Saturday, June 09, 2007

Nature Precedings

Egon has just posted about Nature Precedings, which looks like a no-brainer as an additional publication outlet for UsefulChem. I've requested an account and we'll see how it works.

In my view, producing knowledge in a Science 2.0 world is about communicating through redundancy, making it easy to prove who-knew-what-when. That is difficult to do with the traditional scientific publication system of giving away copyright. (Not impossible, because concepts and results can be rewritten using different words, but still difficult).

This should be interesting. Here is a description of Nature Precedings:

will enable researchers to share, discuss and cite their early findings. It provides a lightly moderated and relatively informal channel for scientists to disseminate information, especially recent experimental results and emerging conclusions. In this sense, it is designed to complement traditional peer-reviewed journals, allowing researchers to make informal communications such as conference papers or presentations more widely available and enabling them to be formally cited. This, in turn, allows them to solicit community feedback and establish priority over their results or ideas.


At 11:21 AM, Blogger Pedro Beltrao said...

I did not really understand the redundancy ? You think that it is good to have the same information appearing at multiple places ?

Preprint servers for me are more about (independent) certification of early findings.

I still have in mind that competition in science should be over finner grained results and not for the final formal peer-reviewed paper. If someone does an experiment before I do, I lose much less time than if I work hidden for 2 years and someone publishes a paper with exactly the same work done over the 2 years.

Early findings can be worked on in blogs/wikis and as some results come in that support the work, the findings can be written down and a version can be time-stamped by the preprint server. Community feedback and more work might lead (or not) to the submission to a peer-reviewed journal. This last part might is more about certifying the work.

You can even imagine that journal editors could go through the preprint servers to elect what is interesting to their community and ask referees to comment on the work.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Yes, I meant the same information at multiple places. It could be exactly the same text and data or information organized in different ways to fit the format of each vehicle. This could range from databases, blogs, wikis, pre-print servers and standard journals. Redundancy is essential if we are to fully experiment with new technologies. Because the question I get asked a lot is what happens if a new service goes down (as it did for Chemistry Preprint Server). If you haven't given up copyright and you have redundancy then it is not that big of a problem.

What you describe as peer-reviewed papers used for finer grained results is very field dependent. In chemistry, where there is not a pre-print culture, that probably corresponds to a Communication or a Letter. But I think those are still much too slow - why not publish the results on the day the experiment was executed?

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Pedro Beltrao said...

We should publish current day to day things in blogs. But not everything in a blog post will have the same weight. I think the preprint server is a good intermediate level in between a blog post and formal peer-reviewed paper.
You showed recently an example of this in another blog. You combined two blog posts into one communication that you sent to Nature Precedings. This is how I would imagine it. That we do out daily work, annotated in electronic notebooks and then a collection of results and discussion would be compiled as a communication. This can then be sent to a repository where many more people will be having a look and discussing/commenting on your work. From the preprint server you might or not submit directly to a journal for a more formal peer review.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Pedro - yes not all blog posts are equal. Only some are acceptable for a vehicle like Precedings. Next I'd like to put up some of our wiki experiment pages for "completed" experiments.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nature Precedings needs to have a good rating system for open, community-based review to work well. Currently, submitted articles can be voted for, but that does not tell one how many would have voted against it. Nor does one get to know the negative points unless they go through the whole article themselves. Such negative points may have been mentioned in some comments but they are not easy to spot. Further, one is usually disinclined to write textual comments unless one has a strong interest to do so.

With open preprint systems, being able to find useful and reliable ideas and data in articles is perhaps more important than being able to submit one. This becomes apparent as the number of articles increase, when searching can return hundreds and thousands of articles. One can’t go through all of them, and a few ‘bad’ articles can easily cause frustration and distrust in the quality of the submissions.

But if search criteria can include objective measures of article quality, then one can indeed easily find valuable material. Nature Precedings should therefore opt for a point-based rating system where different aspects of articles can be appraised.

Thus, instead of just letting one vote for an article, one should be allowed to rate its different aspects on, say, a 1-5 scale. Such aspects can include:

1. clarity
2. originality
3. novelty
4. presence and quality of experimental data
5. logical procession
6. depth
7. proper referencing

In effect, this would be a proper peer-review system.

The ratings, both their average and their spread, should be displayed alongside articles.

A good review/rating system will discourage submission of bad articles, build trust in the usability and reliability of content in Nature Precedings, and encourage quality submissions.

(similar comments posted elsewhere on the web by me)

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

anonymous - Thanks for your comments here and elsewhere.

For a project like Precedings, I think a sophisticated search engine will be more useful than trying to discourage people from submitting.

If the system really takes off, my guess is that that most submissions will not have comments because the science will be too specific. Popularity does not equal usefulness.

If I post some speculation or my failed experiments about a reaction that I am doing in my lab, that could be useful for someone considering doing the reaction, if only to get my contact info. That information would likely be too specific to attract many comments from the general community.


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