Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Paper Zapping

A nice quote from Strategic Reading, Ontologies, and the Future of Scientific Publishing, by Allen H. Renear and Carole L. Palmer (Science, 14 August 2009, p.829), on how scientists make use of the literature:

Now, as scientists search and browse, they are making queries and selecting information in much tighter iterations and with many different kinds of objectives in mind, almost as if they were playing a fast-paced video game. […] In a compelling analogy, Nicholas et al. describe a "slightly irritated" father watching his young daughter flick from channel to channel while watching television:

[the] father asks … why she cannot make up her mind and she answers that she is not attempting to make up her mind but is watching all the channels … gathering information horizontally, not vertically.

And they conclude

Now we see what the migration from traditional to electronic sources has meant in information seeking terms. We are all bouncers and flickers, and the success of Google is a testament to that, with its marvelous ability to enhance and amplify this flicking and bouncing (like a really good remote) … […]

Just as the aim of channel surfing is not to find a program to watch, the goal of literature surfing, is not to find an article to read, but rather to find, assess, and exploit a range of information by scanning portions of many articles.


Michael F. Martin said...

And it's possible, is it not, that there will be new specializations and divisions of labor that result.

The evolution of the blogosphere provides interesting data in this regard.

Daniel Lemire said...

I've become a "paper zapper". People are sometimes surprised at how generously I cite papers in some of my recent work... but it is just a side-effect of my workflow... browse, browse, browse... Instead of piling up ten papers and spending a week reading them... I read parts of 20 papers a day. If a paper is interesting, I'll keep getting back to it... reading the abstract several times... drilling down, day after day, into different parts of the paper. I'm highly nonlinear.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

right now, when I've looking for papers, I look to those papers which explain the basics in a concise way and then I browse around for the newest on the matter.I then try to find new ideas to compute or discuss.

However in my paper that I actually try to publish, I got an idea that I found interesting to compute and I looked up, what parts has been already published. In that time I was browsing around on the net. I found out, that sometimes you cannot find what you are looking for with the 'correct' search expressions, you find it later by chance.



Giotis said...

We need to drain the information flood choking our minds or else we'll drown in it. We need to stop "learning" and start thinking. We need filtering and creative evaluation of information but more important, we need time to think deep. Few people do that anymore, the rest of us just occupy our mind. We just rearrange and superficially process information. The information remains raw in our minds; it does not blossom.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Goitis,

I completely agree and disagree with you at the same time. For one I agree and sympathise with those like Ray Bradbury who have warned we are creating people with shortened attention spans by their consuming and limiting understanding to factoids. At the same time I believe that the sense of wonder that brings with it a thirst for true understanding and serves in a further subset of those to expand knowledge is a fixed proportion, which has always been and likely in the foreseeable future remain the same. In the backdrop of the truth of Darwinism I’ve often wondered why this would be so limited not to be seen as a more general advantage.

Unfortunately, the only thing I’ve been able to come up with is the wonderers are there so the rest are only required to believe in what they have wondered about. Perhaps if there be too many wonderers it renders more truth then can be accommodated or acted upon at any given time. That’s sort of like saying most only want to follow the prophets, rather than feeling a need to understand the truths they discover.

I would contend the success of Google, scrolling text under news casts and the 140 character limit given to thought in Tweeter is both indicative and evidence of what I’m saying. So I think the best that can be done is to feed the minds which are truly hungry and realize that most have no hunger or appetite in such regards. I would also contend that one thing that both science and religion share in common is the overwhelming majority can at best be given reason to have faith in either , while only a minority have reason combined with a capacity to achieve any significant level of understanding and even fewer still who will serve to be able to expand it.

“They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.”
-Ray Bradbury



Phil Warnell said...

Hi Goitis,

Just as further evidence of my contention I am always conducting experiments on my fellow office employees to expand and explore this hypothesis. Yesterday if you noticed Google had created a special graphic of their trademark on their search that represents certain things as they often do. Many of these are trivial and evident to all like as to mark holidays or occasions like mother’s day or the 4th of July. On rarer occasions they are references to happening in science either of present or past.

The one yesterday within it depicted a telescope. I simply asked my fellow office workers if they had noticed today’s graphic and if they knew what it referred to. Out of more than twenty people not one had a clue that it referred to Galileo introducing to Venice merchants his newly constructed telescope exactly 400 hundred years ago let alone what significance this entailed. However, what was even more revealing is that none of them was aware that all that one had to do was click on the graphic and all would be revealed. I find this supportive of my hypothesis for it indicates most only see what’s put under their nose and what they manage to gather doesn’t amount to much, yet worse they have little reason to actually explore beyond the obvious.

Come to think of it perhaps Google itself designed it this way as they are running their own experiment and have much more data then I’ve obtained:-)



Bee said...

Dear Stefan,

Thanks for this :-) Related: I want to refer everybody to my review of the book "Distracted" by Maggie Jackson. She cites a lot of research showing that the human brain doesn't learn very well with extensive multitasking and it is a grave mistake to ignore the limits of our hardware.

Hi Giotis,

I completely agree with you.



Arun said...

Hehe, if you're a Feynman and someone has published a paper solving a problem you're interested in, then you don't read the paper; you try to reconstruct the solution yourself. Quite different from paper surfing :)

Paper surfing is appropriate in some situations. E.g., if I'm someone responsible for keeping an eye on my technology company employers competition, and for possible emerging disruptive technology, paper surfing is probably very appropriate.

Plato said...

I have noticed through time here that the neuron connecting has gone well in terms of reflection to subsequent previous postings.

Such elaborations become quite intricate. This is a good thing in terms of model building, that the current info can be supported by, and move a person to continuing to adapt and form new perspectives by those link associations. How those link associations can be used.

While it may seem on the surface not of consequence, such connections create a very healthy mind in terms of it memory and reflection capabilities.


Kay zum Felde said...


my posting should have been starting:

Hi Stefan,



Uncle Al said...

The assumption is that great value is being skimmed. The truth is that crap is too shallow to wade within, Phys. Rev. or TV. How many papers are worth reading? Physical theory has not made testable predictions in 30 years. It's all talk and no action, not even minimized action.

In 2007 Yang and Lee would be forgotten to death. They were too young to matter. Particle theory could not possibly be wrong - for it was rigorously derived from fundamental symmetries. It's still wrong, and for the same reason.

The vacuum is demonstrably chiral anisotropic in the massed sector. Pursue the obvious. The only unquantified risk is success.

Neil' said...

I wonder what anyone thinks of venues like,, Knol, etc? Also, some places beyond ArXiv to post original research. We already heard about ViXrA (get it?) which I thought should be taken more seriously. (Supposedly, much of ArXiV's editorial work is done by Cornell grad students with various biases and agendas. Yeah, doesn't everyone - but then all the more reason to have multiple and more "open" venues, right?