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

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete

  1. Apr 7, 2018 #1
    I'm going to assume there will be some strong options on this piece!

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2018 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think that the objection that they have become far more complicated, and difficult (sometimes) to replicate because of the complexity associated with data analysis if a fair one, but it's quite a stretch to go from there to "obsolete"
  4. Apr 8, 2018 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2018 Award

    Sounds like it was written by a cynic.

    I have read some early papers and I did not find them all short and to the point nor free of jargon.
    Many of them were pretty chatty rather than to the point.

    Most programs I have used for science have worked fine.

    I like the point about papers being more focused on single points and how they accrete to a larger body of knowledge. I think this is important to a more rapid advance of science.
    Also, the growth of scientific knowledge has lead to more scientific knowledge of the world than any one person can know as an individual. This increase of knowledge has also lead to the use of jargon (specialized terms particular to a field) as communication aides to people in a field.
  5. Apr 8, 2018 #4
    I don't have much knowledge about this topic, but I'm pretty sure that earlier scientific papers were less accessible than the author implies. Many publications are hidden behind paywalls but it's much easier to get a hold almost any kind of information on the internet. I doubt that any means of distributing papers in the past can rival this kind of accessibility. Even assuming what the author says is true, I also doubt that academics intentionally try to complicate their work. Jargon is necessary to ensure precision when communicating within the field. Scientific communication with the public, on the other hand, is an arduous and equally important task that involves retaining this level of precision while teaching in an engaging and understandable manner. This is an entirely different can of worms I won't get into here.

    I'm more interested in his point about interactivity. The interactivity of notebooks in Mathematica is something that I wish was more prevalent in standardized document formats. But it's difficult to standardize these kinds of documents. Even though I am a fan of programs like Mathematica, their licenses can be hideously expensive. IPython, Sage, and other free software are potential solutions but change rapidly and haven't become widespread enough as of now. Academia is fairly traditional and is very slow to change. I hope academic papers can come up to speed to accommodate for the wonderful capabilities of technology.
  6. Apr 22, 2018 #5
    Papers should be shorter for sure. As the number of papers increases exponentially, journals should encourage short, concise and far less redundant work.
  7. May 17, 2018 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In theoretical/computational neiroscience, we have modelDB:


    Host your model's scripts and data, reference the link in your paper, and let people run it themselves.
  8. May 22, 2018 #7
    I used to have a pet solution to this problem. My AI fantasy used to be to have all mathematical and scientific knowledge stored in a computer which can serve as encyclopedia, proof checker, tutor, experiment proposer, theorem originator, conversationalist, data analyzer, etc. When I say "stored" I mean the knowledge representation would be such that it would be suitable for semantic processing by a machine.

    One aspect would be that all scientific papers would be written in such a way that they could be machine translated into a format that could be parsed by the computer. It would then validate the paper according to various criteria and either accept or reject. Papers which are basically duplicates of those already accepted would of course be rejected.

    If you wanted to review the latest literature on a given topic, you would log in to the system and engage in a conversation with the computer using natural language. It would serve as a super-intelligent scientist who would know all existing scientific knowledge and be able to out-think the greatest geniuses in history.

    But I have nightmares when I think of that kind of system being controlled by the type of people we have in prominence now in the tech world, or even by benevolent people. I like the way the current system is somewhat redundant and perhaps chaotic and full of mistakes. Some redundancy, error, and even chaos is far better than central control by a small group of humans.
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  9. May 22, 2018 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2018 Award

    I know some people who work at the ZFIN (Zebrafish Information Network) DB.
    They have a lot of people who read articles published on zebrafish biology and curate entries into the DB about the findings, methods and techniques used in the articles. You can then do searches on the information.
    This is analogous to our machine reading of the papers, but probably more open ended and less restrictive, in that what the papers are about would not have to be defined before the papers are read. A better approach in my opinion.

    I think this would be a bad idea. It is good to publish things that ether confirm or deny previous publications. Both are useful in the progress of science.
    There could be many valid reasons to publish either something that confirms or denies a previous publication which a program may not understand.
  10. May 28, 2018 #9
    I have also thought about the idea that in the future we could have AI super scientists who could know more than any single individual would be capable of due to mortality and whatnot. If there were many of them, this future would not have the problem of the AIs having "central control by a small group of humans".
  11. May 28, 2018 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Until the AIs unionized.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?