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twoday.net AGB

The internet is changing everything but scientific communication

With all the changes of the way people using the internet for commerce, such as they are discussed by Steve Rubel here - what happens to the sciences and the way we communicate it?
Initial, scientists such as Newton and Leibniz exchanged letters directly; later, periodic journals published those letters. These publications turned out to be a profitable business and finally the publications and their citations have become the prime the source for the evaluation of scientists.
Recently, initiatives such as the Public Library of Science, backed by established scientists and funding changed the way we think how these publications should be payed for.
What's missing to me is the exchange of ideas and communication using the internet. Of course, there are chat rooms, most scientific programs from academia are released under one open source licence or the other and available quickly (not that they are usually maintained but that's a different story).

However, the way science is performed has not changed much: Work is usually not communicated to the outside, unless publishable in a journal with appropiate impact factor. Yes, there is email communication but that's only within a closed circle.
Good ideas and important results are not placed on a scientists website but get under a blanket until the PR and the law department of the research departement agreed to - and publishing on ones web site usually prohibits publication.

In mathematics and physics, preprint server have taken a role that might be closer to what I think how scientific communication would occur if we would not have the publishing legacy and would communicate more freely. Biological sciences on the other side have not ever come close to such an open way of publishing.

The internet has changed scientific discovery completely - but the way we communicate the results feels ancient. Even the little things, such as the one-dimensional author list, which does not recognize inidividual contributions in any way, appears to be carved in stone. As science is funded top down and there is little possibility to be successful with a handful of smart ideas and fund your own research, will there be change? Or is the change already there and I am just a little annoyed about some decorating relict?

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