On BioScience and Life and Such

Publication phusis, Call for help

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2008 at 11:10 am

I have had many thoughts on how to present scientific data, and will have many more. SciPhu is, so far, the compilation of some of those, and blogging is the adverse event from trying to realize them. I have however come as far as I can on my own and need help to carry this project through.

This is what I have been planning: SciPhu is supposed to develop into a certification site for scientific thoughts, ideas and data. It is supposed to gather a large community of competent reviewers from virtually any scientific field. These reviewers are supposed to provide thorough peer-reviews of any scientific presentation as requested for evaluation on SciPhu.com. A successful review is supposed to give the author(s) a stamp to put on their presentation as a guarantee for scientific quality and credibility.

Through a FriendFeed discussion (original post by Bill Hooker) I came across this commentary on the problems of evaluating online publications. The author, Gary A. Olson, presents some solutions that are very similar to the principles I’ve worked out for Sciphu.

Clearly, the scholarly community needs to devise a way to introduce dependability into the world of electronic scholarship. We need a process to certify sites so that we all can distinguish between one that contains reliable material and one that may have been slapped together by a dilettante. We need to be able to ascertain if we can rely on a site for our own scholarship and whether we should give credit toward a colleague’s tenure and promotion for a given site.

And he proposes to establish certification bodies to achieve these goals.

The major professional and scholarly organizations in each discipline should (devise a certification process in which a site owner can apply to have a site reviewed and recognized, perhaps for a nominal processing fee. The site would be subjected to a formal and rigorous review by peers in the disciplinary area covered by the site.

Which is a very good description of what I wanted SciPhu to be like (except for maybe the fee, which should be for commercial users only). I have taken the liberty to replace with SciPhu in relevant places in the rest of these bullet points (the original text in brackets):

  • Only those sites meeting the highest standards should be awarded certification.
  • Once a site wins certification from SciPhu (the national scholarly society), it should be permitted to display that stamp of approval prominently.
  • The certification should remain in effect for a specific and limited amount of time (since a site can change rapidly and without notice). The site should regularly seek renewal of its certification.
  • SciPhu (Each disciplinary organization) should issue a resolution recommending that departments construe certification of a site as indicating that it has met the highest standards of scholarship.
  • SciPhu (Each organization) should maintain an online registry of certified sites.

A central site accessible to all is much more efficient than local evaluation bodies. Also the potential to gather a large collection of qualified referees is present only on a truly international site. Such a broad site would also be able to satisfy the open-access requirements in our Web/Science 2.0 future.

The SciPhu blog was set up as a starting point to gather a community of peer-reviewers. Making the blog successful is going to take a long time however, and given this commentary as well as the current interest in different publishing models, it seems wise to try and speed up.

To do this I need help. I need help setting up a good site, – a wiki perhaps. I also need help advertising this to the broader Scientific community and recruit referees. Even with help, achieving success is not going to be a stroll in the park. But without help it is going to be near impossible.

The end result may not end up as originally planned: names, concepts and strategies may/will change on the way, but I strongly believe that this is a path worth traveling.

I also think that Gary A. Olson is to narrowminded when it comes to requirements and scope of such a certification. Doing this online with a large community of referees makes it possible to get peer-review very quickly because reviewers would be accessible around the world 24-7. And there is no reason to limit such reviews to scientific publications. Any news-piece, advertisement or company information with scientific content could get reviewing through a SciPhu-like site. Extending reviewing to non-scientific publication forums is also the commercial opportunity, or business model if you will.

If you are interested in starting a broad and open-minded collaboration on this (and I really hope you are), please leave a comment, send me a mail or even better, join and use The Life Scientists room on FriendFeed for further discussions.

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  1. […] was to replace traditional peer-reviewed publishing in scientific journals. I set up SciPhu.com to achieve this. The core idea was (and still is) that any publication would remain fluid in its format and content […]

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