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Novel publication group formed

OWW Project Brainstorm - Option 1


This idea stems from the OWW retreat where we discussed ideas for a novel publishing model.


Fast publication of research and ideas

Keeping abreast of current information

An analogy with the media industry

How the media industry runs:

I envisage that a future model of novel publication would be just like news stories are currently published. for example, companies and organisations issue press releases or news agencies like Associated Press (AP) or Reuters report news stories onto 'the wire'. Newspapers and other media outlets then pick up the stories and publish them. Newspaper editors and TV producers choose which stories and press releases are relevant and publish them. They also commision articles or stories to be written that they think will be of specific interest to their readers.

How the scientific publishing industry could run:

Idea Integration

Integration into existing publishing channels

Integration into new publishing channels

The role of editors

The role of public contributions

Specifications (fields)

Other ideas/Discussion

Foreseen problems

How to decide on authorship


Name Ideas

OWW Project Brainstorm - Option 2

Lucks 09:53, 27 July 2006 (EDT):This is not necessarily a completely different idea - I just couldn't figure out how to blend the text with the idea above. Perhaps we can pick and choose features ... Although this might be a long term goal, or an idea to research as one of many possibilities, I think there are some important issues to think about.


The Open Source Software movement has faced some of the same challenges that OWW faces in trying to establish on open-source science collaboration framework. Eric Raymond has written an illuminating text on several aspects of this culture called The Cathedral and The Bazaar. A must read.



The goal is to provide a publishing system that shifts the academic currency system away from large, highly-polished works to a system that treats the everyday scientific 'baby-step' as a meaningful, citeable, and reviewablee contribution. To examine the need for such a system, let's highlight the features of the current publication system.

Current Publication System

The typical publication process usually consists of the following steps:

  1. A project idea is incarnated - either a novel idea, or one derived from other projects/literature searches
  2. Funding is secured
  3. Research is performed - length of time is variable, but in most cases can easily be years. Since research, by definition, is the exploration of a new phenomenon, the path of the research endeavor is more like a slightly-biased random walk rather than a ballistic motion at a specific target. During those years, there is a dialy process of devising smaller hypotheses and testing them, which are bottstrapped into larger hypotheses, etc.
  4. After a certain period of time, the research is declared to be publishable by the group of researchers. More often than not this is NOT when the original goal was reached - more likely when the researchers think they have achieved significant progress.
  5. The writing of the paper starts - the length of this process can vary, but with multiple drafts this can take months. Because of journal page restrictions, the desire to publish in high-impact, 'trendy' journals, often times a significant amount of effort is spent on making the research into a 'story' that will capture an audience of editors and scientists (the researchers need those citations down the road). This 'story' doesn't actually have to follow the path that the research occurred in. Most times there is not a good way to publish all the knowledge that was gained in the investigation, only that which can fit within the story. Based on my own experiences, only about 50% of the information learned can be fit in a publication - the rest is comprised of unpublishable mini-investigations (referenced in the publication as 'data not shown') and other loose ends. This extra information is usually left to wallow in lab notebooks never to be followed up.
  6. The paper is submitted and undergoes review (if lucky) - this is a variable length process that can last months.
  7. Authors address reviewer comments - variable length.
  8. If the paper is still alive, the author now has to play a cat and mouse game with the layout people of the journal becasu the document preparation system used by the author does not quite match that of the journal. I have had layout times take longer than the reviewing cyle.

What are the good qualities about this sysem that we want to preserve in a future system?

What are the problems with this system that need to be addressed

Literature System Design

I am going to discuss a proposed design of a technology that would allow the good features of the existing literature system to be held, while fixing some of its problems.


The system would consist of a central web site that has the following features


Possible Issues

Existing Implementations

I am involved in an implementation of these ideas that focuses on the literature review aspect. The background is that the physics preprint arxiv is a repository for fast publication of papers in the physics community. Authors submit to the arxiv at the same time submitting to a journal. The arxiv allows for immediate distribution of work, solving some of the problems above, but has no peer review process, which is often cited as its biggest weakness. A partucular strong point though is that it is free access to anyone in the world. is a collaboration with the makers of reddit to add a peer review process to the arxiv through literature comments. The features of the cite are much like those above. The idea is that a post is created to a specific paper on the arxiv. This post is just a link to the arxiv site, but the post can be commented on. Both posts and comments can be rated. Comments can highlight typos, discuss controversial elements, follow up on ideas and propose new ideas. In principle comments can be cited and serve as the individual elements of scientific publication. User names are show by each comment and the user reputation can be looked up by anyone. Comments can be sorted by their rating.

The site is an exploration and is just getting started. As an experiment, I have posted slides from a talk I gave to collect comments after the talk.


OWW provides many of the features outlined above. However several things can be improved