The End of the Paper as the Primary Means of Scholarly Communication

A look back at “The Paper” from the year 2065:  “The ‘semantic silos of selfish science’ are becoming a thing of the past, and credit comes from accurately tracking the provenance of ideas, not just counting packets of communication.”  More:

Papers survived as long as they did because they had something right: they contained human-sized chunks of knowledge, by humans and for humans. Trying to bundle the infrastructure into the paper was bound to be problematic. The last two decades have seen a welcome return to narratives so that we can communicate all aspects of research between scientist, citizen and policymaker alike.

No longer is it “one size fits all”, and nor do we conflate human narrative, intellectual content and executability. Perhaps the most important outcome of co-evolution has been the emergence of new agreed ways of expressing the design of our science systems – the configurations of tools and resources that constitute the interacting information circuits we use and re-use on an everyday basis. 

We still have human-sized chunks of knowledge, represented at the right level for human consumption and reasoning and deeply linked. What was once called “the literature” is an increasingly machine-processable research record. The “semantic silos of selfish science” are becoming a thing of the past, and credit comes from accurately tracking the provenance of ideas, not just counting packets of communication.

Today we more closely achieve the desired symbiosis whereby computers do what they are good at and free humans to most effectively do their piece. We accomplish research at scale in many dimensions, by understanding that research requires a sense-making network of social machines and social objects – with innovation and without reinvention.

That’s written by and for scientists, but the basic point is worth pondering in the context of other fields.  Read the whole thing here.

One thought on “The End of the Paper as the Primary Means of Scholarly Communication

  1. I’ve been thinking about this recently. I think, for law professors and certainly for other fields, it is becoming true that you can be a relevant part of the research community without writing papers, and it’s increasingly hard to be a relevant part of the research community by writing papers alone. But I think papers are going to continue to have primacy in legal scholarship, simply because I can’t imagine anything else replacing them, institutionally, as evidence of intellectual labor. I imagine the same is true for other fields, but I don’t know.

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