Liquid Publications: Scientific Publications meet the Web

Changing the way scientific knowledge is produced, disseminated, evaluated, and consumed


The world of scientific publications has been largely oblivious to the advent of the Web and to advances in ICT. Even more surprisingly, this is the case even for research in the ICT area: ICT researchers have been able to exploit the Web to improve the (production) process in almost all areas, but not their own. We are producing scientific knowledge (and publications in particular) essentially following the very same approach we followed before the Web. Scientific knowledge dissemination is still based on the traditional notion of “paper” publication and on peer review as quality assessment method. The current approach encourages authors to write many (possibly incremental) papers to get more “tokens of credit”, generating often unnecessary dissemination overhead for themselves and for the community of reviewers. Furthermore, it does not encourage or support reuse and evolution of publications: whenever a (possibly small) progress is made on a certain subject, a new paper is written, reviewed, and published, often after several months.

The Liquid Publications community proposes a paradigm shift in the way scientific knowledge is created, disseminated, evaluated and maintained. This shift is enabled by the notion of Liquid Publications, which are evolutionary, collaborative, and composable scientific contributions. Many Liquid Publication concepts are based on a parallel between scientific knowledge artifacts and software artifacts, and hence on lessons learned in (agile, collaborative, open source) software development, as well as on lessons learned from Web 2.0 in terms of collaborative evaluation of knowledge artifacts.

The main concepts are illustrated in the papers below (doc and pdf format, feel free to reuse the content, there is no copyright). The preliminary version of the work below was posted on ACM Ubiquity (http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/v8i03_fabio.html). This work inspired the LiquidPub project, where research institutions from various scientific disciplines, publishers, and societies come together to develop and validate concepts, algorithms, and tools that define and instantiate the Liquid Publication concepts.

In a nutshell, the approach proposes the following ideas and contributions:

1. It introduces the notion of Liquid Publications (and, analogously, Liquid Textbooks) as evolutionary, collaborative, multi-faceted knowledge objects that can be composed and consumed at different levels of detail.

2. It abstracts (and replaces) the notions of journals and conferences into collections, which are groupings of publications that can be based on topic and time but also on arbitrary rules in terms of what is included and how the quality of publications is assessed for them to be included in the collection. Collections can themselves be liquid. We believe that journals as they are conceived today (a periodic snapshot of papers on a given topic, selected by a restricted group of experts and based on submissions) will soon become obsolete both in their printed and electronic forms.

3. It proposes a radically different evaluation method for publications and for authors, based on the interest they generate in the community and on their innovative contributions and that is maintained in real time and possibly without reviewing effort (peer reviews can be used as a complement). The method also encourages early dissemination of innovative results. Around these main concepts, we advocate the need for services that benefit authors, readers, reviewers, conference organizers, editorial boards, and even evaluation committees. Examples of such services are an analysis center for helping committees to assess the scientific quality of people and publications, ways for people to bookmark papers or people of interest and to define collections, and an authoring/sharing/versioning environment for maintaining and evolving liquid publications and for the fruition of their content.

Although the change advocated here is dramatic, the transition is not. The current state of affair in knowledge dissemination is at an extreme of the Liquid Publication concepts, where papers are "solid" and static, collections are periodic snapshots of submissions, and evaluation is based on peer review by a team of "experts". The liquefaction and embracing of the concepts proposed here can be gradual to facilitate acceptance by the community at large.

Besides describing the liquid publication concepts, the papers below are an instance of a liquid publication. We wish we had already available a nice collaborative environment for evolving this liquid publication, for blogging it, reviewing it, evaluating it, etc... but we don't, at least for now. For now, you are welcome to send us your comments by emailing us at liquidpub -at- liquidpub.org We look forward to receiving your feedback.

NOTE: the pdf below refers to the latest version of the MS Word docs

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