I have used the phrases “publish -> filter” and “filter -> publish” in a number of recent blog posts related to scientific publishing, but had been unable to find proper attribution to them with a casual search. While reading Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s draft of Planned Obsolescence, I came across the phrase “filter-then-publish” which she attributed to Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” I am adding that book to the top of my reading list right now.
Planned Obsolescence explores the process of academic, peer-review publishing and argues for revising the process to be more open. In one section, she makes a good case for reviewer reputation as a necessary requirement for open reviewing (the “publish-then-filter” model proposed by Shirky):
…in a self-multiplying scholarly commons, some kind of assessment of the material being published (or having been published) remains important, but not because of scarce resources [as in traditional publishing]; instead, what remains scarce are time and attention. For this reason, peer review needs to be put not in the service of gatekeeping, or determining what should be published for any scholar to see, but of filtering, or determining what of the vast amount of material that has been published is of interest or value to a particular scholar.
She then goes on to point out that pure technological solutions to collaborative filtering will not create the kind of publications we would like to see:
Using such new technologies for purposes of deliberation, however, requires that all members of the network be equally empowered — and in fact, equally compelled — to contribute their ideas and voice their dissent, lest the network fall prey to a new mode of self-reinforcing group-think
but there is still a remaining challenge of “placing the advancement of the community’s knowledge ahead of one’s own personal advancement.”
There is more: in addition to discussing peer review, she tackles authorship, texts, preservation, and the role of the university itself in this ecology. I am looking forward to digesting the rest of it, as it evolves. I say evolves, because Fitzpatrick’s book itself is another interesting experiment in open publishing and open review. While her book will undergo the normal publication review process of NYU Press, she has also posted a working draft of the book on a web site using CommentPress, a WordPress plugin that allows readers to comment on specific paragraphs of a manuscript. She also talks about Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s experience of publishing his book-in-progress in this manner.
Although the basic ideas of open publishing are not particularly new, this field seems to be undergoing a Renaissance of sorts due to the combined influence of social interaction enabled by the Internet and increasing volume of publications (at least in CS and in related fields) that are straining established review processes. It will be interesting in Clay Shirky touches on this in his upcoming keynote address at CSCW 2010. I hope he does!