Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This blog's initial intentions

This blog is for discussing practices in scientific research as they are and as they should be, and the tools which can help doing research efficiently.

The focus is not to describe the practices which researchers should follow for the sake of their careers, but rather to discuss what should be done in order to do good and useful research. As a theoretical physicist, my definition of useful research will be research whose results are easily accessed, understood and discussed -- so scientific publishing will be a major topic.

It has been obvious for a long time that scientific journals could be replaced with a much more efficient and cheap system. But opinions vary widely as to whether and when this can happen: from the prediction of the imminent doomsday of commercial science publishing, to despair at the slow progress of open access. It is also not clear how a new system could emerge from the current situation: evolutionarily from existing journals? as an Arxiv overlay such as the Selected Papers Network? or as a new creation such as the journal PeerJ?

In some cases, there is a consensus on what the good and bad practices are, and the question is how to switch from the latter to the former: how do we escape rapacious scientific publishers? how do we stop using impact factors and the h-index? In other cases, the identification of good and bad practices is less clear: is it good practice to use Mathematica? should researchers contribute to Wikipedia? should publicly-employed scientists put their writings in the public domain?  

Some recommended reading: