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Virtual communities and peer recognition
article [ Internet ]
reading and writing: an invitation

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by [irina ]

2004-06-24  |     | 



During one of the research projects for my master's degree in editing, I came across a very interesting online article signed by Stevan Harnad - well-known author and professor at Princeton. In his contribution, he talks about the virtual communities and the cognitive revolution that is going to take place, when these communities will have a respected voice on the Internet and also exchange ideas and freely develop projects, with the help of the new available software.
What kind of communities does he have in mind? First of all, the academic community in general and secondly, the virtual communities which can take a shape on the Internet. He hopes that the academic community will not be left behind in the wave of changes that shapes our world day after day and that it will know how to effectively change its discourse in order to reach as many minds and hearts as possible.
Inspired by one of his earlier projects - the scholarly journal Behavioral & Brain Sciences (BBS) which he founded in 1982 - Harnad wants to create "Psycoloquy". BBS is modeled on current anthropology and has the unique feature called "creative disagreement". Specializing in important and influential ideas and findings in the biobehavioral sciences, BBS, after a round of particularly rigorous peer review, offers to the authors of accepted papers the service of "open peer commentary". Their manuscript is circulated to specialists across disciplines and around the world, inviting each to submit 1000-word commentaries that discuss, criticize, amplify and supplement the work reported in the target article, which is then copublished with the commentaries and the author's formal response to them. This entire process takes about two years - a significant amount of time in the academic community, because in this manner ideas are lost on the way and many others never even see the light of day.
The solution Harnad sees fit to put an end to this problem is the development of "Psycoloquy" (that is, BBS online, concerning: cognitive science, neuroscience, behavioral biology, linguistics, and philosophy). Harnad says that all contributions are to be refereed by a member of "Psycoloquy"'s Editorial Board (more than 70 members), but the idea is not just to implement a conventional journal in electronic form. "Psycoloquy" is devoted to scholarly "skywriting", the radically new form of communication made possible by the Net, in which authors post to "Psycoloquy" a brief account of current ideas and findings on which they wish to elicit feedback from fellow-specialists as well as experts from related disciplines from all over the world.
The refereeing of each original posting and each item of peer feedback on it will be done very quickly, sometimes within a few hours of receipt, in order to maintain the momentum and interactiveness of this unique medium. The Internet promises to restore the speed of scholarly communication to a rate much closer to the speed of thought, while adding to it a global scope and an interactive dimension that are without precedent in human communication, all conducted through the discipline of the written medium, monitored by peer review, and permanently archived for future reference. This is the solution Harnad sees fit for the future development of the academic community in general, because today the scientific world needs to be as fast thinking and to act as fast as the other long-term existing authorities.

This online journal accepts free subscription at: [email protected]
(the one line email must contain only: sub psyc Firstname Lastname)

* Stevan Harnad: Skywriting and skyreading for Researchers, www.text-e.org

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