Thursday, September 30, 2010

Communicating beyond the walls of academia

Tara Smith has a nice post discussing the methods for and importance of moving scientific discovery into the public sphere. She goes on to suggest that including additional funding for the purpose of outreach might be necessary because currently, only peer-reviewed communication with other scientists "counts" towards promotion and tenure.  She also recently gave a nice talk on Science Denial and the Internet; I've posted a link describing her talk below.  David Dobbs, a blogger at Wired had a recent post in the Guardian discussing similar issues, particularly why the scientific publication in the traditional sense is of little value or may actually be a cost.  It should be the data that counts, not the publication.

When I think about all of the wasted time we spend trying to format our papers for specific journals, then waiting 3-6 months to hear back from the journal, and then repeating the process until the paper is accepted, it makes me wonder how much more we could accomplish if we removed these hurdles.  This process enriches not scientists, but societies and others and serves as a method for "conflicted" direct-to-physician advertising. It's not like we find articles by reading the paper journals anymore.  Perhaps we could adopt a process where we publish a working paper online and then journals could compete for the rights to publish the data in their journal.  Wouldn't it be cool to turn a journal down?

Any other ideas for re-working the scientific communication system, both within the scientific community and creating incentives for outreach? We have to try harder to advance science against the pervasive pseudoscience that is forever expanding on the internet and within public policy. For example, if we could spend time communicating the benefits of vaccines instead of spending 15 months getting our vaccine paper accepted, we could serve the public more effectively and the public might actually see the value of science

Smith's Aetiology post: "Moving science communication into the public sphere"

Smith's recent talk on scientific communication, the internet and the anti-vaccine movement 

Dobb's Guardian Post: Publishing your science paper is only half the job

2 comments:

  1. Someone once commented that the peer review publication process is a bit like democracy - terrible and messy but it is better than all the current alternatives!

    It is an amazing idea that you take your best work and send it to your bitterest rivals and competitors who then tear it to pieces and send it back to you asking you to make impossible changes before anyone else gets to see it!

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  2. In many academic fields journals aren't given as much power. A friend of mine in law told me that he will send a manuscript to maybe 20 journals. When they are accepted by a lower impact journal he can parlay it up to a more recognized journal. It is a game still, but it doesn't seem any more biased than what we do in medicine and is a faster way to get information in print.

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