Historically the scientific community has required the following from the publication process:
• Establishment or priority and authorship
• Exposure and preservation of the scientific record
• Communicating the science to one's peers and the wider world
• Allowing the science to be moderated by peers and others ("reviewing").
There is perhaps an additional axis in today's bibliometric-obsessed world: allowing the work to receive an official assessment of merit.
However the publication process is out of sync with the modern web-based world ("Web 2.0") which allows the publication process to encourage and support:
• Collaborative working (as seen in many projects such as Wikipedia, Open StreetMap, and in science, Galaxy Zoo). Here each contribution is often an atom in a much larger cloud and the publication process is continuous rather than discrete. Wikipedia articles are "never finished" though there are some efforts to provide frozen versions. This is a strong theme of this "issue".
• Independence of the source of publication. Given the ability of search engines, and the social networks, to discover anything of value it matters less where something is published. Other than the choice of reviewers the primary issues is whether a piece of information is accessible or limited. History has shown that high quality scholarship on the web will usually surface regardless of where it is published.
• Creation of continuous semantic objects. By recording everything we do, annotating it, and revising it, we can maintain a current semantic publication object at all times, including a revisitable history. This should be the object of scientific publication, not the current PDF.
• The paper (semantic object) as a driver of research
. The idea of writing a paper before the research is carried out is valuable and not novel (e.g
. George M. Whitesides [10
]). Here, however, we extend the paper to semantic objects (programs, spreadsheets, molecules, bibliography, etc
Several of the papers in the article have adopted these later ideas. This has been most obvious in Open Bibliography [4
] where effectively the whole concept and technology has been driven during the 6 weeks of "writing the paper". We started with a blank page and four people (William Waites, Mark MacGillivray, Ben O'Steen, Peter Murray-Rust) and during the writing process brought in new authors (Jim Pitman, Peter Sefton, Richard Jones) and communally created the design, technology and "paper". The introduction of Scholarly HTML made this paper self-referential. The Quixote paper [12
] has also dramatically driven the design of Quixote, particularly the social aspects.