SXSWi: New Webtech and Science Publishing: (Re)Constructing the Scientific Article

Many SXSW vets recommend attending a panel outside of your comfort zone. This was that one. I also was covering it for one of our projects at work. Here’s the abstract:

New publishing technologies challenge the traditional structure of peer-reviewed scientific journals. For hundreds of years the “article” has been the primary vehicle for conveying scientific information – but semantic markup, tagging, and wiki are reconstructing scientific publications into a flexible and evolving concept. This panel will look at the social and legal implications of “Web 2.0″ and “Semantic Web” as they impact science and scientific knowledge.

Some of this was a bit over my head, but I’m just going to toss up my notes and then follow up with my impressions.



I work with many scientists that publish papers, but a lot of this is still so very foreign to me. I personally have a lot of faith in “Web 2.0″ tools such as tags and Microformats. I struggle a bit with some of this Semantic Web stuff.

I guess if I was trying to record my life by using Semantic Web technologies, I’d have to somehow go back and record everything I’ve ever said, where I said it, who I said it to, what they said back, what other thoughts I had without speaking them aloud, etc. If I use “Web 2.0″ technologies to record my life, I’d have my blog posts, Flickr photos, links, YouTube videos, Twitter tweets, GMail, and any other social tools—plus the tags, timestamps, and (perhaps) GeoCodes that go with each. I could go a step further and do a desktop crawl for files, local photos (I haven’t thrown all 2500+ photos of Ella into Flickr), perhaps POP email, timestamps, folder names, etc.

Would this second approach be perfect? No. But could it be done? Yes. To me, the Semantic Web just feels too much like a dream that is unachievable. The panelists were definitely giving me that vibe, too. There is already so much scientific information out there. You can’t go back and put all this meta info on it. And for all the information that’s coming out, it’s hard to force people to follow a strict process of extracting certain data for the Semantic Web purposes. You can, however, track how that information floats around the web, how it is tagged, sorted, commented, annotated, etc.

One thing that didn’t sit well with me is the fact that scientists won’t blog because there’s no “credit” for that. They need to release their info in an environment that can be tallied up to rank them against their “competition.” Well, does writing a book directly help a blogger’s Technorati ranking? No, not directly. But with that book out there, more discussion about that person will ensue. Even though links are not being made to the book, the book is causing more discussion. I would like to think that a scientist that shares by blogging and commenting would gain notoriety in other ways. Perhaps not, but I’d like to think that.

But what do I know? I’m just a web hippie. I know many Semantic Web folks turn up their noses at things like Microformats. But to me, that feels a bit too much like someone that complains about small size of the in-ground pools that one person is digging as he is trying to dig an ocean. Only problem is, he’s been digging for ten years already and there’s no swimming in sight.


  1. On March 12th, 2007 at 9:06 am john wilbanks said:

    thanks for the liveblogging. we’ll post trackbacks to this on the CC and SC blogs when the podcast link comes out, and i’ll make a few comments back to your response to the panel once i’ve had some time to digest and think clearly.

  2. On March 13th, 2007 at 8:13 am Adam Darowski said:

    Thanks, John. I look forward to hearing your comments for someone who works with cognitive scientists, but doesn’t come from that background. It was an intriguing talk as I’ve often heard about this struggle with getting Semantic Web initiatives off the ground.

  3. On March 17th, 2007 at 6:56 am YourSciCom » Scientists and Blogging said:

    [...] Just read a blog post with notes from the panel, Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: The Impact on Scientific Publishing, that took place at the SXSW meeting. One of the note headings stated, scientists don’t blog or comment very much, and a discussion had taken place that this might be due to that there is nothing in it for scientists. We simply don’t get any credit for blogging. [...]

  4. On May 15th, 2007 at 5:37 pm Rise of the PHX » Blog Archive » Microformats meet Scientific Publication/Citations said:

    [...] like I missed a good panel at SXSW 2007 on slightly on this topic, discussed in this blog entry (SXSWi: New Webtech and Science Publishing: (Re)Constructing the Scientific Article), and their is a plethora of data on the microformats wiki. Just thought I’d send out a [...]

  5. On December 27th, 2007 at 1:13 pm John Appel said:

    Melissa is a n ass. How can anyone take here seriously. She’s a nasty bitch who tries to rid herself of perople who are threats. Melissa is an information guru. Shows how stupid you are!

  6. On December 27th, 2007 at 4:03 pm Adam Darowski said:

    I just had to let this comment through because I have never been called an idiot on my blog before. :)

    I just took notes, dude. Never called anyone a guru. I’m guessing you don’t like Melissa though!