Wikis in scholarly communication

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Purpose[edit]

This page is meant to support some brain storming on the relative merits of paper-based and wiki-based scholarly communication, as discussed in a blog post that was later updated and expanded. Feel free to add to it, here or there, and to reuse it.

Comparison between paper-based and wiki-based scholarly communication systems[edit]

Feature of science communication Paper-based practice Comment Wiki-based practice Comment
ideas no timestemp system that is universal and transparent universal and transparent timestemp system
research design version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
research proposal version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
research funding
data acquisition
data analysis
manuscript writing version control is tedious in collaborative studies version control is standard
manuscript formatting already largely standardized with LaTeX templates, less so with MS Word, OpenOffice and others standardized to some extent by the wiki syntax but not as much as a typical TeX style file allows
reference formatting already largely standardized with BibTeX, Endnote and similar standardized to some extent by the wiki syntax, via citation templates and automated reference wikification
manuscript version tracking requires external tools, e.g. Subversion, Google doc or a wiki standard
choosing publication venue scope and perceived "quality" of a journal there are not too many suitable wikis around and indeed, one of the purposes of publishing in a wiki would be to have all relevant information in one freely accessible spot, rather than in zillions of journals as in the paper-based world
abstract always written anew only provided in a human-readable manner always written anew could easily be made machine-readable even after initial publication
introduction always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
methods always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
results always written anew only provided in a human-readable manner always written anew could easily be made machine-readable even after initial publication
discussion always written anew, with some author-specific redundancy updated each time
conclusions
references separate section; never linked to online version, often not even with URI tedious for both author and reader; often not balanced link to online version is standard could be facilitated by separated namespace for references
raw data often missing, especially if it does not fit on paper (like audio or video files) example case here can be provided in the same wiki environment
supplementary materials often distributed into multiple files, not always integrable with paper discussions here and here not necessary - see above
peer review can be open, single-blind or double-blind; can be made available to the editors only or to a wider audience that could include the other reviewers, the authors, and the public peer reviews are hard to track in their entirety, especially if non-published can be open, single-blind or double-blind; can be made available to the editors only or to a wider audience that could include the other reviewers, the authors, and the public simpler to track
author contributions need to be written down specifically (particularly detailed example here) are always recorded; can possibly be automatically displayed (example in WikiGenes)
errata published separately (occasionally even more than once or as a complete republication), with no mention in the original paper version (another example here) online versions frequently add a note about the updates but they are rarely incorporated into a corrected file that contains all of the information; non-text corrections further complicate the picture, as these files are often stored independently online and not reprinted (e.g. here or Fig. 1 in here) can be easily corrected in the original location a note about the update can be added easily, too
retractions published separately, with no mention in the original paper version online versions frequently (but not always) add a note about the updates (possibly hidden in the comments) but they are rarely incorporated into a corrected file that contains all of the information; "retractions at Wiley-Blackwell are now running at more than one a week" can be easily corrected in the original location a note about the update can be added easily, too
scientific correspondence slow; danger of misunderstandings due to ambiguous wording quick; disambiguated hyperlinks to explanations of important concepts can reduce such friction
access often barred by subscription fees, generally with a delay after submission and/or peer review that may range from days to sometimes years open by default immediate
reuse copyright usually retained by the publisher, with important restrictions of reuse CC or GFDL licenses are standard
metadata error-prone and hard to correct can be fixed in an easy, simple and transparent manner
outreach roughly proportional to access and usability roughly proportional to access and usability
impact
applications
teaching
resource use

Examples of scholarly wikis[edit]

A number of scholarly wikis are also contained in Wikipedia's list of online encyclopedias.

Desirable features of future scholarly wikis[edit]

For context, see here.