but some important parts of the communication were tracked.

Another important feature of Alicia's thesis is that she linked back to experiment pages on UsefulChem, where all the raw data is housed. She was thus able to provide the ultimate citation to her own work as well as selected experiments from her co-workers to make a point, while being extremely clear about everyone's contribution.

For this reason, I think that wikis will be used increasingly as part of a scientist's porfolio to demonstrate special skills or writing ability. In our current system, all we know is that an individual was a co-author on a certain number of articles and we have to glean their contribution mainly from letters of recommendation. Wouldn't it have more impact for a potential employer to be shown the number and type of experiments done by an individual, the equipment they used and the observations they made?

3 Comments:

At 8:24 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

This is not exactly science (but has big chunks 'about' science), but it is a dissertation being blogged:
http://biopublic.blogspot.com/

 
At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Jordan said...

How does the presentation of the student's thesis work in a Wiki (open to all) affect her ability to publish in a peer-reviewed journal later? Does it count as "prior publication"?

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

I imagine it is the same as the publication of a thesis on an institutional repository, which is fairly common these days. The difference here is that the thesis is being written in an open environment and links are provided to all the raw experimental data in the public laboratory notebook.

 

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