Wiki as A Time Saver for Researchers

Wiki as A Time Saver for Researchers
Dear All,
The intention of this message is to draw researchers attention to Wiki
as a potentially efficient new means for scientific/technical
communication/education/collaboration. The author believes the current
approach (papers) alone is not very efficient for idea exchange among
Assume a learner new to a field has already read some classic textbooks
for systematic knowledge acquisition, and already had the framework of
the field on his mind, and is going to specialize on a specific
problem. At this point, he has to search for and read existing papers
on this topic, which can be an extremely painful hunting and digestion
progress. Whether if he just wants to get informed of as many previous
efforts on the problem as possible, or if he believes he has got an
original idea and wants to ensure the originality, he probably has to
undertake an extensive search with Google/CiteSeer for all papers
available online with a seemingly relevant title. He has to scan
through a screenful of downloaded papers. Even after doing this, there
can still be new papers found later to be relevant.
Papers are essentially individual units of information shattered over
the Internet, and the current approach to find them -- search engines
connect researchers to them via a keyword combination. Not to mention
that we can't be sure the wanted papers all contain such a keyword
phrase, the prohibitively enormous amount of search results can always
bury critical information.
On the other hand, web sites that have a well organized collection of
papers on a topic, as an information gateway alternative to search
engines, are easy to get out of date and miss the latest useful
discoveries for a topic.
The idea of using Wiki came to my mind last night. It can be useful in
both scenarios below:
(1) A newcomer to a field who wants to investigate all existing efforts
on a specific task;
(2) Experienced researchers who want to effortlessly keep track of new
ideas/solutions to a specific task (or any specific task in a field).
So what is Wiki? Wiki is an easy way to collaboratively edit online
documentation via a Web interface. A live example is Wikipedia
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, which is an online encyclopedia on general
How can Wiki be used in scientific communication? Usually, what a
researcher discovers is a new idea, or an enhancement to an existing
idea. He can contribute this new idea to a Wiki page where all
historical efforts for a task are documented in an organized manner.
Readers interested in a specific task can directly go down to that
context and get all the relevant details about previous efforts. This
is like a precisely targeted advertising model which immediately
connects scientific authors and readers of the same specific research
interest. It also helps a new idea to quickly propagate to researchers
who set a "news alert" to capture all new efforts on a specific
How specific can a problem be defined? It's unlimited and up to your
needs. It can be far more specific than what categories are defined in
Yahoo Directory or Dmoz Directory.
If the Wiki way of scientific communication becomes popular,
researchers can save countless hours from "search", and put more time
on problem solving.
To generalize my initiative, the Wiki way is useful not only in
sci/tech communication, but also in any general domains where the
current state of the art of search engines can't return relevant and
comprehensive results.
Yao Ziyuan
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Please understand that I am always supportive of new idea, but I do not think that what you have proposed here will be very helpful.
I don't see that it will be any less challenging to find the appropriate Wiki article than it is to find any other article published in the traditional media. You will still need a search engine.
While refereeing papers is not without problems, it probably is still a better QC method than Wiki editing.
By the way, it is not that difficult to find all the revelent papers for a subject. All you need is one paper to get you started. Start by collecting the cited references and also use citation indices to find papers that cite your starting paper. With this new set of papers, repeat the process (find the references and papers that cite the articles you have already found). It is not a difficult process, you can find high school graduates will do quite well if properly induced. After about two or three cycles of this, you'll find that there is a closed circle of papers that are repeated cited over and over. A lot if these links are beginning to become available on websites - ScienceDirect is one site that I know of, and I think that Science and Nature also do it some. Not all of the older papers are on line yet, and some publishers are loathe to link to publications that they didn't publish, but it the links are quickly developing. Keyword searches are only a starting point.
Reply to
John Spevacek
By Wiki I meant we no longer look for "papers", but focus on "ideas". A Wiki page is dedicated to a specific problem (more specific problems derived from it or related problems have their own Wiki pages linked to by this page). On this page, organized ideas are documented. So you simply find the main Wiki page on your problem, and everything you want is on that page. There are no longer individual papers - they are extracted their essential ideas and these ideas are merged to one big Wiki "paper". A search engine is used to find the main Wiki page for the problem.
I'm not totally against the paper-based and magazine-based styles; they have their advantages. Wiki editing is not mainly for quality control (although there can be a moderated Wiki mechanism), but for encouraging more voices and ideas. We assume the readers of the Wiki pages can judge for themselves whether an idea/approach is promising and worth support. If you are in support of an approach, you can work more on it and make that branch stronger. Although the ecology of papers is similar to this, papers usually don't tell you what alternative (competing) ideas are available for the same task.
The amount of papers in a closed cycle you get can still be huge. The reader actually doesn't care about papers; they care about what ideas are there and what their differences are. A Wiki page is best suitable for this purpose.
Reply to
If you really disagree with somebodys work, then a wiki would allow you to simply correct the text. What could be easier? ;)
Reply to
Niels L. Ellegaard
There can be a "pros" and a "cons" section for each idea...
Reply to
This basically sounds like a review of the published literature. Is that correct? If so, that I could buy into, as review papers are always useful for people that are new to a field, as well as for those who are intellectually curious about a subject and want an over view.
Reply to
John Spevacek

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