The future of science publishing from 1996

Floating by in the Twitter stream, this from @leonidkruglyak. It leads to a light-hearted opinion(ated) piece by Sydney Brenner in Current Biology, 1996.

In 1996, you may recall, the Web was just a few years old. Amusingly (sadly?), it seems that Brenner predicted many of the topics in science publishing that we’re still discussing in 2013. It’s just that he thought they would be implemented in no time at all.

For example, open refereeing:

It is incidents such as this that have led me to question whether the anonymity of referees needs to be guarded so closely

Self-publishing/archiving and post-publication peer review:

The electronic pre-print with open discussion (not refereeing) will soon become commonplace; in fact, labs could go into the publication business by themselves

Demise of the journal impact factor, publishing economics and altmetrics:

We will need something to substitute for the present ratings given to papers appearing in ‘superior, peer-reviewed publications’ (and commercial publishers will find ways of making people pay for this)

Perhaps we should have a readership index; it should not be beyond the wit of man to devise a way of recording whenever a paper is read, hard-copied or cited

As Ethan said:

I’d be more than happy with the unlinked data web

Visit this URL and you’ll find a perfectly-formatted CSV file containing information about recent earthquakes. A nice feature of R is the ability to slurp such a URL straight into a data frame:

quakes <- read.csv("http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/gis/qed.asc", header = T)
colnames(quakes)
# [1] "Date"      "TimeUTC"   "Latitude"  "Longitude" "Magnitude" "Depth"
# number of recent quakes
nrow(quakes)
# [1] 3135
# biggest recent quake
subset(quakes, quakes$Magnitude == max(quakes$Magnitude, na.rm = T))
#            Date    TimeUTC Latitude Longitude Magnitude Depth
# 2060 2010/02/27 06:34:14.0  -35.993   -72.828       8.8    35

I hear a lot about the “web of data” and the “linked data web” but honestly, I’ll be happy the day people start posting data as delimited, plain text instead of HTML and PDF files.