Reducing publications to their essence
While 140-character summaries of scientific papers seem to be the topic of today in some parts of my feedsphere (#sci140), I wish to get back to another way of making publications shorter and more efficient, as has been discussed before in various circumstances, e.g. under the label of micropublication.
Science is already a wiki if you look at it a certain way. It’s just a highly inefficient one -- the incremental edits are made in papers instead of wikispace, and significant effort is expended to recapitulate existing knowledge in a paper in order to support the one to three new assertions made in any one paper.
In this spirit, I have taken one of my articles whose licenses permit reuse and modifications and turned its abstract and introduction into a demo on how publishing in a wiki-style environment may look like.
You can watch this in three ways: Simple, with comments, or the whole evolution of the document (below) via the Time Slider function of perhaps the last Etherpad document I am going to embed. Update: There is also a pictorial summary now.
This summary also illustrates that a minimum of context needs to be there for a publication to be appreciated: "Still crawls", for example, was somewhat surprising in two ways — surprising to me was the survival of such a multicellular organism at these low temperatures (an old hat to cryobiologists), while it was surprising to them that high-resolution anatomical and spectroscopic information could be gained from such supercooled systems in vivo (an old hat to me).