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Ward sees WikiAsScience in [an interview]. Quoting Ward from the interview: I think wiki is a miniature version of science. Science is a fascinating process where you make observations and hold them up to peer review. Science is a process for organizing and explaining nature. Wiki is a process for organising and explaining experience.

I was as fascinated as Ward by this thought and broached the idea in WikiInTheNews. SunirShah responded the WikiWay by creating WikiAsScience term. And, here we are!

What is WikiAsScience

The perception of the WikiWay as a scientific activity.

Comparing the characteristics of Wiki and Science

In a way Science is the acknowledgement and pursuit of possibilities. Possibilities that as humans we are fortunate to have and realize. One of the possibilities is to explain and explore as much as we can about the world we are born in and about ourselves [We: Individuals, societies, communities. nations]. There are two interesting ways to embark on this quest. Go alone or journey together as a community of folks who share the passions. Wiki is the community way.

A few hundred years ago, during the Renaissance period in europe, humanism - an intellectual movement - encouraged people to think and appreciate the fact that humans can know about the world on their own without divine providence. Science emerged as an excellent manifestation of this confidence. Soon the methods of Science emerged and were institutionalized. Theorize, experiment, self-correct by peer review.

A Wiki shares many characteristics with Science. A Wiki is a journey of a community of people sharing passions. A wiki self-corrects by peer review. It goes further than Science in self-correction. The self-correction of a Wiki is instantaneous and can be done by anyone. The methods of a wiki are institutionalized as CommunityExpectations. Above all, a Wiki is a quest, a quest to explain and explore. In that, WikiIsScience?. --SelvakumarGanesan


Just a few thoughts. WikiAsScience is one of very many wiki applications, a very interesting one, but hardly a dominant one. Perhaps one could add (to CPOV, NPOV, MPOV) a special SPOV - ScientificPointOfView? combining special forms of behaviour and expectations. Compared to Multiple POV one would expect that opinions and theories are rooted in observations and aim at being verifiable or falsifiable in experiments. -- It may be noteworthy that WikiAsScience doesn't seem to be very compatible with contemporary science which is very much based on the idea of priority, ideas that are new enough that you can publish them as your own. Writing in the wiki isn't a replacement for scientific publishing, but it could be someday. Wikis would have to build formal article systems and reputations for quality. Wiki currently seems a way for informal science, but hardly for science professionals. The other way would be to establish Wikis as scientific societies with a new culture, where the common achievements and being a respected member are the main cornerstones. -- HelmutLeitner

Interesting. I wasn't thinking in the lines of WikiAsScience as an application of wiki while I rambled on above. Science, I had implicitly defined for myself, is the process of explaining, exploring, discovering. The process is characterized by theory, experiments, review, etc. Since, wiki is in a sense a process of explaining with almost instant review and corrections (as Ward observed), I extended Ward's idea further along those lines. Nevertheless, Wiki cannot be called a Science without qualifications as you've pointed out. A wiki is too mutable to produce artifacts that science produces - I think something like that may never happen (the formal article systems you refer to above). Wikis are very much in the realm of psychology and sociology and I am unable to draw parallels to science beyond the basic motivation and methods it shares with science. And, perhaps that's all there is to WikiAsScience. --SelvakumarGanesan

Being in academia, and having spent a lot of formative time here on MeatballWiki and WikiWiki, I have come to believe that the methods of inquiry we use here on MeatballWiki will be duplicated by academia in the future, if not exactly, certainly in part. A lot of academic practice is governed by print culture that is made obsolete by CollaborativeHypermedia. For instance, why summarize an article when you can just link to it? Essays on MeatballWiki tend to be very short and dense, and thus easy to read. Contrast those against the dumps I put here from my papers which seem oddly out of place in the mix, and longwinded. That being said, the writing style here is also not very detailed, precise, or easy to criticize. (Except of course, criticism can be immediately folded into the body text.) -- SunirShah


Quoted from above: "It may be noteworthy that WikiAsScience doesn't seem to be very compatible with contemporary science which is very much based on the idea of priority, ideas that are new enough that you can publish them as your own. Writing in the wiki isn't a replacement for scientific publishing, but it could be someday. Wikis would have to build formal article systems and reputations for quality. Wiki currently seems a way for informal science, but hardly for science professionals. The other way would be to establish Wikis as scientific societies with a new culture, where the common achievements and being a respected member are the main cornerstones." -- HelmutLeitner

What was the key difference between science as practiced by Aristotle and science in the time of Newton? By the late 1600's there was a growing system by which science could be published and shared in the form of printed research findings. Science-minded people formed communities and published their work. Currently, many scientific communities are shifting from print to electronic journals. Unfortunately, most electronic science journals are only online versions of the printed journal. There is amazing institutional momentum within science. Nobody wants to take on the risk of starting a scientific journal in a wiki environment. I suspect that such a revolutionary step will have to come at the fringes of science where strange mutations can grow. For example, a developing protoscience might form its first journal in a wiki format. I have been thinking about [creating a scientific journal] in a wiki environment. I have a hunch that wiki will be able to change scientific publishing, making science more free, open, and usefully integrated into the rest of the infosphere.....a step in the development of science that may eventually become similar in magnitude to the advance caused by printing. - JohnSchmidt

John, I think that your predictions - that wiki in science publishing will start in protoscience - is plausible. They have little to lose and everything to win. The overall problem is imho that of quality. If publishing is expensive, you have to care for quality. If publishing is cheap, you don't need to. But without quality (in science: non-redundancy, new-ness, ...) systems won't work. I also agree with the book comparison. Book and wiki seem MultiPattern├┐?0├┐. -- HelmutLeitner

I agree that quality content is not automatic in a wiki. In any scientific publishing effort, quality depends on the community of people who are involved in the publication process. If people care about quality, they have to invest time to make it happen. -JohnSchmidt

Have you seen the GuildModel (part of the OpenAcademics series here)? After reading about the SocialConstructionOfScience, I am convinced that the highest quality is only defined by an intensely protective PeerReview community. By the way, I am keen to create a scientific journal in a wiki format. I failed at WikiSym, but I will keep trying to get Meatball moving forward on that front. -- SunirShah

I agree that peer review is fundamental to the scientific process, but there are many aspects of the current science peer review process that arose for reasons that are due to the limitations of print media. Peer review should be public and it should be open to everyone. A scientific reputation is something you get from your work, not something that qualifies you to publish. You have to publish first, and then you develop a reputation based on what you published in the past. Some peer review can be useful before publication, but most peer review should come after publication....that is when most peers will have a chance to review the work. The idea of a "dead publication" should itself be killed. By "dead publication" I mean a scientific publication that is printed and never modified. In the electronic age, publications can easily be living things that are open to modification and improvement through time. A "living document" like a wiki page is the natural medium for reporting scientific results. You have an automatic record of all past versions, but new readers are always first shown the latest version. Any given scientific article can be ranked in terms of its use (citation by other articles) and its reviews. Any given review (R1) can be ranked for its own importance by a network system that takes into account if the reviewer has publications related to the work being reviewed and the past reviews of the publications of the reviewer (in an open scientific process, those publications would include all reviews of other people's work) AND reviews and rebuttals of R1 itself. I did not see a proposal for a scientific journal at the WikiSym page. What type of journal would you like to create? -JohnSchmidt

I wanted to put all the conference papers at WikiSym on a wiki; I have so far failed to take the necessary initiative to convince the paper authors this would be a good idea. I don't think you'll get any argument from me that AcademicPeerReview is broken. cf. GuildModel. I'm not saying the GuildModel is the perfect answer, but I think what I am saying is that peer review is best done by the full community of peers, not a handful of potentially biased or malfeasant reviewers. It's better to have a small clique that publishes as a team together, and then have the world evaluate their activities collectively, than to have individuals fight against other individuals. Not even Olympic athletes train in isolation, and they are way more competitive than academics. -- SunirShah

I think that the scientific machinery is like a clockwork. There is a reason for all aspects and they depend on each other like toothed wheels. It won't work if one changes one wheel significantly, you can either make very careful small changes or redesign the whole machinery. -- That said, I'll criticize the idea of a changeable scientific wiki article. In a system where you have to publish as many papers as possible, no scientist will be interested in improving old articles and thereby avoid to publish a new one containing the new findings. Changing papers would need a complete redesign of the scientific reputation system. In addition, papers not only contain abstract scientific knowledge, they build a protocol of the development of scientific advance. Changing papers would make that intransparent. In addition papers build on the content of other papers by referencing and building on their arguments. Changing papers would make referencing difficult. -- I could imagine that you could add creative new elements to the system. For examples "classes of papers". A limited number of changeable "knowledge papers" could contain the essence of knowledge of certain fields and provide increased reputation for the author. On the other hand, one could add a type "addendum paper" that counts like a paper in the reputation system, contains additional data or evaluations but is simpler to write, because it is added electronically to the main "theory paper" to which it refers. This way the reputation system is not significantly changed ("paper count" is still the measure of reputation) and the advantage of electronic publishing is used to reduce redundancy (lots of papers that reference all the same list of scientific literature) and to increase order by letting scientists build "paper threads" starting with a "theory paper" and an arbitrary number of "continuation papers" (addendum papers) that form a unity and are much more accessable. -- With respect to the review process, one must look at the reviewer advantage. Currently a reviewer has power, additional reputation, and an information advantage because he gets papers to read month before the scientific public. For these advantages he works - and I assume - usually for free. A completely open review process can't provide similar advantages. It's like in a wiki. Many just lean back and read. There is no convincing reason for the majority to actively participate. -- HelmutLeitner

Helmut, et al: I continued this discussion at WikiSciencePublication. - JohnSchmidt


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