I can't remember all the many times when the unpublished results from other
groups helped or could've helped my work. I know that scientific networking
is essential to distribute this information but sometimes I wonder if other
mechanisms could be created to assist in the dissemination. So much data is
lost when scientists retire, die, or move on to other fields.
For example, in the '50s, '60s and early '70s many researchers doing
classic studies of bacterial metabolism were at their peaks. That
field was later partially eclipsed by shifting interests toward areas
including molecular and developmental biology. Now, many of the
original researchers are disappearing, along with lifetimes of unpublished
but essential information. This at a time when technological advances
permit a better understanding of metabolism than ever before and
when the field of metabolic "engineering" is beginning to take off.
Is there a better way of retaining the "oral history" of science,
that 90% of observations which are never published, than in the
second-hand recollections of dwindling numbers of former grad
students and post-docs?
Most likely, >85% of this unpublished 90% is crap, but with search
engines, is there now enough storage and filtering capability to locate
gems and justify the effort? And how? Online notebooks? An E-journal of
and Partial Results? Is there some form of editorial control and publication
quality assurance that would work in a high-data, low information environment?
- Tim Ikeda
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