Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The Talis interview series continues to be interesting. Today I listened to the interview with Richard Cameron about Citeulike.

I've recently come back from an "interruption of candidature" in my MPhil at UQ. I really needed that break in order to adjust to the new job, living in a new country, and a new baby, all at the same time. Believe me, all those things were hard enough without simultaneously trying to write a thesis. But I'm back now, and I'm trying to get my head back into gear so I can catch up before commencing the thesis (yes, I'm at that stage now).

So hearing about Citeulike at this stage is amazingly fortuitous. I haven't done much with it beyond browsing by tag, but it's impressive how quickly you can get to papers on topics you're interested in, especially if you can start with a given paper or author. I figured that Ian Horrocks would be a good person to start with. I was pleased to see that it easily took me to a number of relevant papers that I hadn't read before (just laziness on my part, as Ian does list his publications), but I also noted that there are numerous papers by Ian that weren't there. I suppose this is consistent with a comment in the interview that Citeulike is a useful tool to supplement a student's efforts, but it can't replace that work.

All of the papers I was interested in were in places like the ACM Portal. I'm told that I can get into it via my university, but that's going to take me a few hours to work out. But I find this interesting, as Ian does Self Archiving of all of his work (like many academics in this area), and yet Citeulike doesn't know about them. It also doesn't have links to the home pages of any of the authors, from which a self-archived, or pre-print copy may be available. In the case of someone like Ian, I could find his homepage and publication list with a simple Google search, so I was surprised there wasn't similar functionality on Citeulike. Maybe I missed something and it was there, but it wasn't immediately apparent.

Towards the end of the Talis interview there was a fascinating discussion of a possible future of peer-reviewing publications on Citeulike. Richard mentioned that this may be difficult to accomplish, as many academics play their cards close to their chest. However, he went on to describe a system practically identical to what I wrote last night. Only, in his case he was talking about rating pre-prints of full academic papers (which I didn't think would work, and even he is skeptical about), whereas I was talking about micro-papers.

Maybe there's something to the idea if two people are discussing similar things in public (not that this blog is very public. It's more of a "Dear Diary..." that a few other people read). My concept of a micro-paper might not work for anyone beyond me, but the other elements are definitely common.

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