Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A possible mis-information solution

In another blog post, I describe problems with trying to access reliable information. Generally, academic journals are considered to have the most reliable information (though they aren't without problems), but there is a huge flaw in the way these journals operate.
The way academia disseminates information currently is, at best, non-ideal for a world of internet access and rapid communication: great discoveries are made, but that information is held back from the world by the slow process of journal publication and then locked behind paywalls and poor circulation when finally published. A quick illustration: a BYU nursing professor did a study on the effects of mixing drugs, particularly in children, and found that it is fairly common to mix drugs that, together, have terrible consequences for the children receiving the treatments. To get tenure at BYU, she published these findings in a scholarly journal, and for those who need the information most (doctors in India and poorer regions) to access it, they must pay $35, which might as well be $35000, because they can't afford that for one article. And so, children continue getting deadly combinations of drugs.

The benefit is that it is peer reviewed, and curated, which many academics are leery of losing if they switch to a more accessible model. This is why we plan to meet academics half-way, creating a system they can buy into now, and gradually transforming it to serve all the same purposes as the more traditional publication routes, but with all the benefits of an open web.

First, a new platform would need to be created, similar to, where people could post their research for free. The system would then add a peer-review process that is very public and open, allowing for people to check the credentials of those reviewing, and would require rigorous citations similar to wikipedia. What would be different is this platform would also offer the paper in multiple levels, and introductory level for somebody who doesn't know much of anything about the subject, a middle level that is accessible to the educated non-experts in the field, and the full, professional version that usually is found in journals. There would also be options for videos, similar to the ones on one of these channels or these web sites. In other words, it would be a multi-media experience, where consumers have multiple options to delve into the works.

I am working to see a professor at my school transform this idea it into an inter-disciplinary Center for professors to spread the word about their findings to the world at large, as well as a separate company. This would mean that, after acceptance of their work into a peer-reviewed journal, they would approach the Center for help in creating content that is more digestible for the general public and freely available to all, including those who need the information in India or elsewhere. We anticipate a new platform being created that would serve the entire nation, and eventually any researcher globally, with initial funding by and trailblazing done for one particular group, which we've already talked with. This platform would essentially create the New Royal Society, allowing non-professors and professionals who are still doing interesting work to get involved in research, be reviewed, and share work with everyone. It would allow a second enlightenment of sorts.

In that other blog post, I mention a lot of problems with gathering information now. This Center would be a solution in the same way that Wikipedia has become a solution for initial understanding of a topic, though Wikipedia isn't without problems, and similar problems would likely crop up with the Center, but knowing these problems when forming the center helps to mitigate it.

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