Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Second Day at Scifoo part I

More on Scifoo:

On Saturday I attended to several sessions:

A session on Open Science 2.0, by Bora Zivkovic that was not as productive as I expected. In fact, it gave origin to another session next day, by Alex Palazzo and Andrew Walkingshaw. The session wasn't specially interesting because most of us did not agreed about the direction we should be heading to and about the real effect of blogging, open notebooks and the future of the peer review system. Discussion about tenure was a major issue and showed one of the fundamental disagreements, based on the fact that blogging and keeping an Open Notebook was much easier and risk free when one is a tenured professor rather than a young scientist. I am not worried about the issue and given the fact my thesis advisor is interested in exploring the open side of things, I will probably have an open notebook once I begin my experimental work, if someone is obnoxious enough to not accept me at his lab or at his program because I have blogged or because I have written about strange matter like animal uplifting and economic effects of nanoassamblers, then that person is somebody I do not want to work with. And I am not afraid of not getting grants because of the same reason. Let's put it in another way: I am afraid of that whether open access and open notebooks or without them. Science is a difficult field. But I can understand that people are afraid about blogging and is not as cold blooded about the fact as is my case, after all, I am an undergrad who has almost nothing to lose (and a lot of things to win, I have traveled a lot thanks to my unconventional writing) and a thesis advisor who has proven unconditional approval and almost infinite patience, their situation might be different, being in top universities, extremely competitive places and possibly about to begin their own research, as they are postdocs (And they are so young, man, I am ashamed!). But let me focus on this session, as the facts I have discussed partially belong to the other session on Sunday. In a surprising situation (or perhaps not so surprising), the young scientists told to the old ones to discuss more about the current set of rules about blogging and open access, rather than speculating about the mid term future of publishing, it was nuts. A couple of not-so-young (let's be polite, as Americans are extremely polite) people were besides me talking in whispers and complaining about these kids who dared not to look at the future. Scifoo is a really special conference, it seems. Another traditional complaint that arose was the extreme slowness of the peer-reviewing process in Biology and the subjectiveness of the “impact” or earth-shaking criteria that allow papers being published in certain top-journals.

Among the new things said there were the need about separating the communication of the results from its evaluation (Open Notebooks), suggestions about including criteria for grant selection that encouraged open access. The difference between Open Access and Free Access, this is, freedom to use vs. freedom to read only. The Nature Precedings were not discussed in-depth in this sessions, but I am very happy that people in Nature Publishing Group is going in the right direction. Other interesting ideas were creating a certifying system for scientists, a Science Whuffie (nobody used the term, but I think it's corrrect to call it that way), based not only in publications but in reputation among peers. I think I would do better in that one that in the current system, so I am biased and please do not take my opinion as a neutral one, but I just love that idea.

Bora Zivkovic from the Public Library of Open Science (PLOS) gave some thrilling numbers: So far, in three years, they have published more than 700 papers, 40% of which are rejected for non sound science, as they are open, not uncritical, but earth-shaking-ness is not necessary, they publish now around 30 papers a week. I learned that blogs have been cited in papers and that there are people that say we need alternatives to citation systems, something I had never thought about. Others argued about the current format of papers being doomed in the mid term future, and that the future lies in machine readable formats that we humans learn from without worrying by petty issues, others argued back that papers are now machine-readable, pdf is convertible to text. Wow. Did I say that it was a kind of disappointing session? Yes, it was! A lot of extremely good ideas being overwhelmed by the discussion on more pedestrian issues and extreme disagreement. But I will write more about that later.

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1 comment:

Rosaura said...

What a shame! I just can't see why should a Open Notebook or a blog must be taken as academic burden.