Re: Newsletter & Call for Papers WebSci'18

Sören, Paul, Ruben, Daniel, Sarven, et al.

Clearly this is one of those issues that many of us involved in Web standards deeply care about. There are good science & technology reasons to move away from submitting scholarly works in a digital cloak of dead-tree technology, despite that few actually print hardcopies any longer. But like so many discussions, it isn’t the technology that is the issue, its recalcitrant human behavior. 

The reality is, [the greater] “we" are creatures of familiarity - we have accounts on EasyChair … we have templates… it has been done like this for decades … why rock the boat? Publishers use PDF and have [brittle] workflow systems. 

Maybe in 2018, we’re at a tipping point. 

In 2012, I gave a talk at the Society of Scholarly Publishers annual conference on making semantics work and the role of linked data.[1] To my surprise (because I was a neophyte in this forum), the conference was sponsored & attended by wall-to-wall scholarly publishers who appeared to be printing money. I noticed they gave away generous swag, presumably because they made a handsome profit margin.[2] Change was in the air. Scholarly publishers knew then (circa 2012), that they needed to update the publishing workflows & deal with the massive volume of content & data. 

Perhaps if “we” [Web of data stewards] organized and thoughtfully educated scholarly publishers on the benefits of this new, better, faster, cheaper approach (yes, of course they have heard that pitch before), this time they will listen & act differently. They’ll want to see/hear about reference implementations — They’ll ask, 'What international academic conference had the tools & workflow to consume this future of scholarly publishing concept you’re suggesting we buy into?'

If this makes sense, I suspect that the people on this list are not more than 2-3 degrees of separation away from the business strategists at several of the major scholarly publishers. 

At a minimum, the topic of webby Web of science publishing deserves to be a theme/track IMHO. Sarven is right, we need to be the change. 

There is of course, the end-user technology stack issue — aka MS Word. While those on this list dream in LaTeX, tens of thousands of scholars who publish … do not. I’ve recently gone over to the dark side for my research —Now I’m a social scientist seeking to bridge the gap between scientists, policy and decision makers. My new universe could use a lot more webby … but that brings up an entirely different set of issues. 

For now, let’s keep trying to push the envelope on scholarly communication on the Web arts, the rest will follow as they have done before. 


Bernadette Hyland-Wood
PhD candidate, University of Queensland, School of Political Science & International Studies  || Twitter @BernHyland

[1] <>

[2] <>

> On Feb 21, 2018, at 3:23 PM, Sören Auer <> wrote:
> Dear Paul, all,
> I fully agree, the aspect of representing scholarly communication in a
> more structured and semantic way is absolutely crucial.
> Making scholarly communication more webby can help here a lot, because
> semantics can be meanwhile easily embedded and integrated in Web documents.
> Another angle to the issue is integrating semantic descriptions into
> something like an open research knowledge graph. We recently drafted a
> position paper [1] about this and are now starting the development of a
> first prototype.
> Overall, I can only support Sarven and the others, we need to do more to
> use the practices we preach. There are certainly still certain obstacles
> (e.g. usability), but identifying those helps us to guide further
> research and development.
> Best,
> Sören
> [1]
> On 21.02.2018 05:13, Paul Tyson wrote:
>> Apologies for a late and top-posted response. I didn't follow the thread
>> closely until it got interesting. I respect Sarven's work and appreciate
>> his tireless advocacy for improved practices of scholarly communication.
>> But making scholarly documents webby and decentralized is only part of
>> the solution, and not the most important part.
>> Scholarly communication, being just a refined way of thinking, is about
>> getting ideas from the mind of one person into the mind of another. On
>> the surface that appears to happen by sending a string of words from one
>> person to another. But what really happens is that the two minds
>> involved come to a mutual understanding of *terms*, *propositions*,
>> *evidence*, and *arguments*. That is not to say the minds agree--only
>> that, in any particular monograph, they understand these components well
>> enough to pursue rational discussion. In paper and paper-like systems of
>> communication, the capable reader will parse out the terms,
>> propositions, evidence, and arguments from the surface string of words
>> (and the considerate writer will try not to make this too difficult).
>> Every scholarly article should have a digital manifest that includes:
>> precise definitions of all significant terms used by the author
>> (obviously as URIs); machine-readable propositions and arguments the
>> author wishes to make regarding said terms; evidence, or links to
>> evidence, that the author wishes to submit for examination (along with
>> suitable description and provenance statements) to substantiate the
>> terms, propositions, and arguments. The narrative article should contain
>> anchors at points relevant to the manifest contents, to allow building a
>> human-readable, machine-actionable web of commentary, supporting and
>> contrary evidence, and counter-argument.
>> That is truly "scientific" publishing on the web.
>> Regards,
>> --Paul
>> On Tue, 2018-02-20 at 20:06 -0300, Daniel Schwabe wrote:
>>> Hi Ruben,
>>>> On Feb 20, 2018, at 17:09  - 20/02/18, Ruben Verborgh
>>>> <> wrote:
>>>>> ...I think this explains why they haven't been widely adopted,
>>>>> even by expert practitioners of the technology itself.
>>>> I think the bigger problem here is the valuation that universities
>>>> give to print over paper;
>>>> I don't think it's a technological issue, as I'll show below.
>>> I contend that the reasons Universities (and other institutions) value
>>> print over paper are basically the same as I outlined before. 
>>>>> Take 1, for example. We have all been trained on how to write
>>>>> sequentially (as Ted Nelson puts it…). Nobody really knows how to
>>>>> write hypertext properly; we don’t even know what are the criteria
>>>>> and parameters to evaluate hypertext as an effective media for
>>>>> communication (of any kind, not only scholarly!). I claim that to
>>>>> use the Web in a really webby way one should author “proper”
>>>>> hypertexts.
>>>> Maybe, but that does not make the Web a worse candidate for 1. From
>>>> what you're saying, I deduce that the Web covers all
>>>> functionality that print also covers for 1. So it's mature in that
>>>> regard.
>>> Well, if you are just replacing “carbon with silicon”, i.e., simply
>>> replacing the support for the documents, I don’t really see much
>>> advantage to changing the current status quo, where this already
>>> happens with the use of PDFs, for example. I was referring to truly
>>> native Web documents.
>>>> With regard to hypertext, specifically for research, I think that
>>>> “clickable” references in articles are a huge leap forward compared
>>>> to looking up numbers in a list. And that's just one thing.
>>> This would be a very simple improvement from the print-based document
>>> model, with a convenient way to consume them if you are doing it on an
>>> internet-connected device. PDFs with embedded clickable links would
>>> suffice. Not enough to justify more “radical” changes.
>>>>> Regarding 2, in addition to the issue above, there are a whole
>>>>> slew of new (social) process alternatives enabled by the
>>>>> technologies, for which again we haven’t yet found a consensus
>>>>> within the community on how to proceed (e.g., reviewing process,
>>>>> identity/authentication, provenance, social networking, etc…). I
>>>>> expect time will show what works, and how.
>>>> Well, the reviewing process already happens on the Web, even for
>>>> articles that are designed as PDF.
>>>> So we got that working.
>>> Absolutely not. The Web in this case functions merely as a
>>> communications medium, supporting current practices/processes. As you
>>> say, this already happens, no need to change anything. But I’m
>>> thinking of (again) truly web-native process, as some proposals
>>> already make (I’m not going to mention specific ones…). I am sure I
>>> don’t have to detail this to you, as you know and practice that
>>> yourself.
>>>>> Regarding 3, it’s not clear at all how long will the communication
>>>>> made via the new technologies will really last… we see already
>>>>> evidence of link rot, for instance, even for recent content. For
>>>>> example, can we safely assume that the contents made available
>>>>> using the new technologies will be available, accessible and
>>>>> usable 20 years from now? Actually, some may even ask, Is this a
>>>>> real requirement at all?
>>>> Web archiving is working well so far. And one can always print a
>>>> webpage.
>>> Hmm, this sounds to me as an argument to maintain the status quo. In
>>> other words, never mind the technological archiving alternative, use
>>> paper as a backup. Then why not stick to paper?
>>>> But then again, many of the PDF articles are not printed anymore
>>>> either, so that problem doesn't go away.
>>> Right, one more reason to stick to paper, no?
>>>> (BTW, in this context, do watch
>>> Will do, thanks!
>>>> So summarizing, even though your 3 requirements seem valid,
>>>> I haven't found a reason in there not to publish in a more webby
>>>> way,
>>> I suspect we are interpreting “webby” in different ways. I still think
>>> my admittedly feeble argument as to why current technologies are still
>>> preferable, from a community point of view (including all the
>>> stakeholders, not only the researchers themselves…) still stand.
>>>> especially given that the supposedly “print” process already takes
>>>> places on the Web.
>>> See above - “takes place on the Web” can be understood in many ways;
>>> I’m discounting the case in which the Web is being used as a digital
>>> support for “traditional” ways, for the reasons argued above and
>>> previously.
>>> Cheers
>>> D

Received on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 12:02:51 UTC