Publishing research in journals vs. the Internet death match: FIGHT! New York Times had a piece on science journals, articles and publishing in the 21st century – Cracking open the scientific process. The times they are a-changing.

The open collaboration side:

“The [current] system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.”

Dr. Nielsen and other advocates for “open science” say science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet. And despite a host of obstacles, including the skepticism of many established scientists, their ideas are gaining traction.”

The traditional journals:

“Editors of traditional journals say open science sounds good, in theory. In practice, “the scientific community itself is quite conservative,” said Maxine Clarke, executive editor of the commercial journal Nature, who added that the traditional published paper is still viewed as “a unit to award grants or assess jobs and tenure.”

Facebook for Scientists?

“I want to make science more open. I want to change this,” said Ijad Madisch, 31, the Harvard-trained virologist and computer scientist behind ResearchGate, the social networking site for scientists. […] ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity.”

The future:

It’s all pretty exciting, and included in this is the blogging world, where I seem to find more and more of the interesting links to articles and the things stirring in the rapidly evolving field of medicine. There are going to be big changes over the next years, as we have already seen in other industries, like the music and film industry. How it’s going to play out when the academic world of science really meets the Internet is going to be very interesting to follow.

Often, the internet vs. established medical journals are brushed off simply pointing out the the high academe of the big journals vs the anarchy af the internet. The blogger Sceptical Scalpel posts one and two on his inside view of the problems with peer review journals points to the issue being more complicated than that. Obviously, both sides have their strengths and weaknesses.

The internet is certainly catching up. Blogs like Scott Weingart’s EMCRIT is followed by thousands, and his posts are probably read by a lot more young emergency doctors than any article in a major journal could ever hope for. He keeps with the blog format of writing posts short, to the point, practical and easy to read, but still insists on keeping them evidence based and links to his evidence for the blog followers to research. Here’s the catch, though: To prove his points and keeping it evidence based, he usually links to articles from the big, established journals. Maybe there’s a workable symbiosis out there somewhere…

But with network collaboration sites like ResearchGate growing, this might also change. Instead of needing the authority of a big journal to lean on, the authority and good standing of a paper and its researchers might show through their network, their previous body of research, and fellow researchers’ and clinicians’ online reviews and questions.

Medical science and research in a brave new world?

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