Straw-man argument against comments in epijournals

This is a comment which awaits moderation (for some time) at Gowers “Good guys” post, therefore I post it here. Here is it, with some links  added:

After reading the rather heated exchanges around the subject of comments in epijournals, I am surprised by the fact that the best argument against comments that people here were able to find is by conflating comments in epijournals with comments in blogs.

I cannot imagine who would like to have comments in epijournals (or any other OA model) of the same quality as those on the average blog.

Therefore my impression is that much of the discussion here is just an example of a straw-man fallacy.

It is enough to look around and see that there are models who could inspire us.

I have proposed in several comments and posts like this one or the other to consider comments in OA journals on the par with the talk pages of Wikipedia, and peer-reviews as wiki pages.

Others have proposed the mathoverflow or reddit as models. Any of those proposals are stellar compared to comments in blogs.

Besides, I doubt very much that there is a majority against comments and I believe that Mike Taylor is only more vocal than others and for this he deserves some congratulations (and some respect, as a fellow scientist).


On peer-review and the big value it may have for epijournals, or even as a publishing business model, see also the posts:


11 thoughts on “Straw-man argument against comments in epijournals”

  1. People don’t like paradigm shifts, they first get angry, blah blah, then the consensus eventually changes. Stupid humans – ” I know this, therefore it’s true, and I should be closed minded with my peers for the sake of not being ridiculed”… it makes for a happy life, apparently.

    1. It might be something other than stupidity. I personally do not like it when changes happen too fast, but I do not think it is just a matter of taste. There are true benefits to stability, continuity, tradition. Two examples: 1) Planning is easier in a slowly changing world. 2) Habits, tradition or structures that have survived a long time and have evolved in small changes might be better than something we just thought about three hours (or years) ago and think that we can explain why it is better. Did we really think about the full consequences of this or that change, in this context? Do we fully understand the examples we bring in as success stories? I think that evolution works in the social context as well, and evolution takes time.

      Things will eventually change – everything changes – but I like it when things change at a pace not faster than the pace in which humans change.

  2. Re: Dave H.#1 I would appreciate not using strong words when expressing an opinion. I hope that you did informed yourself about the matter which is discussed here. As for the paradigm shift, that is true, but such judgements are only coming a posteriori. I take my favorite example: the impressionist painters. Now we know that they produced a paradigm shift. But even (many of) them only hoped they were right, moreover the society was indifferent or slightly aggressive against them. It is obvious that at the end of the 19th century people were not more stupid than now, therefore the “stupid” argument is a non-explanation. Also, there were cases when ideas did not produce a paradigm shift, however the proponents of those ideas lulled themselves by thinking everybody else was stupid, is just a psychological mechanism, only time tells who’s right. There is a difference though with respect to past ages, namely that the opinions expressed on the net have big chances to be easily retrievable for a long time, compared with opinions from a hundred years ago. There will be some future scientist who will examine our opinions, completely detached from the present day athmosphere and pecking order.

    Re: Orr Shalit #2. This is a good, because balanced, viewpoint, however, cognitive scientists are frequently saying that humans changed very little in the last 30000 years. According to them, we live by the rules of our ancestors, only cosmetized by the recent and frequent civilization changes. But this changes happen, and when they spread it is because more and more people adopt them. After some time, in retrospect, it appears that the change was right and that the non-changers were wrong. People find rational explanation about why the change happened.

    Re:”Did we really think about the full consequences of this or that change, in this context? Do we fully understand the examples we bring in as success stories?” This is an argument against anything. In order to understand, to think, let’s talk then, let’s hear what others have to say and, most of all, let’s not fault the conversation. It is amusing (or maybe saddening, I don’t know) that many mathematicians and hard sciences researchers have a bad opinion about philosophy (I used to be one of them), only to fall into the most common thinking and argumentation fallacies when having a conversation.

  3. Besides all this discussion about psychological reactions and paradigm shifts, don’t you want to have an idea about how really people think? I made a poll here in order to get a more quantitative idea about how we stand. Please go and vote, is anonymous. It is surprising though that, until now, only a very very small percentage of people who saw that poll voted (according to the very rough statistics provided by wordpress). Maybe there is some possibility to organize such a poll in a more public and less biased place, although I formulated the question and answers in the most neutral form.

  4. Concerning pondering and thinking about paradigm shifts, for a very important reaction about Free OA (and not Gold OA), see Tim Berners-Lee’s opinion. He mentions Aaron Swartz as well. That settles a bit a past discussion (free vs gold OA), because in the pecking order Tim Berners-Lee (and Aaron Swartz, for me at least) has (have) high priority.

  5. Re: Mike Taylor #6. Thank you for commenting here. There are no good or bad guys in this, but there will be such judgements in the future, because of the human tendency to rationalize past choices.

    I took your side because I completely agree with your arguments. Please take time and read my posts on peer-review, what do you think about this? Do you know of any relevant precedent experiences?

  6. Here is another fan of comments (in fact open peer review): What Do Journals Do? – Voluntary Public Goods and the Doomsday of Commercial Science Publishing, by Stefan Winter. Cite (p. 5):

    “Taken together, the part that journals play in the production process of science is rather unimportant. The value added by the conventional reviewer process is limited to the contribution of typically two reviewers. It is not reasonable to assume that this procedure gives all the guidance that is possible. An open access science network can offer much better opportunities for the scientific community to take part in the production of results.”

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