CALL FOR DISCUSSION: TIBS/bionet.journals.letters.tibs

David Kristofferson kristoff at net.bio.net
Wed Oct 12 11:37:29 EST 1994


In article <bullock.69.2E9B6233 at kahu.lincoln.ac.nz>,
Bullock, David <bullock at kahu.lincoln.ac.nz> wrote:
>In article <CMM.0.90.2.781822657.biohelp at net.bio.net> biosci-help at NET.BIO.NET (BIOSCI Administrator) writes:
>
>>The TIBS/bionet.journals.letters.tibs newsgroup will be used to
>>encourage feedback and discussion on articles published previously in
>>the hardcopy issue of "Trends in Biochemical Sciences."  
>
>IMHO, discussions on any bionet group should not depend on off-net sources 
>to be intelligible or for their continuity.  The prerequisite to have read 
>TIBS seems to me antithetical to the spirit and purpose of the net.  

The purpose of the net always seemed to me to be to increase
communication between scientists.  Currently, the vast majority of
that communication occurs through hardcopy journals.  It always
bothered me that one could read a paper in one's field and, if one
realized that there was a problem with the paper, one had no recourse
to communicate one's doubts except for going through the laborious
process of preparing a full-fledged manuscript of one's own.  This
would often take nine months to a year to get through the review
process.  One might argue that this ensures that one is not engaging
in the "instant analysis" that, for example, often follows
presidential speeches here in the U.S.  The argument in favor of this
lengthy process is that it "ensures" that the replies are well-thought
out and properly reviewed.  On the other hand, I would argue that
scientists are supposed to be intelligent people and are supposed to
be able to weigh the merits of arguments by themselves.  Manuscripts
can often be written obscurely and vital methodological details can be
presented in a skimpy fashion or omitted completely, even though they
have supposedly been peer-reviewed.  The current hardcopy medium does
not allow one to clarify these points easily for the readership at
large.  While you are correct that the "letters" newsgroup would
require one to read the journal, it seems to me that the potential to
correct possible mistakes in the literature, the potential to save
people from wasting a lot of time clarifying problems in the published
literature by possibly barking up the wrong experimental tree for
months, etc., is so vast, that scientists should welcome this kind of
blending of the traditional journals with the network resources.  Of
course, scientists who do not take adequate care in the preparation of
their manuscripts might find themselves under increased public
scrutiny.  While this may make some feel uncomfortable, it seems hard
to argue that the foreknowledge that one might be subjected to greater
scrutiny would not raise the overall quality of the published
literature.

>Elsevier has no need of Usenet resources for an electronic Letters to the 
>Editor column.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I approached them on this.  They
did not seek this out so as to advertise their journals.  Any journal
whether published by a commercial publisher or a professional society,
etc., could participate in this. 

>It appears that .tibs is to be the first of many bionet.journals.letters.* 
>groups; how many, where will this end?  It all strikes me as a poor idea, 
>creating an exclusivity of readership and quite different to the prof 
>society groups.

Hope my expanded explanation above might change your mind on this
issue.  From my perspective, having such "feedback" groups for major
journals is a very positive step.  I realize, of course, that not
everyone will agree, but I want to emphasize again that this is not
some kind of gross commercial scam for a particular publisher.
Elsevier, Jo McEntyre there specifically, was simply the first to
respond positively to my queries to various journals over the last
several years (if you haven't tried these things before you might be
amazed at how long the process can take).  As I mention in my seminar
tours, it is always the sociology that hinders change.  We have had
the technology in hand for years and new technology is coming out
daily.  Putting new technology on line is relatively easy.  The real
challenge is to convince scientists to try new ways of working.

				Sincerely,

				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				biosci-help at net.bio.net



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