The Future of Scientific Publication - Role Reversal Ahead

October 13, 2009

Here's a not-very-risky prediction. Within the next decade, papers will be winnowed to something resembling press releases or commentaries. The experiments themselves- the data, methodological details, and statistical algorithms- will inhabit a network of databases. ...

A few hurdles to the post-paper world remain, however. Chief among these is the academic rewards system. Hiring and promotion decisions for scientists currently depend on the frequency and stature of traditional publications in a pathologically myopic way (leading to, among other perversities, the division of single studies into unnecessary series of smallest publishable units). Working scientists will have little incentive to contribute to emerging infrastructures until career metrics are reformed to better reflect other kinds of productivity such as data generation and creation of software and other tools. -Alex Wild, On the future of scientific communication

What Alex is talking about is the ongoing revolution in information distribution that's slowly making its presence known in scientific publication. And he's right on target in identifying this transformation's rate-limiting step: the academic rewards system.

This raises an interesting question: given the inevitable changes ahead for scientific publication, both as a component of science and as a business, how will the academic rewards system adapt?

Here are some past articles that might be useful when thinking about what the future holds and more interestingly, ideas for accelerating its arrival: