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Dec 21, 2003 Focus
Hinari and Agora: free access to scientific information for poor countries

by Elisabetta Tola

In the midst of a debate on access to information, the World Health Organization and the FAO have decided to develop a strategy to guarantee the right of poor countries to have free access to scientific publications. This right is often denied, mainly because of high subscription costs. For this reason, universities and research centres in southern countries must forego buying magazines, which are a valuable instrument for updating, and exchanging information on research and scientific issues. This choice has been made in an historical period when the industrialized world is marked by a knowledge-based economy.

Volume 2 • Issue 04 • 2003

Sep 21, 2003 Focus
Socio-cognitive perverse effects in peer review. Reflections and proposals

by Andrea Cerroni

Peer review is the evaluation method that has characterized the scientific growth of the last four centuries, the first four of what is called modern science, indeed. It is matter of scientific communication inside scientific community, a subject too poorly studied in comparison with its critical importance for a scientific study of science (science of science). Peer review has been used for scientific paper evaluation before publication (editorial peer review) and for research proposal evaluation before financial support (grants peer review). Both cases present similar pros and cons, so I will treat them as a unique method for scientific evaluation. While the method remained pretty unchanged all along the period, apart from communication technology with peers, science has tremendously changed its organization and its relevance to society. So, peer review is antique and well rooted in practise, but its historical aim should now to be contrasted with the present situation of actual research, practises and social involvement of science.

Volume 2 • Issue 03 • 2003

Sep 21, 2003 Focus
Peer review in high-energy physics: a return to the origins?

by Marco Fabbrichesi

I still remember very clearly my first encounter with peer review: I was a Ph. D. student in physics and I had written my first paper, submitted it to a journal and - after what seemed to me a very long time - received a reply with the request for few changes and corrections I was supposed to include in my paper before it could be considered for publication. These very simple steps: the writing up of some original research results in a paper, its submission to a journal and the process of the work being read and judged by someone reputed to be an expert in the field is what we call peer review - the judging of scientific work by your peers - and it is an essential part of what science is. No scientific achievement can be considered as such until has been recognized by the community at large and such a recognition mainly comes from the peer review process. The presence of this check has arguably helped and fostered the constant and cumulative growth of science.

Volume 2 • Issue 03 • 2003

Sep 21, 2003 Focus
Self-archive unto others as ye would have them self-archive unto you

by Stevan Harnad

Scholars and scientists do research to create new knowledge so that other scholars and scientists can use it to create still more new knowledge and to apply it to improving people's lives. They are paid to do research, but not to report their research: that they do for free, because it is not royalty-revenue from their research papers but their "research impact" that pays their salaries, funds their further research, earns them prestige and prizes, etc. "Research impact" means how much of a contribution your research makes to further research: do other researchers read, use, cite, and apply your findings? The more they do, the higher your research impact. One way to measure this is by counting how many researchers use and cite your work in their own research papers.

Volume 2 • Issue 03 • 2003

Sep 21, 2003 Focus
Invisible Hand(s): Quality Assurance in the Age of Author Self-Archiving

by Gerry McKiernan

There are forces, factors, and influences other than pending classical peer review that assure the quality of scholarship before formal publication.

Volume 2 • Issue 03 • 2003

Jun 21, 2003 Focus
Preventive self-governance

by Giancarlo Sturloni

No field of western society has remained untouched by the events of September 11. Lastly, science and science communication are also bearing the consequences. During the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, Colorado, on February 15, 2003, the major international scientific magazines, faced with the bioterrorism alarm and the fear of seeing important information fall in the wrong hands, announced their intention to resort to an unprecedented security measure: preventive self-governance. They consider the Statement on Scientific Publication and Security as a manifesto of the sense of responsibility that the scientific community feels about global terror. In part four, after recalling the 9/11 tragedy, the 32 publishers, scientific associations and scientists who signed the Statement (among which also the directors of Nature and Science) stated that "On occasion an editor may conclude that the potential harm of publication outweighs the potential societal benefits. Under such circumstances, the paper should be modified, or not be published".

Volume 2 • Issue 02 • 2003

Jun 21, 2003 Focus
We are all Americans

by Giancarlo Sturloni and Paola Coppola

"Weapons of mass destruction" is the word of the year 2002, at least according to the American Dialect Society, an association which has been studying the English language in North America for more than one century and which yearly chooses the word having more relevance to American society and information. The word of the year 2001 was "Nine eleven", and the passing of the baton was very significant. September 11th has actually marked an extraordinary media watershed in the debate on the dangerousness of weapons of mass destruction. The bioterrorist threat, for instance, seems to have gained ground in newspaper pages and in programme schedules - and therefore in people's houses - together with anthrax letters terrorising America. However, though this lethal powder has remained confined beyond the Atlantic, fear has rapidly spread throughout the world, including Italy. (Taken from the book "Armageddon Supermarket" - Sironi Editore)

Volume 2 • Issue 02 • 2003

Mar 21, 2003 Focus
The crisis of the "Public Understanding of Science" in Great Britain

by Nico Pitrelli

In a brief article published by Science1 last October, British scientists stated that the expression "Public Understanding of Science" (PUS), which was traditionally employed in Anglosaxon societies to refer to the issue of the relationship between science, technology and society, is out-of-date. It should be replaced by "Public Engagement with Science and Technology" (PEST), a new acronym that clearly invites to reconceptualise the relationship between science and the public. The new approach involves the engagement of the public or rather the publics of science, through dialogue, in particular through an open and equal-to-equal discussion between scientists and non-experts that would enable non-experts to become the actual protagonists in the scientific decisions producing social effects.

Volume 2 • Issue 01 • 2003

Sep 21, 2002 Focus
Permanent observatory on science communication through the media

by Barbara Montolli

This article presents the results of a study carried out in Italy by the Permanent Observatory on science communication through the media. The aim of this research project coordinated by the staff of the Master’s Degree in Science Communication, ISAS, Trieste, in collaboration with Ilesis S.r.l., Rome, is to monitor and analyse systematically the amount of scientific information on TV and in the press.

Volume 1 • Issue 03 • 2002