Cameron Neylon
I'm going to do a round of looking at some of the Science Social Networking sites again. Is anyone active on ResearchGate, Epernicus etc. and interested in testing functionality?
I'm interested in joining the testing. Need to agree on criteria for comparison before starting, though. - Daniel Mietchen
I'm willing to keep an open mind but so far FF surpasses these in terms of networking and ease of use. But if you want to experiment I have accounts in many of these and I would be willing to try. - Jean-Claude Bradley
I'm really just looking to make sure that things haven't moved on and improved significantly, particularly in the light of the NIH projects. - Cameron Neylon
I tend to migrate to social networking sites based on "pull" - virtually the only time I go on LinkedIn or Facebook is when I get an email alert to something relevant to my interests. I would assume that if there was anything really cool going on in these new sites I would get these alerts generated by actions by you and my other friends. - Jean-Claude Bradley
BTW Cameron - that is one of the issues I'm finding with Wave - I tend not to check it because I don't get alerts that there are updates - is there a way to get an email alert for Wave updates? - Jean-Claude Bradley
Yes, there is an email alerter. I'll add you and it to Wave... - Cameron Neylon
Agreed to the general point though - if there isn't a pull, I'm not going there really. And I think that is a big issue with Wave - people just aren't checking in. - Cameron Neylon
@Jean-Claude I don't think there's currently a way of doing this with the current interface without adding a robot but I saw there's a robot on the Haskell public wave which has similar support - Dan Hagon
I'd be interested in testing (I recently started looking over Epernicus for an article on NGS). Where is the email alerter for Google Wave? Currently, I'm using Waveboard (Mac), which alerts you when there's activity. However, it needs to be running in order to do so. - Walter Jessen
Just added you to a Wave with the email notifier Walter... - Cameron Neylon
New SNS from American Institute of Physics, got email invite today: - Andrew Lang
I have accounts on Epernicus, SciLink, Laboratree, and maybe could consider BenchFly a social networking site too, but like JC, I don't go to any sites besides FF and Twitter (and those are typically through 3rd-party apps), not even Facebook or LinkedIn, unless I get some alert. But I would be happy to see if anything's changed in those science-oriented sites I mentioned - Shirley Wu from twhirl
I do get alerts that new people have joined the organic chemistry group in Research Gate but there is no discussion and my questions have not been answered there by anyone so not much motivation to check in. - Jean-Claude Bradley
It's alright - this is a benefit of the doubt exercise - making sure that things haven't changed or that we've missed something. My brief look around yesterday suggested that nothing much has but I wanted to make sure I'm not missing something. - Cameron Neylon
What about the criteria for comparison other than some "pull" functionality (which they all seem to have, to different extents)? Does usability boil down to feed import/ export and (hierarchically) threaded conversations ordered by novelty and importance, as at FF? - Daniel Mietchen
When considering the usefulness of the individual platforms, perhaps discipline-specific ones should also be on the list? Besides (maths), these would include, for instance, (anthropology), (polar research), or this very life science group at - Daniel Mietchen
It would be worth doing a compare and contrast - also things like Math Overflow and even some of the chemistry blogs act more like community sites. Seems particularly apposite with respect to Pawel's blog post yesterday about the idea to set up a next generation sequencing community site. - Cameron Neylon
I have a ResearchGate account but don't actively use it. I currently do some FriendFeed, Nature Network (where my blog is hosted) and Google Wave, but mostly Twitter. - Martin Fenner
The last issue (November 23) of the German computer magazine c't has an article on social networking for scientists. They like ResearchGate and Mendeley, but also include ResearcherID, Scholarz (a German network), Nature Network, SciLink and Scientist Solutions: - Martin Fenner
That c't article (which shall come out in some OA fashion soon) may serve as guidance but I found the choice of networks therein rather arbitrary, and the comparison between sites was done on a more general level rather than on the basis of specific criteria. - Daniel Mietchen
The article makes two obvious omissions: a) no mention of CiteULike (or Connotea), b) no mention of the recent $12 Mio social networking NIH grant to U of Florida/Cornell University. There are some more things in it I don't like, so I wrote a letter to c't magazine. - Martin Fenner
Cameron, what criteria were you thinking of using? - Mr. Gunn
Key questions: a) What is the immediate impression on signing up? Is there a pull for people to come back? b) What functionality is being offered? Is it immediately available? How dependent is it on having a network in place? c) Funding model and stability d) User numbers, ideally active users and accounts, but whether we can get those is another question. Those aren't very objective criteria and they are built on my biases but nonetheless - Cameron Neylon
Sorry if this is slightly tangential to the discussion, but I was imagining a new kind of social network for publication of research results here: - Chris Leonard
Chris - when you talk about "credit" are you expecting tenure and promotion committees to count it or do you have some other system in mind? If you set something up I have content that might be suitable to play with. As for citability - in our last few papers we have used blog posts and wiki pages as references and have not had any problems with that - so I think the system is quite flexible and can accommodate the types of activities you are proposing. - Jean-Claude Bradley
I think Chris means system credit or karma. The idea as I understand it is somewhere between Friendfeed and Stack Overflow - Cameron Neylon
Thanks Cameron, yes, that's what I meant by 'credit' - however, by quantifying and metricising that credit, there is a possibility that one day tenure and promotion committees may want to use it as another measure of a scientists influence in a field. Apologies to Cameron for hijacking his thread. There is another discussion on this blog post here: - Chris Leonard
That's fine, it's not my thread, it the communities thread :-) Pointers are good, they link up the information. - Cameron Neylon
Blog postings to replace (journal) papers and (in-depth) peer review a luxury that can only be acquired if paid for and to be replaced by blog comments instead? Weakening both readability and certification? That does not sound like a healthy idea. - Wobbler
Wobbler: why should blogs lack any aspect of peer review? the standard of any publication depends on how editorial powers are used - Mike Chelen
...and we already pay for peer review. It just isn't a cost transferred as actual cash. - Cameron Neylon
But blogs do not have any editorial powers? What advantage do blog postings have over (journal) papers? They lack format = lack of consistency = lack of efficiency = lack of scalability. Are you seriously suggesting that blogging/blog posts have the potential to replace journal publishing/ (journal) papers as the primary scholarly communication model/channel? Upgrading the traditional (journal) paper to a digital (journal) paper, even a "living" paper, that I can absolutely understand. But a blog post? Seriously? - Wobbler
@Cameron: that's true, but now peer review is at least mandatory for the primary scholarly communication model i.e. scholarly publishing. Replacing that with something else and having peer review only on request/payment is a very different story. - Wobbler
Wobbler - there is a difference between requiring the peer review to be performed before making some information public and allowing it to take place after that. I do not see why the latter option would generally fare worse than the former. In fact, we already practice it here at FF, with numbers of likes and comments roughly indicating the popularity of a topic, while the quality has to be sought in the individual comments (and of course the source item that started the thread). - Daniel Mietchen
@Daniel: I'm not talking about post-"publication" peer review. That's still different from random blog commentary on blog posts. There's no evidence that what we're doing here isn't just a "niche" thing that works well because we're a niche. There's certainly no consistency in quality in our blog postings (well, at least not in mine :p ). Not to mention a lack of consistency in structure of all of our blog posts together. There's no way that what we're doing now will scale well to larger audiences because there's no structure and no efficiency in what we're doing. A 5 man business can work excellently using what we call "club culture" organization. But grow from 5 to 100 employees and suddenly the things that were manageable, perhaps even perfectly effective, with just 5 peeps turns completely unmanageable and inefficient with a 100 of them. - Wobbler
@D0r0th34: No, we should absolutely not ignore lighting strikes. But we should see them as lightning strikes and consider them to be an exception more than a rule and focus our attention on something that provides that level of quality more as a rule than an exception. Blogs as a complement to (journal) papers is great. But once you start to see it as a primary source, a replacement for the currently scholarly communication model even, then you're asking people to bank on winning lotteries rather than the income from the "slow and steady" 9 to 5 work to sustain themselves. And that is a far bigger waste of time, money and effort. It's true that commercial/for profit journal publishing doesn't scale as well as we'd like, although I think this is more an issue of greed than anything else. It's not a (journal) paper versus a blog thing. It's just the thing with greedy publishers and their "monopoly" on prepublication certification i.e. peer review. Our bet on OA to make scholarly publishing scalable again is still good, no? - Wobbler
@D0r0th34: That's one more reason why blogging as the primary scholarly communication model is a broken idea. "Popularity" and "building a readership" will be important for blogs (and other post publication peer review models) to be visible/significant. But aren't we going after journals for using their JIF to attract peeps to read their stuff? How is "blog (poster) popularity" to get a decent stream of viewers (and hopefully comments) any different? A lot of people gain popularity using Twitter and FF for things that are unrelated to their scientific works. But this connectivity does likely improve their odds of having their "serious" blog postings read and commented on, regardless of their quality. - Wobbler
I think the most important property of non peer-reviewed scientific communication is that the content be easily indexed and searchable. Relying on comments and rankings can be very misleading indicators for utility in long tail systems. For example we get over 100 searches a day for our solubility data via Google and Wikipedia but we have never had a comment or any type of feedback from the people who searched for and found information. - Jean-Claude Bradley
The problem is that I'm not sure we can talk about "gaming the system" rather than "an intrinsic part of the system that everybody will be forced to play or greatly risk invisibility" when it comes to blogs and other models relying on postpublication "peer review". PLoS ONE is, intentionally or not, already trying to stake their claim on an as large a readership/community as possible. This puts every other (future) journal using the same prepublication + postpublication peer review model at an immediate, possibly long-term, disadvantage. And that is regardless of the quality of the journal papers. Although PLoS ONE's articles don't seem to be receiving a lot of comments currently, so this issue isn't really that big of a deal. Not really helping the whole "postpublication commentary is going to scale well" argument either. - Wobbler
@D0r0th34: And connectivity can be unfair if your serious/scientific works are getting more attention than others simply because you've managed to draw a bigger crowd through non serious/scientific stuff. On a slightly more personal note: for someone who occasionally complains about the (lack of) readability of (journal) articles, I had expected that you, of all people, would appreciate the idea of maintaining a high degree of readability by way of consistent structure and copyediting. As opposed to, say, "free for all" blog postings. - Wobbler
I have to say reading down this I am unsure of whether the complaints apply to blogs or journal articles. Consistent structure and copy editing would be nice but it is rare for both blogs and journal articles. Quality is an issue across the board. Going back to peer review - it's only mandatory for the author, refusal rates for reviewers are going through the roof and unless we acknowledge that cost the system will collapse sometime soon. - Cameron Neylon
@Cameron: Consistent structure and copy editing are rare for journal articles? They are? Not entirely sure about copyediting, but surely most, if not all, journal papers have a recognizable structure? And I don't think they're as rare or rarer than for blog postings. I also think the issue is with peer review, and not with the (journal) paper (format). As such, we should find ways to make peer review more efficient, not completely replace the entire publishing system with something as unstructured and inefficient as blogging. - Wobbler
Of my recent papers, only one received close copy editing by anyone but me. And that was the Nature piece for which to be honest I would have been happier if the editor had got a co-credit. And formats are all over the place - maybe consistent for a single journal but that's not use to me. The costs of both peer review and publication are so high we need to find a way to lower them - use the high value stuff where appropriate and make the rest of it low barrier. Most papers aren't worth peer reviewing as they never get cited. Why add on top of that the cost of formatting and re-formatting? In a sense we're actually arguing the same thing - the idea of a recommendation system would create a market which would drive people towards higher standards of writing - whether we call these blogs, data publication, micro-publication, whatever. Review will drive up quality. Most papers simply shouldn't appear in that form in my view. Better published as either data or a simple statement. - Cameron Neylon
@Cameron: I'm not sure that's a convincing enough argument for me. Maybe your other papers were written clearly enough already? You're a prolific blogger/writer, Cameron. It's not weird to assume that your ability to communicate concepts clearly is higher than the average scholar. Maybe high enough to not warrant copyediting (in a lot of journals)? My impression of journals is that "copyediting" is a pretty significant part of their value added. I'd like to see more evidence before I adjust that impression. Removing this all would put scholars who are better "researchers" than "communicators" at an advantage as well. And what about the papers that do transform from "uninteresting" to "very interesting" after qualitative peer review? - Wobbler
Well others can pitch in but perhaps a different anecdote. Until I started getting into arguments with Maxine Clarke I didn't even realise that journals might do copy editing. Nature and similar are very different beasts to the average of course. - Cameron Neylon
So, generally speaking, only the high profile/impact journals provide copyediting services? Hmm, that is definitely not what I expected. If you had to estimate the % of journals that provide copyediting services, what % would that be? The (top) 10% of all journals? - Wobbler
I have the same experience as Cameron - the only time my manuscript was copyedited was when I published in Nature - Jean-Claude Bradley
So far as I'm aware, no-one here wants to replace peer-reviewed journals entirely by blogs. Yet that seems to be what you're arguing against, Wobbler. For some functions, journals are a lot better than blogs. But for other functions, blogs are a lot better than journals. At the least, I really can't imagine how, say, DHJ Polymath or Galaxy Zoo or the Open Dinosaur Project or [fill in favourite project here] would operate if they were restricted to the journal format. They work really, really well in a blog format (or a forum, for Galaxy Zoo), and would have been near impossible 20 years ago. This isn't a zero-sum game. - Michael Nielsen
Most of this is as a response to an FF comment by Chris Leonard on the 23th of November in this thread, who is arguing for exactly that. - Wobbler
Cameron, any progress on the roundup? Is there any information I can provide from Mendeley? - Mr. Gunn
Right - getting there slowly! Have set up a wiki page (ignore the state of the rest of the site I am working on it!) at You should be able to login with openids, any problem give me a yell. I would suggest a week by week schedule to dive into and try and use a specific site, give it a good shot and then report as we go. I think a schedule will help push things to continue? And it might keep me in line. Will aim to blog tomorrow about this to kick off. - Cameron Neylon
Cameron, what do you mean by "stability" - things like a service being bought/shut down vs. server outages? What about one week to agree on parameters and sites to check? I added data portability. - Daniel Mietchen
I was thinking more of medium to long term financial stability - but technical stability is a good criterion in terms of functionality. Data portability is a good point! - Cameron Neylon
Cameron, I spoke with Drew Endy, Bill Flanagan, and a couple other PIs that use OpenWetWare (Maureen, Pam) last week about the future of OWW. There are two major issues (a) funding and (b) overhauling the platform. I think funding will work out, if we can figure out what is the best way to do (b). Bill and Drew have some good ideas at this point, but in my gut I think we're still not quite seeing clearly what can be done so that OWW would be useful for the majority of people interested in sharing science at ANY level of openness. For example, isn't there an OWW overhauled platform that could be created so that you (LabLog, friendfeed, OWW blog), Jean-Claude (UsefulChem wiki, blogger, friendfeed), and I (OWW wiki, friendfeed) would find it a no-brainer to use OWW as our OpenScienceHub? I think maybe answering this question would also answer the question: What would make OWW ridiculously appealing to the majority of scientists who are mostly unwilling to invest precious time getting over technical hurdles? Or another question: What is it that we're currently missing (even given our vast array of tools available) or that we will be missing 5 years from now? - Steve Koch
I guess my easy question for everyone who's familiar with OWW: Do you think with the resources we have (one full-time excellent lead developer) we can transform OWW into a killer openscience resource for many more people going forward? One thought that keeps coming to me is that something could be (needs to be) done to tap into the energy of the user base. I.e., obsessed students who can create their own openscience tools (or robots, etc.). These need to be able to very easily and securely be connected with OWW. - Steve Koch
Another thing that keeps coming into my head since the conference call last week: FriendFeed is quite possibly very similar to what many people need for OpenScience. As far as science goes, we generate information from all kinds of different sources (Machine-specific data; gel photos; microsoft word; evernote; scratch paper; blogging; etc.). This needs to be aggregated and shared in a way that is easy and fun. So, what is in my head is this: "Should OWW try to become the "FriendFeed for Scientists" that we keep thinking about? But I mean broader than FriendFeed so that it provides features to aggregate our Open Notebook Science (using whatever ONS tool you want to use), Open Data, Open Source Code, Open Proposals, etc. Is that a good idea? (I'm thinking yes) Would it be too expensive? (My gut says no, but I don't know too much the difference in needs between OWW currently and a system that could do what I'm suggesting.) - Steve Koch
Oh, and to clarify a bit: I don't want to replace FriendFeed with OWW. I want to use the FriendFeed model as a starting point for the new OWW. As an OpenScienceAggregator / Networking tool. As others have pointed out, much of the value of friendfeed is that it's not limited to scientists generating data. - Steve Koch
Steve, that's a great way of asking the question. I'd go one step further and say how can we make it the framework in which we can integrate all the other things we do on other services. It's never going to be a no-brainer to move from what you use to something else - there is always the simple problem of the activation barrier to change - its a question of the balance. But my guess is that we need to think one level above and find the way the helps us integrate Wiki/Blog/RDF/structured data/excel spreadsheets all together in a way we can handle share and move about. Either way I think doing a critical study of what we already use is a good way of doing to a requirements exercise. - Cameron Neylon
Cameron, I agree with you exactly: I don't want people to switch, and indeed I want to think "one level above." Do you think there's a real possibility for doing that? - Steve Koch
If we could coordinate a series of activities and get proper funding then yes. Quite a lot of interest in the pieces of this (including the grant I'm currently rushing to finish), Chris's ideas further up this thread, OWW obviously, Mendeley/Citeulike/Zotero. But coordination is the hard bit - and getting agreement that its what enough of us want. Do I think we have a clear idea of what we need in broad terms, yes but probably not in enough detail. It's somewhere between dropbox, a wiki, friendfeed and stack overflow. Could we do a good job of a requirements statement? Absolutely. Just waiting on approval from my collaborators and I'll make the grant application public as well. - Cameron Neylon
Should we include some discipline-specific ones or are we going for general-purpose only? - Daniel Mietchen