Wikis in scholarly communication

PurposeEdit

This page is meant to support some brain storming on the relative merits of paper-based and wiki-based scholarly communication, as discussed in a blog post that was later updated and expanded. Feel free to add to it, here or there, and to reuse it.

Comparison between paper-based and wiki-based scholarly communication systemsEdit

Feature of science communication Paper-based practice Comment Wiki-based practice Comment
ideas no timestemp system that is universal and transparent universal and transparent timestemp system
research design version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
research proposal version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
research funding
data acquisition
data analysis
manuscript writing version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
manuscript formatting already largely standardized with LaTeX templates, less so with MS Word, OpenOffice and others standardized to some extent by the wiki syntax but not as much as a typical TeX style file allows
reference formatting already largely standardized with BibTeX, Endnote and similar standardized to some extent by the wiki syntax, via citation templates and automated reference wikification
manuscript version tracking requires external tools, e.g. Subversion, Google doc or a wiki standard
choosing publication venue scope and perceived "quality" of a journal there are not too many suitable wikis around and indeed, one of the purposes of publishing in a wiki would be to have all relevant information in one freely accessible spot, rather than in zillions of journals as in the paper-based world
abstract always written anew only provided in a human-readable manner always written anew could easily be made machine-readable even after initial publication
introduction always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
methods always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
results always written anew only provided in a human-readable manner always written anew could easily be made machine-readable even after initial publication
discussion always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
conclusions
references separate section; never linked to online version, often not even with URI tedious for both author and reader; often not balanced link to online version is standard could be facilitated by separated namespace for references
raw data often missing, especially if it does not fit on paper (like audio or video files) example case here can be provided in the same wiki environment
supplementary materials often distributed into multiple files, not always integrable with paper discussions here and here not necessary - see above
peer review can be open, single-blind or double-blind; can be made available to the editors only or to a wider audience that could include the other reviewers, the authors, and the public peer reviews are hard to track in their entirety, especially if non-published can be open, single-blind or double-blind; can be made available to the editors only or to a wider audience that could include the other reviewers, the authors, and the public simpler to track
author contributions need to be written down specifically (particularly detailed example here) are always recorded; can possibly be automatically displayed (example in WikiGenes)
errata published separately (occasionally even more than once or as a complete republication), with no mention in the original paper version (another example here) online versions frequently add a note about the updates but they are rarely incorporated into a corrected file that contains all of the information; non-text corrections further complicate the picture, as these files are often stored independently online and not reprinted (e.g. here or Fig. 1 in here) can be easily corrected in the original location a note about the update can be added easily, too
retractions published separately, with no mention in the original paper version online versions frequently (but not always) add a note about the updates (possibly hidden in the comments) but they are rarely incorporated into a corrected file that contains all of the information; "retractions at Wiley-Blackwell are now running at more than one a week" can be easily corrected in the original location a note about the update can be added easily, too
scientific correspondence slow; danger of misunderstandings due to ambiguous wording quick; disambiguated hyperlinks to explanations of important concepts can reduce such friction
access often barred by subscription fees, generally with a delay after submission and/or peer review that may range from days to sometimes years open by default immediate
reuse copyright usually retained by the publisher, with important restrictions of reuse CC or GFDL licenses are standard
metadata error-prone and hard to correct can be fixed in an easy, simple and transparent manner
outreach roughly proportional to access and usability roughly proportional to access and usability
impact
applications
teaching
resource use

Examples of scholarly wikisEdit

A number of scholarly wikis are also contained in Wikipedia's list of online encyclopedias.

Desirable features of future scholarly wikisEdit

For context, see here.

  • Some system of peer review (basically, any wiki allows comments, annotations or formal reviews on talk pages of users or articles but these ratings should be featured more prominently; templates like those visualizing article status at Citizendium may help with that); this may be as simple as disallowing individuals to add information to Citizendium when the only available support is their own non-reviewed research published at OpenWetWare — the real name policy will minimize misuse
  • Uploadability of all kinds of media that traditionally (if you can call a habit that barely is a decade old a tradition already) went along with paper-based publications as "supporting online information" (which would be easily integrated in an all-online non-printable article with no sharp space limitations).
  • Stable versions for content that has undergone peer review (like the Approved Articles at Citizendium, or the results of the double phase review model at the OA journal ACPD/ACP), along with draft versions for anything else (including improvements to and updates of previous stable versions); like any non-protected page at the Wikipedias, these draft versions can serve as a playground, though a real-name policy would probably make it a more educational one
  • Search engines that integrate or otherwise compare favourably with major scholarly search engines on the web (the already mentioned Google Scholar and PubMed as well as, say, the BioText Search Engine that searches Open Access text and images), also in terms of the updating frequency.
  • pan-disciplinary scope, with consistent disambiguation of specialist terms (mainly but not fully achieved at Citizendium)
  • Separate namespaces for references (already in use at the Dispersive PDE Wiki and the French Wikipedia, in test at Citizendium); as a side line, this would open up ways for new citation metrics, via the What links here function
  • Separate namespaces for original research: Encyclopedic endeavours need expert input. This is most likely to be achievable if the encyclopedic activites can be integrated with the experts' workflow, e.g. via platforms like OpenWetWare.
  • Attributability of contributions (automatically realized, though not in the traditional scholarly way, in any wiki with a real name policy like that at Citizendium, via the User contributions function; special arrangements exist at Scholarpedia and WikiGenes; OpenWetWare does allow nicknames but real names prevail; the Wikiversities have basically the same user name policy as the Wikipedias)
  • Easy download of selected sets of pages for local archiving or analysis.
  • Licenses that allow unrestricted reuse and derivative work if the original source is properly acknowledged (typically CC-by-SA or the older GFDL, both of which have been made compatible now)
  • Resource-effective design (see also discussions on the energy use of the internet and individual websites). This overview may also help in working out an ecological footprint scheme applicable to research, as described previously.
  • integration with the non-scholarly world (certainly achieved in the Wikipedias and Citizendium), particularly with students (cf. the Eduzendium initiative at Citizendium) and non-English contents
  • Automation of the formatting, as already common in non-wiki environments, e.g. with LaTeX templates, for which collaborative editing environments exist too. None of the wikis we know comes close to that, albeit templates are heavily used at the various Wikipedias and, to a lesser extent but in a more consistent manner, at Citizendium; they seem to be rather rarely used on smaller or more specialized wikis. The same applies to references, though automated wikification has already progressed considerably here, despite the lack of wiki export functions at publisher's sites (or of suitable XML-to-wiki converters for those who provide XML)
  • Integration with mind maps (which structure knowledge) and databases (which harbour bits of knowledge that do not make much sense without a broader context).
  • Distributed version control, e.g. via git (Warning: open science is not open source)

Alternatives to wikisEdit

  • Basically anything that is more WYSIWYG (e.g. Open Office, MS Word), more real time (e.g. Etherpad/ Google Doc/ Google Wave Sites / Google Knol) or more integrated with references or other non-text elements of publishing, or more semantic.
  • Encyclopedia of Life: focussing on species descriptions, it is not a wiki. EoL is more similar to a news aggregator, using semantic meshup pulled from associated content sites

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Data for the costs (though no hint on their provenance) are in this presentation by Daniel Hull (pdf)