ok people who think google obviates the usefulness controlled subject access…

Suppose you remember running across a nest of literature on the history of office supplies/tools/filing systems/the rolodex, etc., but you don’t remember any authors or titles…

How do you go about re-finding that, or a good hook back into the nest, using Google Scholar/Google Books?

web survey instrument design 101

1. Your web survey must allow respondents to go back to the previous answer or page of answers.
2. It must allow this without clearing all of the data they have already entered.

I am a researcher. I care about research in general. I care about the topic of the survey which prompted this post. It is important and also related to my own work. But when I tried to go back to change an answer on the previous page and all my responses were cleared, I just closed the browser tab containing the survey and do not plan to go back to it.

This makes me rather sad, because most people don’t have the time to deal with the consequences of someone else’s poor design decisions. Sigh.

open peer commentary

The journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences has a very interesting format.

Articles selected for publication are then circulated to a large number of experts in the field, who write commentary. This “Open Peer Commentary” is then published immediately following the article, and this material is often more lengthy than the article itself. Finally, there is a response from the author of the article addressing issues raised in the commentary. More description of the process here.

One of my mantras is “Every paper is a work in progress,” and I try to keep in mind that scholarship is a conversation happening in slow motion. So it is fascinating to see that conversation and development of ideas all put together in one easily accessible place. Of course, the conversation doesn’t stop there, but this format makes it so explicit.


Why is it that, in order to publish anything, it seems you are expected to always be saying something new? If your findings have already been found by someone else, your work is likely to be considered low priority or low quality for publishing.

Isn’t science partially built on the notion of confirming what we think we know? Given a good study design and execution, why should findings that don’t contradict what we know disqualify one’s work from serious consideration? How often do we see “important” studies replicated to see if the findings hold? Pretty much never.

In Memory Practices in the Sciences, Geoffrey Bowker mentions that it is well known that most scientific papers do not, in actuality, give enough information on methodology and methods for anyone to be able to replicate them. I’ve been frustrated with this before. I’ll find interesting studies with interesting findings that seem relevant to questions I may want to ask one day. But I can’t tell exactly how the researchers went about answering their questions. There are hand-wavy black boxes. “The data were analyzed” is probably my favorite. Explicitness of methods is one reason I enjoy reading dissertations; however, I keep in mind that dissertations are written by baby scholars and many experienced researchers have told me that after a few years you tend to realize just how embarassing your dissertation work was.

As with “not new” results, it’s the same with negative results. The big journals don’t want to publish them, even though they tell us a lot. So we have these Journals of Negative Results popping up in areas and disciplines.

Research, like everything else, seems to fall into the trap of privileging Newer Bigger Faster More! As some would say, “That’s life.”

I will not allow this to further demoralize me tonight.