A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2023 May 12, 06:41 -0700
David Pike, you wrote:
"You suggested that Navlist should be available like JON/JOIN. The difference is that papers sent to the journals of learned societies are peer reviewed to death before they're published. That means most of what's written can be relied upon to be reasonably correct. "
The value of peer-review is regularly questioned in the academic world --and unusually so this week! First, there's the problem of journal publishers thriving financially off the distribution of these "reasonably correct" resources. There's a revolt against this rapacious financial model, a model dominated by the monopolistic "Elsevier", which is currently in the headlines: Quoting from an article at salon.com:
Academic publishing is the bedrock of modern science: a published paper in a respected, peer-reviewed journal is the mark of scientific advancement, the hinge point upon which most technological, medical and social advances rely. Yet the sanctity of the scientific enterprise is suffering due to "greed," according to a growing chorus of voices in the scientific community.
There's more coverage from The Guardian.
In related news, "paper mills" are having great success publishing fake articles, which pass peer-review. There's an article today at science.org: Fake scientific papers are alarmingly common. When they say "alarmingly common", they mean that as many as one-third of peer-reviewed articles in some fields (neuroscience was the example given) are simply fakes -- successfully peer-reviewed fakes. Quoting:
[Paper mills] churn out bogus manuscripts containing text, data, and images partly or wholly plagiarized or fabricated, often massaged by ghost writers. Some papers are endorsed by unrigorous reviewers solicited by the authors. Such manuscripts threaten to corrupt the scientific literature, misleading readers and potentially distorting systematic reviews. The recent advent of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT has amplified the concern.
All of this leads to a trend away from peer-review. If not peer-review, what then? Maybe something like the NavList model of conversation and casual debate?? The NavList model isn't so exotic except that here there is no clear demarcation between something that might be called a "paper" and something else that is just "conversation". In some open archives for scientific papers, authors post ideas --"articles". Other people comment on those ideas. A consensus on the value of the original idea (paper) emerges gradually. Junk articles are usually just ignored. But this can't solve one major problem with the topic at hand -- the "science" of navigation. The number of people who can properly peer-review an article on celestial navigation is exceedingly small. The number of people who can comment or ask questions about an open article is larger, but the quality of their analysis may be much lower. Achieving a goal of "reasonably correct" before publication may now be a utopian fantasy. Perhaps it always was??
Regarding the journals of Navigation, let's not forget the huge trouble that Robin Stuart, Lars Bergman, and their other co-authors had with peer-review before the Endurance22 expedition. Their article, containing useful and important details on the predicted position of the wreck of Endurance, was denied publication for no good reason that any of us have been able to determine. They eventually published it here as a NavList "article". And this is by no means the first time that this has happened. The community of celestial navigation expertise is a tiny one, and the reviewers are often not up to the task when the subject matter is outside the "comfort zone" of the more prominent experts.
David, you concluded your post with:
"That said, a sifting process to put references to a particular post into strings as some other forums do would be useful."
Hmm... I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Could you give me an example of what you're picturing? Do you mean keyword listings?
For the record, I don't think the NavList community's messages constitute anything like the output of a "scientific" journal, and I'm not interested in pushing the remnants of the group in that direction. I am also not interested in glorifying the message archives. At the same time, as I have noted several times recently, NavList communication and discussion has been in steady decline for several years. Maybe we do need a new model... If it is to survive, what should NavList aspire to be?
Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
Conanicut Island USA