Pokemon More Reviewed Than Science

Michael Nielsen has penned a very thoughtful essay on how the internet age will change how science is performed. Having sloppily dabbled in a website which allowed for rating of scientific papers, I think Michael’s observations about why “review” sites for scientific papers are a tough sell (what reward do I get for commenting on a paper, exactly?) are spot on. I also liked his comparison of science review sites and reviews of Pokemon products:

The contrast between the science comment sites and the success of the amazon.com reviews is stark. To pick just one example, you’ll find approximately 1500 reviews of Pokemon products at amazon.com, more than the total number of reviews on all the scientific comment sites I described above. The disincentives facing scientists have led to a ludicrous situation where popular culture is open enough that people feel comfortable writing Pokemon reviews, yet scientific culture is so closed that people will not publicly share their opinions of scientific papers. Some people find this contrast curious or amusing; I believe it signifies something seriously amiss with science, something we need to understand and change.

Pseudo Open Notebook Science?

A topic of much discussion I see in the Science 2.0 world (it’s like the Renaissance, but with more Javascript!) is the idea of Open Notebook Science. In one version of Open Notebook Science, one simply opens up ones research notebook (or other equivalent) to outside access. For an example see Garrett Lisi’s research wiki. This is, of course, the grand ideal of science at its best: the question for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Darwin. But of course, this idea has it’s problems. Most notably, of course, there is the political aspect: what is keep someone from stealing your absolutely ground-breaking, world-changing, breakfast-making ideas?
Continue reading “Pseudo Open Notebook Science?”

TiddlyWiki for Technical Talks?

One of the most interesting talks that many of us in the quantum computing world have seen is the talk by Manny Knill on fault-tolerant quantum computing. Above and beyond the interesting content, what was cool about this talk was that, as far as I could tell Knill used a linked PDF for the talk. That way if he needed to delve into deeper details on a particular subject, he could. While for some talks, like colloquiums, I don’t see the need for this, for technical talks before a more informal audience, this, I think is a great tool. Now, having discovered TiddlyWiki, I wonder if it isn’t time for me to try to perform a similar feat but using TiddlyWiki? Hmm, I have very tempted.

Scientists Without Borders

Interesting new website from the New York Academy of Sciences: Scientists Without Borders:

Scientists Without BordersSM aims to mobilize and coordinate science-based activities that improve quality of life in the developing world. The research community is already promoting areas such as global health, agricultural progress, and environmental well-being, but current communication gaps restrict its power. Organizations and individuals do not always know about one another’s endeavors, needs, or availability, which limits the ability to forge meaningful connections and harness resources. This situation is especially striking in light of the growing realization that integrated rather than focused approaches are crucial for addressing key challenges such as extreme poverty and the glaring health problems that accompany it.
The concept
Opportunities to foster synergy in the capacity-building arena would explode if an effective information-sharing tool existed. Institute leaders, project officers, and individual investigators could gather advice, other forms of human capital, and material assets. Furthermore, a central knowledge store about science-based capacity-building activities would help funding agencies and other institutions apply their efforts efficiently.
The solution
Scientists Without BordersSM is building a Web portal whose cornerstone is a database that serves as a digital repository for such information. The database will provide a way to match needs with resources. This tool will eventually create a record of accomplishments that also identifies the next steps for solving specific problems.

Collaborative Wikis and Research

Over at Machine Learning (Theory), the Learner points to a Scientific American article on Science 2.0 which discusses various efforts in bringing scientists into the 21st century, and scientists reluctance to openly discuss their research in progress in public forums. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I started blogging about my own research. First of all, I’m pretty sure it would bore a large number of people into a deep comatose sleep from which they would never emerge. On the other hand, I’m not a very smart guy, so exposing my work to the vast power of the intertube’s collective neuron pool seems like a smart way to advance my own personal empire building, err… I mean research.
Continue reading “Collaborative Wikis and Research”

Scirate.com Trackbacks

Some of you know (and use) the website I created a year ago, Scirate.com, a place where arXiv papers can be voted for digg style and comments can be left on the papers. After a while of not tinkering much with the website I’m beginning to add more features that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. The first feature is just a small one: the ability for the website to send trackbacks to the arXiv when someone comments on a paper. After some false starts I think I’ve got this feature up and running, and indeed the first trackback now appears for arXiv:0802.3351.
Now, of course, the bigger question is how to get more participation for the website from the more scientists (not everyone is as ungrumpy as the quantum computing community, it seems.)

Pseudonyms in Science?

A while ago a message from Kris Krogh appeared on Scirate.com about ariXiv:0712.3934 stating Kris’ belief that the paper appeared under a pseudonym (the comment contains the contents of the link which was sent to the arxiv’s administrator.) Today I checked with the arxiv and found that the paper had been removed:

This submission has been removed because ‘G.Forst’ is a pseudonym of a physicist based in Italy who is unwilling to submit articles under his own name. This is in explicit violation of arXiv policies.
Roughly similar content, contrasting the relative merits of the LAGEOS and GP-B measurements of the frame-dragging effect, can be found in pp. 43–45 of: this http URL

Humorously (I guess) while the statement goes to pains to not name the Italian physicist, the link is to a Nature article…by an Italian physicist.
Continue reading “Pseudonyms in Science?”