Simultaneous publication in PLOS Computational Biology and Wikipedia

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In March a refereed journal article entitled "Circular permutation in proteins" was simultaneoulsy published in the PLOS Computational Biology and cut and paste into Wikipedia.  It has been blogged about extensively (as I am about to here) and I recommend Wikimedian in Residence.

What does this mean for the Journal of the Future?  I am not going to consider the institutional question about peer reviewed journals--how their reputation might be sullied or enhanced by new venues for scientific publication--as in this particular case the publication is not an endrun around establishment science.  It is instead a dual-channel publication, fixed and mutable.  The experiment is to see how a journal article fares, when it can be publically ammended in perpetuity.  Just yesterday (April 9) Abyzov added TOPOFIT, a structure-based algorythm for detecting circular permutations--which was "undid" the same day as self-promotion.  The editorial process is underway.

Three years ago I encouraged D.Scott Smith to have his students simultaneously publish their final projects for Parasites and Pestilence on Wikipedia.  My concern was that older entries would be found through search (say of Malaria) even though the information was no longer current, or the best for a variety of reasons.  However, because student writeups of infectious parasites were published both on ParaSITE and in Wikipedia, a few that were entirely new stubs were speedily deleted as potential copyright infringements.  Very little remains Wikipedia stub for Lingutula still preserved at ParaSITE: see Annie Wattles Lingulata Serrata.  I initiated the process of complaint after the automatic removal, and reorganization under Linguatula Serrata, explaining that the duplication was intentional, but the editor responsible for this realm of Wikipedia suggested that the entry be relegated to a special academic sandbox for wikistubs.  Proving that the author was only copying from herself proved prohibitively complicated and I was finally given the advice to simply publish a different enough version that the copy would not be automatically detected in the future.  Obviously this problem will not occur for PLOS, but it indicates a very peculiar unforseen consequence of simultaneous publication.

 I would like to talk to any Humbio faculty who have entertained simultaneous publication, and discuss what unintended consequences you can imagine and how these might be more gracefully forestalled.  Do you edit or referee a journal which intends to experiment with Wikimedia?  Wikipedia German has approved support funds to help automate workflows of journals to first publish to Wikimedia, the software for which is in tended to be shared among the journal community. 

 

Last modified Wed, 26 Jun, 2013 at 5:00