Not signed in (Sign In)

Not signed in

Want to take part in these discussions? Sign in if you have an account, or apply for one below

  • Sign in using OpenID

Discussion Tag Cloud

Vanilla 1.1.10 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.

Welcome to Math2.0
If you want to take part in these discussions either sign in now (if you have an account), apply for one now (if you don't).
    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorBen Webster
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
    I'm having a little trouble really articulating my thoughts on the subject of What Is To Be Done, but one aspect of things I would like to see a little more focus on is how to build a system for selfish beings (as we all are). A huge flaw of our current system is the lack of alignment of incentives; the current review process is, to borrow from Adam Smith, expecting our dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, brewer and baker. Of course, academia has always run, and always will to a large degree, on people doing things which aren't in their narrowly construed self-interest, but it's a tricky line to walk.

    I'm afraid I don't have a good solution; I just worry a little bit that some of the ideas people are putting forth depend a little too much on people's benevolence and not enough to their regard to their own interest.
  1. I can come up with two examples.

    • I think one of the advantages of a functional open pre/post publication peer review culture would be that we could start to value reviewing, too. In that sense, I expect any successful solution to harness our selfishness to publicly display how engaged we are in our community. Much like MO values questions as much as answers.

    • In Tim Gowers’s first post last November as well as Noam Nissan’s related post, both mentioned (but later dropped) the off-chance that such a system might sometimes favor good expository and survey papers over original research. That would be another selfish aspect – getting credit for your work beyond “new results” papers.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

    I completely agree with Ben’s comments - it’s what I was trying to get at with my post on Useful at the point of use. I think that anything that relies on having a large number of people participating (such as crowd-sourcing) has to provide a service upfront, otherwise even the best intentioned of people aren’t going to join in.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorColin Gopaul
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
    Thinking out aloud, so forgive bad suggestions:

    An approach to this is to offer different types of incentives to cater to the needs of your different users. If such a Site has some other highly desired "functionalities" such as Bibliography and reference management, which are available only with a particular amount of contribution, one may be able to get that critical mass of contributors. Not all tasks on such a site are difficult. Gowers in his blog broke down a possible review process into simpler tasks. Another task is the Categorizing of papers into useful sub-fields which is a time-consuming task that can be rewarded. Other advanced features may include providing a personal library within the structure of the Site for those users of merit. Certainly Mendely, Qiqqa, Calibre, ReadCube, Zotero etc are popular among other things for their management of files and bibliography. The goal is to reward volunteerism, not coerce it. There are many bells and whistles one can add to a site of free papers beyond the standard search and sorting capabilities open to all users. For example mentorship and interaction with others can be used to motivate students to contribute in some ways. Recommendation systems for papers, access to discussions of some topics, use of mobile features of site, etc are examples of things added that can be used to motivate. Some can be given freely, other on merit. That said, these advanced features MAY not be easy to bring into one arena and MAY be a long term project. But if you want to put the high priced publishers out of business, produce a product people will want to leave them for and making it cheaper would be the icing on the cake (although cheaper is the primary goal, far better is expected by many if they are to make the transition). Many journal publishers provide some content management among other things already. After all Elsevier has Scopus, Sciverse and ScienceDirect and they are quite useful tools for any researcher in addition to the individual journals.

    Another approach to an incentive is to utilize university IT departments like the ArXiv do, but also utilizing the fact that there are many universities around the world where students would love to learn such database design & management, search scripts, web design, and programming which would run on multiple OS and even phones. I am certain such arrangements can be made for these lesser developed universities to gladly and cheaply come on board in exchange for the technical development and even the advertising (like Cornell to the ArXiv). I suppose you can call this outsourcing with real development in mind. This was not possible with the ArXiv for many reason, nor was it the intention. Here, it is possible and can be useful.