There are many possible steps for improving the quantity and quality of scholarly communication:
– usage of English instead of local languages
– usage of Lyx / LaTeX instead of complicated DTP-workflow with Quarkxpress
– usage of “academic social networks” instead of publishers
– cost reduction in reading and publishing
– usage of Wikipedia
It’s is remarkable that nearly no of these points are realized today. In most countries of the world, for example in Japan is the academic language mostly Japanese. That means, the authors are using their own alphabet and their own vocabulary for talking about medicine, humanities or computing. The same is true for the next advice. The normal publication pipeline (even in US countries) is that the author writes a manuscript with MS-word, sends this with snail-mail to the publisher, and they are reading in the papers with a flatbed scanner and formatting the same text again with Quark-X-Press. That it is not a joke, that is the normal method of how at least 50% of the scientific output is created. The next possible acceleration would be the usage of “Academic social network”.- Today, worldwide this method is nearly unknown. 0% of all papers are published in Academia.edu or similar services.
If one or even all advices are realized then the communication speed would increase dramatically. That means, that the quality would increase and it is easier to introduce new authors to the community. The reason why a neoluddistic work-habit is so widespread in academia has to do with over-regulation of the system. Academia has no motivation to increase their productivity. Some of them like the famous astronomer Clifford Stoll argues, that using a computer instead of his lovely typewriter would weaken the quality of his paper. Everything which is slow and expensive is seen as high-quality method. This attitude prevents technical progress.
The last point on the list is “Usage of Wikipedia”. Today, Wikipedia is mostly ignored by academics. They think, that an encyclopaedia is not real science. But a short view on the statistics shows, that science-related articles inside Wikipedia generates much traffic. For example, the article “pathfinding” has 300 visits per day. that’s 109500 on a yearly basis. If an academic has written this article, he would be the author of the most ever read paper worldwide.
Additionally, Wikipedia pages are often cited in academics paper. Even if all guidelines are recommend the opposite, is citing the wikipedia a must have for most academic papers. But what is the consequence if the url “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathfinding” is cited in around 500 academics paper? It means, that 500 papers are referencing this source. So it can be called a fundamental building block of scientific knowledge.
Often, Wikipedia is recognized as a non-academics platform. Because the quality of the articles is low and everybody can write one. But in reality, Wikipedia is the forefront of academia. There is no such thing like a second, better WIkipedia version which is used at the universities. The reality is, that the average professor is using Wikipedia plus Google Scholar and that’s all the information he has. Or the make the point very clear. Publishing in article about a scientific topic inside wikipedia is more complicated and more prestigious then see an article in nature. “Wikipedia first” is the goal, which means that only ofter publishing something into the encyclopedia it is possible to write a dedicated science paper which is published in a journal. The reason is simple: a science-paper can be ignored by the academic community. Not all researcher are reading the “nature magazine”, but all researcher are reading Wikipedia. The main advantage is, that in an Wiki-article the relevant literature is cited so i call Wikipedia together with Google Scholar one of the most important tools, which Academia has today.
The reason why Wikipedia is normally not called a reputable source has to do with the fact, that no original research is published there. Wikipedia is not a journal for primary research but it is popular oriented. But what exactly is “original research”? Mostly it is something new, it is based on the known facts which are enriched with an innovative idea. In most cases, original research is not really new. All what the scientific author has done is to understand the literature of the past completely. Or to explain it from another point of view. If somebody is diligent and he collects all the given information about a subject, than the step to something new is very small. If the information are not well edited, it is impossible to put the innovative addon onto the top. I would call Wikipedia the real science community, because it has the baseline as the goal, from which one some single researcher can invent something new. Nearly all possible innovations of the future are given by the published paper of today. The question is only, which papers has to be combined to solve hard problems.