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Psycoloquy & skywriting

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  • Psycoloquy & skywriting

    Dear Biomch-L readers,

    While browsing in the databases of a number of psychology-oriented list-
    servers, I came across a reference to the following, highly interesting

    Stevan Harnad, Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication Continuum
    of Scientific Inquiry (Psychological Science 1: 342-344, 1990).

    As it happens, I recognized the author's name as the editor of another email
    list, and Professor Harnad kindly emailed the original text to me a couple
    of hours ago. Upon my query whether I might repost his article on Biomch-L,
    he kindly consented and appended the note below which, because of its shorter
    length, seems more appropriate for reposting. Those of you interested in the
    original PS paper are welcome to ask me (or Professor Harnad) for an email

    Regards -- Herman J. Woltring, Eindhoven/NL
    oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
    Date: Sun, 24 Mar 91 13:47:50 EST
    From: Stevan Harnad
    Subject: RE: Scholarly Skywriting
    To: Herman J. Woltring

    Yes you may report the Psychological Science article, as long as its source
    (Psychological Science, Volume, Page, Date, etc.) is acknowledged.

    Below is some more information about PSYCOLOQUY, which you may likewise
    repost if you wish. -- Sincerely, Stevan Harnad


    PSYCOLOQUY: A Peer Reviewed Forum for Current Research
    and Critical Discussion

    Stevan Harnad
    Department of Psychology
    Princeton University
    Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.

    Scholarly communication is currently undergoing revolutionary changes
    comparable to the ones that resulted from the invention of the printing
    press. It is now possible for scholars and scientists the world over to
    report and discuss new ideas and findings globally, interactively, and
    almost instantaneously.

    Most of the world's universities and research institutions are linked
    together by various international electronic networks such as Bitnet
    and Internet (called, collectively, "the Net"). Electronic mail
    ("email") can be sent via the Net, usually within minutes, to London,
    Budapest, Tel Aviv, Tokyo. But the feature that has the most remarkable
    potential is multiple reciprocal email: Electronic groups in which every
    message is immediately disseminated to all members.

    These groups first formed themselves anarchically, on various networks,
    the biggest of them called Usenet, and were devoted partly to technical
    discussion about computers and information, the technologies that built
    the net, and otherwise to "flaming": free-for-all back and forth
    messages by anyone, on any topic under the sun. Then groups devoted to
    specific topics (computers, politics, language, culture, sex) began to
    form, and these in turn split into "unmoderated" and "moderated" groups.
    Anyone with an email address whose institution was connected to Usenet
    could post to an unmoderated group and the message would automatically
    be sent to everyone who was "subscribed" to the group.

    It was because most of the unmoderated groups were quite chaotic that
    the moderated groups were formed. In these, all submissions had to be
    channeled through a "moderator," but this was usually someone with no
    special qualifications or expertise, so the quality of the information
    on the moderated groups was still very uneven, and, with a few exceptions
    (principally technical discussions about computing itself), the groups
    were mostly havens for underinformed students and dilettantes rather than
    respectable scholarly forums for learned specialists in the subject matter
    under discussion, which by now ranged across the humanities, the social
    sciences and the natural sciences.

    This is not far from the current status quo on the Net -- a communication
    medium with unprecedented intellectual potential so far being used mostly
    as a global graffiti board for trivial pursuit in all fields other than
    computing itself -- except that some concerted efforts are now underway
    to channel the Net's possibilities in a more scholarly direction. One of
    these projects, PSYCOLOQUY, is currently underway at Princeton and Rutgers
    Universities and its progress to date has just been accorded recognition
    in the annual survey of the Library Journal (to appear April 15, authored
    by Bill Katz), which selected PSYCOLOQUY as one of the best new magazines
    of 1990.

    Originally initiated in 1985 by Bob Morecock of Houston University as
    an electronic Bulletin Board called the "Bitnet Psychology Newsletter,"
    PSYCOLOQUY was transformed in 1989 into a refereed electronic journal
    and is now sponsored on an experimental basis by the Science Directorate
    of the American Psychological Association. The Co-Editor for scientific
    contributions is Stevan Harnad, Visiting Fellow in the Department of
    Psychology at Princeton University, and the Co-Editor for clinical, applied
    and professional contributions is Perry London, Dean of the Graduate School
    of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. One of
    PSYCOLOQUY's principal scholarly objectives is to implement "peer review"
    on the Net in psychology and its related fields (cognitive science, neuro-
    science, behavioral biology, linguistics, philosophy).

    All contributions are refereed by a member of PSYCOLOQUY's 35-member
    Editorial Board, but the idea is not just to implement a conventional
    journal in electronic form. PSYCOLOQUY is devoted to "Scholarly
    Skywriting", a radically new form of communication 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 the world over.

    The refereeing of each original posting and each item of peer feedback
    on it is done very quickly, sometimes within a few hours of receipt, so
    as to maintain the momentum and interactiveness of this remarkable new
    medium, just as if each contribution were being written in the sky, for
    all peers to see and append to. Skywriting promises to bring the speed
    of scholarly communication 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.

    The idea of "Scholarly Skywriting" is derived from a feature of a more
    conventional journal that Harnad has been editing for fifteen years,
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). BBS publishes "target articles"
    on particularly important and controversial interdisciplinary topics
    together with "Open Peer Commentary" from 15-25 scholars from across
    specialties and around the world, followed by the author's response.
    Open Peer Commentary has become quite a useful and influential service
    in the biobehavioral sciences, but it is governed by the time constraints
    of conventional publication. Scholarly Skywriting in PSYCOLOQUY is
    intended for that prepublication "pilot" stage of scientific inquiry in
    which peer communication and feedback are still critically shaping the
    final outcome. Here is where the Net's speed, scope and interactiveness
    offer the possibility of a quantum jump for scholarly inquiry.

    PSYCOLOQUY appears in two forms. Its Usenet version, called
    "sci.psychology.digest", is "gatewayed" to the Net from Princeton.
    Its Bitnet version, formerly stored at Tulane University and archived
    at the University of Houston, is now at Princeton too. To subscribe
    (free), all you need to do is send the following one line email message
    to listserv@pucc.bitnet: "sub psyc Firstname Lastname" (omitting quotes
    and substituting your own first and last name); the message must
    originate from the email address at which you wish to receive
    PSYCOLOQUY. Subsequent postings are sent to psyc@pucc.bitnet or to

    Back issues of PSYCOLOQUY are archived at Princeton and can be retrieved
    from any Internet email address directly by a simple procedure called
    "anonymous ftp." Princeton also has a feature called "bitftp" that allows
    issues to be retrieved indirectly from Bitnet by email. Soon, with the
    help of an experimental searchable data-base called PDB, kindly lent to
    Princeton by Bellcore, it should be possible not only to retrieve items
    but to do interactive full-text searches of the PSYCOLOQUY archive from
    both Bitnet and Internet.

    The Net is still an anarchic place. Almost all the work on PSYCOLOQUY
    so far has been donated gratis by those involved in developing it. The
    Co-Editors provide their services for free; Rutgers University and
    Princeton University provide their computing resources for free; and
    Bellcore has provided the data base for free. The modest subsidy from
    the American Psychological Association is used exclusively to pay an
    editorial assistant to maintain the email address list and bundle the
    postings. All the parties involved are contributing their time and
    resources for one reason only: to explore and develop what they all
    feel is the vast potential of the Net in scholarly communication. The
    selection of PSYCOLOQUY as one of the best new magazines of 1990 is a
    welcome tribute to these pioneering efforts as well as to this promising
    new medium.