Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Digital Publishing: The Scientific Activist: Reporting from the Crossroads of Science and Politics: Science Gets Googly

The Scientific Activist: Reporting from the Crossroads of Science and Politics: Science Gets Googly

This fascinating blogger is reporting on a very interesting controversy in science and science librarianship over how to measure the relative status of various electronic publications. This is our future as legal publishing and other fields of academia move more into electronic publishing exclusively. Take a look at his in-depth report on the fights and varying measures of quality and influence. They are arguing over Google's linking and links to the linkers algorithm (fascinating in its own right) versus other measures of quality and influence in the scientific community. Then the discussion branches out into a nightmare of what happens to academic diversity under the influence of grantsmanship and tenure pressures to all write for the same sorts of journals. Wow!

This is worth thinking about. Up until now, we have had the luxury of letting editors at journals and publishing houses do our sorting for us. Now that everything is going electronic, we have to find other measures of quality. This is one of the biggest barriers that I see in academic discussion of using electronic-only publishing for tenure decisions. There is a real level of discomfort in trying to sort the quality decision based on in-house expertise. And I agree with that. There is so much room for mistake and personal bias in your own field -- "Wow, you're not a Crit and I am! I can't vote for you!" Or decisions along any other theoretical fault line -- not to pick on the crits, it's just the theory that popped into the old brain.

The choice to use a sort of "popular acclaim" model mixing the Google linking algorithm with other measures of quality is an interesting one. What works in the sciences may not work in various social-based fields like law, but what the heck! I am very glad that somebody else is pioneering this thinking. Let's watch what they do and how it works out. Thank you so much Scientifici Activist and company!

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