Re: Web Pages: Future of Scientific Debate?

Julie Locascio (
Tue, 24 Oct 1995 12:04:26

>Web pages could be linked across the scientific community, and in several
>places in the same document. Each scientist's theory would not only be
>published, but maintained dynamically (kept up to date) or stabilized as

>Part of the scientific community must already be publishing hypotheses,
>theories, and research this way somewhere, because it's so easy to do?
>Does anyone know of any papers published this way?

What I can't understand is how scientists could earn tenure and/or research
grants this way. After all, just posting something is not the same as having
it jury-reviewed for a proposal or a journal. And it is not the same as
getting paid to write a book. Unfortunately, I suspect the number of
independently wealthy scientists is not that large, and that most scientists
(like any other researchers) would feel that they would be best served by
saving their really important findings for juried submissions in which they
could win accolades and/or money. And, let's face it--posting your findings
is far more likely to get you an email black eye than anything else.

The only way I see that working is by posting things that have already been
jury-reviewed and published, but then the organization with the copyright
would have a say in the matter. It is hard enough to sell some of these
academic books: I cannot really picture publishers agreeing to put the
contents online.

The people who would benefit the most, I would think, would be applied
scientists and other people whose jobs could benefit from constant exposure to
new scientific discoveries: i.e, the people most interested in READING the
stuff, rather than publishing their own (because they are earning their
livelihood another way).

In addition, not very many people have as easy access as you do to web pages,
and it is not that obvious that it will be improving, since usage might be
rising as quickly as infrastructure is expanding. I am at a large university,
and our web access is very slow (unless we turn "off" the graphics), and
invariably "crashes" if we access more than a few different sites at one

I think what you are talking about is a lovely ideal, but it is hard for me to
picture it happening. Even people who enjoy sharing their ideas and having
intellectual debates realize that they cannot "give away" the only thing that
is going to pay their bills--their very unique (and heretofore
unpublished) findings. Perhaps if more publishers go online, it might happen,
but it is hard to imagine them all going online--infrastructure-wise,
financially, and otherwise.