Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 17:48:33 -0500

Joseph Ransdell wrote:
> [....]
> Thus George Lundberg wrote:
> > The process and product being discussed has existed for aeons in the
> > pre-internet age and continues to fluorish electronically. There is a wide
> > appreciative audience. It is called "Review Article" or "Journalistic
> > Report" or "Summary".
> And I addressed this kind of misunderstanding in the following paragraph:
> > David is perhaps misled by state-of-the-art review articles, often
> > commissioned by editors of journals to provide an overview of the various
> > positions held by researchers on some controverted topic, along with the
> > reasons why the various positions have been held or controverted. These do
> > not purport to be or aim at being summaries of actual dialogical
> > interchanges, though, but represent the reviewer's attempt at isolating what
> > he or she thinks is or is not important in what has been said on many
> > different occasions. [...]

I think what started this was David Goodman's thoughts derived from
Harnad's long article and perhaps a commentary I sent... where I believe
(at the risk of summarizing an "actual dialogical interchange") the
issue was the great difficulty of any automated analysis of an extended
"dialogical interchange", thus excluding contributions from both
newcomers and those who have not been able to keep up with the dialogue.

Joseph's point seems to be that the informal and formal communication
modes are quite disjoint and independent, so that if an attempt is made
at formalizing and fixing the informality one ends up misrepresenting
the content of the informal discusion.

That may well be true; on the other hand I think most of us are willing
to live with slight misrepresentations in the interest of saving
enormous amounts of time; is it not better for a few responsible people
to review and summarize a long informal discussion, than for dozens or
hundreds to either spend hours or days reviewing everything that was
said, or else give up for lack of time to devote to the task? I might
even be willing to pay for such reviews :-)

The real problem I see is that there are too few reviews, perhaps
because experts who could do so are so rarely and meagerly rewarded for
such efforts. And Harnad's proposals seem to edge the weighting of our
time and responsibilities even further away from such "synthetic" tasks.

And why not review informal discussions? Usenet bulletin boards long ago
invented the FAQ as a short "review" of issues already generally
settled... Personally I think David Goodman's idea is a very good one;
perhaps what is needed is a new formal journal...!

Received on Sun Dec 02 2001 - 15:20:03 GMT

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