Scientists Are Subverting Formal Publishing. Well, Some of Them | WIRED
ab1630's bookmarks 2018-05-17
"EVERY WEEK SCIENCE journalists get a bunch of emails from various Respectable Scientific Journals telling us, in advance, what articles those journals are going to publish. When I started in this game, these tables of contents came by fax; today, in the future, they're downloadable PDFs. The quo for all this quid is that we agree not to publish anything until a set time and day. It’s called an embargo, and it is in some senses the anticlimax of a long story—the story of a scientific discovery. Sure, journalists might focus on the eureka moment or the fascinating details of the methods some scientist used. Massive gravity interferometers! Drilling into Earth’s crust! Robot spaceship studies a comet! But often, implicit in these kind of stories is a less pulse-pounding headline: Article Published. That doesn't mean it's not news, or not important, or wrong. No! Quite the opposite. These are the atoms from which we humans assemble molecules of understanding. A peer-reviewed journal article is the way scientists say we found out a thing, and perhaps more critically here’s our data and our methods so you can see why we think it’s true. “Peer review” means that experts have read that article, commented on it, and assented to its publication. But that said, the rigamarole around scientific publishing—from submitting to a journal, to having relevant scientists review and approve the work, to publishing on a set day—is a social construction. This is the plodding, collaborative-but-combative dynamic that turns the labor of science into, well, Science. And Cell, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, and thousands of other journals. I bring all this up because earlier this week I got advance word about an article describing, ironically, how this entire system is crumbling at the edges. It was embargoed for Wednesday morning, which means I missed it. It made the whooshing sound that Douglas Adams onomatopoetically ascribed to deadlines...."