Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

PF Community benefit from research summaries?

  1. Feb 24, 2016 #1
    Hi all,

    In previous years of me popping on to PhysicsForums every now and then to get my lay questions answered, I've noticed that the community here does seem to like to refer to the actual relevant academic papers themselves (something I appreciate). Since the lay readers of the site might not be able to work through the technical language as easily, I wanted to post the idea of whether or not summaries of those papers (in easy-to-read lingo) might be a useful thing to have on hand to share? I've got something in mind, but wondered what the community thought.

    Thanks!
    -Josh
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2016 #2

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Please note that there are already many sites online that does this to papers that they consider to be of certain significance. The APS Physics website, the PhysicsWorld website, Nature, Science, etc.. etc.. all highlight and present publications in ways the general public might be able to understand.

    It is impossible to do that for EVERY single publication. And frankly, unless it is done by an expert in the field, I tend to be rather suspicious of a review of a paper done by someone who isn't familiar with that type of work (after all, we do not want a repeat of Wikipedia here).

    The best thing for you to do is to bring out a paper that you are interested in learning, and ask if there is already an existing review of it, or if someone who knows the content intimately, can condense it for you in understandable terms, provided you clearly state at what level you can understand it.

    Edit: also please note that I started the "Recent Noteworthy Papers" many years ago to highlight papers that I, and other members, think that are worthy of such attention. Why they were not meant as a description to the general public, links that review these papers are often included.

    Zz.
     
  4. Feb 24, 2016 #3
    Fair points. Even if it can't be done for every publication, if it could be done for significant ones, and in a way that could allow for more detail and access to the content than say a popsci article, is there little value in that?

    I'm not sure I understand the against wikipedia reference, as although the information is surely not always accurate, it may very well provide a decent stepping stone for the lay audience (and of course I personally find wikipedia to be fairly better in the accuracy side of things than it may normally be noted as).
     
  5. Feb 24, 2016 #4

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Read the "Edit" addition to my post.

    Long story. I've had several posts already on PF dealing with this, and I can find faults (some of them, VERY glaring mistakes) in almost every single Wikipedia article related to physics. Wikipedia is also extremely poor in terms of pedagogy. Good, proper "teaching" doesn't involve just spewing a series of information. It also involves proper method of presentation of that information. That's why we have good textbooks, and bad textbooks, even on the same identical topic. Unfortunately, a lot of people use Wikipedia as their PRIMARY source of information (look around here if you don't believe me), and some even the ONLY source of information. That, I find to be very scary.

    Zz.
     
  6. Feb 24, 2016 #5
    That Recent Noteworthy Papers is an excellent idea. Your wiki experience is interesting as, while I don't disagree with it per say, I see a completely different facet. If I look through articles more along my field (Chem/Biochem), I can indeed find errors (and indeed serious ones) like you mention, though my general experience is that these are superficial enough that a completely lay individual would not be considerably affected by those. In fact, I often find that when I'm reading material out of my background, I've been more likely to accrue conceptual errors or just not learn in the first place when reading technical documents (due to trying to fill in the gaps too much on the technical details) or within the more gross simplification of popsci (not that I'm against popsci, but I've often found wikipedia or other wikis to have just enough detail to dodge the messy over-generalizations).

    I definitely agree that such isn't true "pedagogy," but I think it can certainly serve as a reasonable reference. Indeed it shouldn't be their only reference, but I don't think that fear of possibility makes a strong reason to not pursue such routes. After all, I would strongly argue that the general impact of wikis/wikipedia has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of knowledge transfer and gain (even if it's had its faults). All this makes me think that the community here could still benefit from summaries in such a manner, but of course there's more to be said either way.
     
  7. Feb 24, 2016 #6

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Science news websites cover a large spectrum from "for laymen, full of errors and oversimplifications" to "for someone with a background in the broader field, usually more accurate". For the latter, science blogs can be interesting as well. Or forum discussions.

    If you see an interesting paper, feel free to open a thread about it.
    So how many of them did you fix, and how many of them did you leave in, knowing that thousands of wikipedia users will read them in the future?
    I know we had this discussion before - "oh, this is wrong. I'm an expert, but I cannot be bothered fixing it" is not the way wikipedia is designed. If you ignore errors, you are part of the problem that you are complaining about.
     
  8. Feb 24, 2016 #7
    I do think banking on such news sites though is quite limiting as they're likely to only hit the "highlights" (the big mover and shakers papers). Science blogs alleviate this some as authors might write more within their specificity, but it's still hit or miss what you get. Forum discussions also aren't easily shared as a digestible bite. That's why I feel that a wiki-style approach could be helpful. For instance, a noteworthy paper comes but there's no popsci article or easily readable/discoverable blog on it, and yet it might be useful to reference to lay or semi-expert readers. If taking my suggestion, a quick wiki summary could be drafted for that in a centralized location to be easily shared for future use.
     
  9. Feb 24, 2016 #8

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Now don't start! We have had this discussion before, and you KNOW fully well that that isn't the problem! I have a problem with the whole general philosophy of Wikipedia. Period! Changing each entries have nothing to do with it!

    If you want to revive with this smackdown, I'll do it, but just be aware that you are dragging me into this.

    Zz.
     
  10. Feb 24, 2016 #9

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The problem with wikipedia (correct me if I am wrong), is that a professional can correct the information, then a minute later some crank can undo the professional's work and post misinformation again. Why would a professional want to waste their time like this? I believe there have been times where there were malicious continual attacks where the article was locked, but this is rare?
     
  11. Feb 26, 2016 #10
    While this is possible and indeed happens, I think this is less a worry than reflected here. Wikis have developed quite a few self-protection methods over the years, and while in some sense they are constantly vulnerable on some level, they are also constantly under peer review. The net arrow, I would argue, is clearly in the positive direction of providing information (there's far more good out there of significance than the bad).
     
  12. Feb 28, 2016 #11

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    And the misinformation gets reverted again. There are tons of systems in place that make sure misinformation rarely makes it into articles for more than a few minutes. There are a few notable exceptions - and the fact that those exceptions are known shows how rare they are. Wikipedia has a list (as always). This has to be compared to the 5.091.000 articles. Also, good Wikipedia articles always have references where you can check the statements yourself.
    Articles can get locked for edits (from unregistered users, or from all apart from administrators) if nonsense gets added too frequently. It doesn't stay in anyway, but reverting it all the time can be annoying. Users and IPs (and IP ranges) can be blocked as well.

    The articles are typically with fewer errors than the average science news on various websites. At least in the German wikipedia.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: PF Community benefit from research summaries?
Loading...