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Michael Clarke has written a thoughtful post exploring why the web hasn’t disrupted scientific publishing, even though it was designed to do exactly that.
The original goal of this course was to give scientists and engineers the skills they needed to build large pieces of software without heroic effort. It’s increasingly clear, though, that another goal is equally important: to help them take part in what’s sometimes called “Science 2.0″: the sharing of information through the Internet. Cameron Neylon’s slides on capturing process” are, like Jon Udell’s on computational thinking, a good summary of the skills required—skills which overlap with, but are distinct from, those needed by software developers.
One interesting wrinkle on this is that Quantiki (a web site devoted to quantum information science) is now hosting video abstracts for papers. As their site says, “The abstracts provide a ‘teaser’ for the paper and should guide the audience into your work, emphazising what you think is the most important result.” This is very cool, as is the video that accompanied the paper in Cell about the effects of adding the human FOXp2 gene to mice. With teenagers routinely creating and sharing how-to videos for skateboarding, it’s time scientists started documenting their lab procedures and popularizing their work the same way. The question is, what can we teach so that these archives will be findable and searchable?
Another interesting development is Mendeley (which decloaked a couple of weeks ago). Its goal is to make tagging, sharing, and discovery of scientific information so easy that it becomes ubiquitous. This will require new social skills (not to mention better legal and institutional frameworks); to be really effective, it will also require people to pick up new technical skills so that they can customize, blend, and filter information. Again, what can we teach, and how should we teach it?
giv[es] researchers a place to post documents such as preprints and presentations in a way that makes them globally visible and citable. Submissions are filtered by a team of curators to weed out obviously inappropriate material, but there’s no peer-review so accepted contributions appear online very quickly — usually within a couple of hours.
Zipf’s Law says that frequency is inversely proportional to rank, i.e., the second most common word in a large body of text will occur half as many times as the most common. I have observed an even steeper curve for Software Carpentry feedback: of the 336 corrections I’ve received, 212 are from one person (Adam Goucher), 21 from Matthew Moelter, 12 from the next two people, and then we’re down into the curve’s long tail. Has anyone ever done similar stats on the volume or frequency of contributions to software projects?