Home » It’s a discovery deficit: Sydney University 19 November 2010

It’s a discovery deficit: Sydney University 19 November 2010

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It’s not filter failure, it’s a discovery deficit.
The gatekeeper is dead. Long live the gatekeeper!

Talk given at the Norman Gregg Lecture Theatre, Sydney University on 19 November 2010 at 2pm.

An important traditional role of the scholarly literature has been a filter, selecting those submissions to the permanent scholarly record that are worthy of the cost of printing and distribution, and worthy of the attention of researchers checking the latest issues in the library. At its centre lies the editor, academic or professional, who makes a choice about how limited resources will be allocated. This made sense when the bottleneck was printing and distributing. In a web-based world where the cost of making something available is low, it makes sense to publish everything, just in case, but how we will manage the information overload?

I will argue that this only seems a paradox from the print media world: that in fact publishing more makes filtering and discovery easier. Tools and approaches are available to enable improved automated filtering and discovery, for example by social filtering and hugely improved web search. It places control in the hands of the user. The role of the publisher changes from that of gatekeeper to one of facilitating discovery. To support this, publishers and researchers will need to consider how to provide access to much more of the raw material of the research process and critically how to enable the effective and efficient annotation and markup that will support new discovery platforms.

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  • I enjoyed the talk and have been musing about how to understand whether what is posted, in the great new order, is good or bad (I don’t believe that all information is good information – some of it is downright noise). There could still be a place for a ‘paper’, as a consolidation and bringing together of material previously released, at which point ticks and likes can be used to guage the worth. How do we decide whether the folk doing the ticking have any serious credentials?

  • My suspicion is that for some time yet “the paper” will remain the major route into “the pieces” of the research process at least for human readers. And it seems like a good place to try and measure the worth of those pieces because it can provide a focus for people to interact around – a thing that they understand and value. The wider question of how “good” any particular piece of published content is is probably the biggest question facing the web today. Will we just re-aggregate around big brands again (except now those brands may be people rather than news providers or publishers)? Or will we trust a more fluid network of friends and machine systems to provide value measurements depending on what we need?

    Credentialling will be important, who do you trust when they say that they trust something? But those credentials may not look like today’s do. One of the great strengths and simultaneously weaknesses of online communities is precisely that they don’t respect traditional credentials in many cases. You have to earn that respect in that community, which doesn’t sit well with people who expect to have their position valued. This is a loss on all sides tho, not just for the communities or the potential contributor. So we need to find ways of bringing reputation to the table and that is a big unsolved problem.