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Honest question: why don't researchers normally do this? Those in the software development do this all the time: set up a tumblr/Wordpress/whatever blog and publish our findings. If I had a dime for every time I saw an article about some benchmark of tech X vs Y...

If every research lab ran a blog-type setup where they published their findings (along with any other updates), the whole field could be revolutionized. The general public would have much more direct access to what the researchers are working on. We could even add the ability to donate to the researchers directly. This would hopefully foster collaboration as well. Instead of waiting for someone to come out with a paper to find out what they've been up to (unless you have a very close relationship with the particular researcher), you can just read their tweet/blog post/etc a la "tried sample X, results negative, but this is weird..."

Combined with a research semantic markup (think OpenGraph but for scientific concepts), this could be linked into searchable databases. Peer review could be built in, maybe even via public key crypto: "this article is signed by 17 trusted researchers".

This saves everyone money: no more having to subscribe to expensive research publications. You could have for-hire scientific editors built in as a service too. Every time you publish a paper you run it by an editor, but the editor now works for you; or you don't, and you just publish the paper and let the world decide if it is any good.

The platform itself would probably have to be fairly extensive. We would want it to be distributed so that anyone can run their own system if they choose. We'd also want to have some more centralized hubs of this type, analogous to GitHub/Bitbucket. These might include easy access to for-hire editors, Tex/LaTex support, etc. There should also be a default license for the content. Perhaps an extension of Creative Commons but with specific provisions for the peculiarities of this field.

My premise here is that while there is a whole lot of institutions that attempt to enable collaboration, they do often just get in the way. However, from what I've seen of researchers, they have the same mentality as the software developers: they want to share their findings with the largest possible audience and don't really care about much else. I think if it was easy to do this type of setup many would go along with it. What do others think?

Edit: a nice side-effect of this could be that you don't have to be associated with an academic institution to publish. Currently, I could learn, say, all there is to know about quantum physics by reading all sorts of publications and material that is more or less freely available. I could then theoretically come up with something brand new, but couldn't get my voice heard since I am not a research professor at an institution. However, with this system graduates of the likes of the Khan Academy could have the same access to publishing and peer review.

AFAIK it's two-prong.

1. A lot of people criticize self-published work on no other grounds ("not peer reviewed, won't read") 2. Peer-review and citation statistics are part of the bureaucratic game of career-academia.

There seems to be a pretty huge resistance to the old publishers and terms though, with more and more stuff going out in open-access journals.

Aaron's death will probably accelerate the change.

Is there some reason you can't both publish your research on your own site as well as in whatever publication you send it to? We could run that sort of "dual stack" until self-publishing becomes the standard.

I think a lot of the concepts from traditional publishing can be translated to this sort of online publishing. Once again, I think if it was easier for a researcher to self-publish and get peer reviews then to go through an old school publisher, then they would do it.

One reason is that some journals require you to transfer copyright to them as a condition for publication. Usually, the journals then license the paper back to the corresponding author for limited personal distribution, but sometimes it may be the case that posting your research on your website would be a violation of copyright.

For an example, here's the transfer form for the American Chemical Societies journals: http://pubs.acs.org/page/copyright/journals/index.html (the ACS has historically been one of the bigger roadblocks, along with Elsevier, to more OpenAccess reform).

IEEE has a similar copyright assignment requirement. If you want your paper in an IEEE venue (which includes many of the top engineering, robotics, signal processing, etc. conferences and journals) you are not allowed to publish it anywhere else, including on your own web site. Institutions pay big bucks to subscribe to IEEE Xplore for online access.

Many people work around this by self-hosting a very similar paper, rendered from the same LaTeX sources, but without the IEEE chrome. IEEE usually turns a blind eye.

This is not completely true. "Authors and/or their employers shall have the right to post the accepted version of IEEE-copyrighted articles on their own personal servers or the servers of their institutions or employers without permission from IEEE..." [1]. They also allow preprints on personal sites. The other major publishing organization in CS, ACM, has a similar policy.

[1] https://www.ieee.org/documents/ieeecopyrightform.pdf

That's interesting, I didn't know that clause. It looks like they explicitly allow posting the "accepted version", with the addition of the copyright attribution to the IEEE (i.e. not actually the version I wrote that they accepted!). Most people don't bother with that, and the IEEE hasn't hassled anyone I know about omitting the notice.

However, you are definitely not allowed to post the IEEE rendered version.

I extend your quote from your cited source:

"6. Personal Servers. Authors and/or their employers shall have the right to post the accepted version of IEEE-copyrighted articles on their own personal servers or the servers of their institutions or employers without permission from IEEE, provided that the posted version includes a prominently displayed IEEE copyright notice and, when published, a full citation to the original IEEE publication, including a link to the article abstract in IEEE Xplore. Authors shall not post the final, published versions of their papers."

They do! Or at least they are starting to. At least in physics/math in my experience most people have a personal homepage that they post their papers to, and also upload them on ArXiv. There is some complication with regards to copyright, because to publish in a journal you usually need to assign the exclusive rights to them. Nowadays most journals have realized the need for authors to post their papers on personal homepages and e-print services like the ArXiv, so that this is no big deal in practice.

There are still problems: 1.) Usually old papers are not available via this route. If you email the author and ask nicely he will usually send it to, but at least in pure mathematics one quite common wants to look up really old articles, say from the 1950s, and those are the ones that are terribly hard to come by, because they are often only available behind a paywall like JSTOR.

2.) Currently "prestige" and peer review is handled through the journal system: Authors send their papers to a journal for publication, other scientists review them (for free), and then the paper gets published (or not). Afterwards publishing houses, who add little value to the process, force libraries to pay horrendous amounts of money to get access to these journals (usually through selling bundles).

At the moment there are efforts underway to pleasure publishers into a saner pricing structure, and there are now some open access journals where usually the author pays once (if at all) and then it is free to read for everyone.

Many people also consider more radical approaches, for example, making journals simply be ArXiv overlays that point to a set of papers on the ArXiv. I have even heard suggestion of replacing peer review, at least partially, by an open review system like you suggest, and some journals have experimented with it, but it does not seem to have a lot of consensus behind it at the moment. But this is in a way orthogonal to the problem of making research available to as many people as possible.

The problem with the very radical change that you suggest, i.e., using blogs instead of research papers, is that peer reviewed papers have proven their worth over a long period of time. It is doubtful whether simple blog posts would guarantee a similar quality over a long period of time. My personal feeling is that there would be a lot of noise and incorrect stuff drowning out the important stuff.

With regards to your edit: If you submit a paper that seems to be serious research to a journal, it will be reviewed, and if it holds up, eventually published. If the paper is decent, you'll be able get it published without being associated to an academic institution (at least in mathematics, can't speak for other fields).

Thanks for the detailed response. Just one clarification: I am not suggesting using just pure blog posts, but rather publishing properly formatted papers using a self-hosted publishing system a la Wordpress. Blog posts may or may not be added in order to promote the content.

It seems like the real issue here is prestige, which then translates to funding. "Publish or die" is how most researchers seem to live. Thus I think if we are able to show that self-publishing/distributed publishing brings the money to the researcher and the academic institution then this idea would get traction.

Re: edit. I see. That's great to know.

Ah, I see. I would still prefer the papers to also be hosted on a more reliable system (for example, the ArXiV, or an electronic journals website), simply because they become easier to discover this way and there is a certain assurance that they will stay online.

I think that Terrence Tao https://terrytao.wordpress.com/) has an interesting take on using blogs for math: He publishes in journals, but uses his blog to post lecture notes as well as short summaries of some of his papers.

But then this is not so different from a typical academics homepage: Usually you will find a list of publications (hopefully with PDFs, at least for the newer ones) and lecture notes there. But of course it differs for each author, and perhaps other fields have different conventions.

I think if the license was open enough a the paper could be hosted in multiple locations. Once again, there is already a precedent for this: when you publish anything on a blog you send a "ping" to Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. to re-crawl your site since you added new content. Your post ends up in the Google Cache, Coral Cache, etc. I think a system that would proactively tell ArXiv "hey a new paper is published!" or "hey a paper has been peer-reviewed and approved by X via their GPG signature!" could solve the issue you are seeing.

> But of course it differs for each author, and perhaps other fields have different conventions.

I think this is also spot on. The research lab where I worked was a collaboration between the Physics and Chemistry departments. The technology used by the two chief researchers was radically different, despite having worked together for decades. For example, my professor and his sub-group (Physics) used LaTex to typeset all his papers. The Chemistry professor and his sub-group, OTOH used Microsoft Word. From what I understood that was pretty common for the respective fields. So much opportunity here as well as so much resistance in just these types of issues...

I like the gpg signature of peer reviewers part. It would both lend credibility to the paper, and leave a trail of reviewers. It would lessen the chance of a reviwer not taking their job seriously.

  > It seems like the real issue here is prestige, which then
  > translates to funding. "Publish or die" is how most 
  > researchers seem to live. Thus I think if we are able to 
  > show that self-publishing/distributed publishing brings 
  > the money to the researcher and the academic institution 
  > then this idea would get traction.
That's basically right. Academic researchers are evaluated on the number and quality of their peer-reviewed journal articles. Blogging is a distant secondary concern for most researchers because it doesn't contribute, in a direct way, to tenure or grants. This is changing, but slowly.

> At the moment there are efforts underway to pleasure publishers into a saner pricing structure

Perhaps a bit more of the stick and less of the carrot is what's needed... if they find carrots pleasurable, that is.

You are rising an important point. An answer why is: http://www.scottaaronson.com/writings/journal.html

The short story is that scientist need "credit", as there are much more people that positions (not even to get a good position, just to get any). But the credit is given only for two things: publishing in already well-respected journals and getting citations.

In principle there is not problem with establishing an truly open journal. In practice - almost no one does (because doing anything but writing papers will very likely result in loosing academic job - as there is no credit for that, regardless how important).

However, there are people trying change the system; I wrote about it here: http://offtopicarium.wikidot.com/v1:open-science-2-0

Things are easier now thanks to academia.edu (which lets you add papers to your research profile), but a fair number of researchers I know of don't even have a personal website.

Also, having worked on websites to do with research projects, I can say there is unfortunately often a hell of a lot of red tape in getting anything going. One website hasn't been officially changed since 2003 despite a dev wordpress site being made in 2009 as they aren't allowed to change it over until all the department groups names are verified … and they keep changing do to restructuring!


How many magazines about Ruby on Rails or MySQL do you read? You know that highavailabilty.com is more credible than some guy named FunkySysAdmin on a random forum. Yes, there is (much) less rigor in software development publishing than in scientific, but I think the basic model might work. Social networks such as HN help you find the right blogs. Also, researchers already have social connections. During my short stint in research as an undergrad, I was amazed at how many social connections my lab had around the world. I also found it interesting that when we published papers we made a point of emailing the PDF's to other researchers that might be interested. Through this mechanism we also often got early access to papers that were about to be published.

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