Re: Restructuring Learned Society Communications

From: Marvin Margoshes <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 12:30:41 -0400

I've spent a fair amount of time learning about the process of innovation in
science and technology, and what is known on that subject is relevant here.
We are, after all, discussing how to change the way that scientists
communicate their research results. The best studies I know of on
innovation in science and technology were done by Prof. Eric von Hippel at
MIT's Sloan School, and summarized in his book "The Sources of Innovation"
(Oxford Univ. Press, 1988). In the great majority of cases he studied, new
technologies and major improvements were the work of individuals or small

We could debate the major and minor points of using the 'Net to publish
scientific and other scholarly works, but that wouldn't really prove what
works and what doesn't. In a sense, we need experiments with various
formats. Much has been made of the xxx site in physics, and it is the work
of an individual, not any scientific society or commercial publisher. It is
a valuable experiment.

It is important at this stage to avoid decisions on matters like the best
file format. It is generally recognized that the growth of microcomputer
technology would have been limited if firm standards were applied too early.
There were two "experiments" in this field. The Apple computer was a
"closed" system, with most innovations in hardware and software controlled
by one company. IBM, probably by neglect, left their system "open" for
others to develop software and hardware improvements. It didn't work out to
IBM's advantage, but the PCs that came out of it dominate the industry now.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am the Treasurer of the Society for
Applied Spectroscopy, publisher of "Applied Spectroscopy". The journal
began in 1947 as a mimeographed newsletter of a newly formed organization of
spectroscopists in the New York City area. SAS was formed in 1958 by
several local spectroscopy groups, and the national organization took over
the journal in 1960. At that time, I became one of the unpaid volunteers
who ran every part of the journal except the typesetting and printing. I
had the small part of proofreading. The journal has grown to a monthly
publication with about 2000 pages annually of technical material, and
everything but the editing is done professionally - it is too large a
process to be done by amateurs. Later, I became Editor of "Spectrochimica
Acta B: Atomic Spectroscopy", and that journal was started by two scientists
at the Vatican Astrophysical Observatory. It doesn't take a big
organization to get something started. In fact, organizations often resist
doing anything truly new.

Marvin Margoshes <>
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:26 GMT