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Biomedical and Electrical Engineer with interests in information theory, evolution, genetics, abstract mathematics, microbiology, big history, Indieweb, and the entertainment industry including: finance, distribution, representation

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chrisaldrich

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Replied to a post on github.com :

@dsifford Here's the RIS file for your convenience: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/126498/complex_analysis.ris

Since a lot of of the comparison is done by unique identifiers (DOI, PMID, ISBN) is there a way to keep these numbers and do the comparison based on them? Ideally, publishers distinguish editions and copies properly via ISBN so though systems might have slightly different meta data in other fields, if ISBNs are exactly the same, then they should be the same works. It's usually very rare for major publishers to have the same ISBN (and typically only happens when there are very minute differences between texts). This still won't fix the problem for works prior to the mid 1970s, but will work for the majority of contemporary references.

 

My reply to ‘Novel, amazing, innovative’: positive words on the rise in science papers | Nature News & Comment
http://www.nature.com/news/novel-amazing-innovative-positive-words-on-the-rise-in-science-papers-1.19024

I can readily posit a potential and very strong motivation for the uptick in the appearance of these words, and particularly for the word "novel", which the paper and this article fail to see.

Beginning in the early 90's, and certainly starting before that time, there has been an intensified interest for both research institutions and researchers writing papers for them to monetize their research outside the halls of the academy. (Particularly with decreased funding for faculty and intensified competition for research dollars - many research faculty either self-fund their salaries or rely heavily on 3rd party income.) Toward this end, individual researchers began more aggressively pursuing patents for their research work and at the institutional level, colleges and universities began very actively pursuing technology transfer to the point of opening up full offices and hiring large numbers of staff to better leverage the return of creating patents and pursuing sales and licensing deals for the resulting research work. The US Patent Office, in making a determination of whether or not to grant patents, (and even moreso when the underlying documents are published scientific research articles) uses words like "novel" and "innovative" as an indicator of their worthiness. Without a patent, it's incredibly difficult to protect the intellectual property contained within a published and public work. Other words like "amazing" which are also cited in the paper are geared (in a business sales sense) more toward potential corporate financial investors who may consider purchasing or licensing the resulting work of a research paper. What corporate bean counter wants to invest in a dull-sounding research paper title which is quite likely one of the only parts of the document they're likely to comprehend? Yet throw in some "excitement words" and you may have a sale!

When one looks at employment contracts of the professoriate (post-docs, graduate students, and the like), which presumably comprises the majority of those publishing papers with these words, one will see that professors prior to the 90's have contracts that don't mention intellectual property rights resulting from their efforts, or which grant them the lion's share. Current contracts after that period will almost necessarily keep either all or most of these types of revenue streams in the institution's pockets rather than the researchers themselves. I'd be willing to bet that this tide began turning in the mid-1970s and has certainly been overwhelming since the mid-90s.

It is these severe economic taskmasters which are almost assuredly the cause of the rise of these buzzwords in research papers, and most particularly in their titles. One need only ask themselves, which university wants to be the next proverbial "Stanford" to not have a piece of revenue from the intellectual property of a proverbial "Page rank" algorithm? Or in biomedical research, to not take a hefty cut out of a drug which could potentially cure cancer or HIV/AIDS? Take a gander at what something as simple as a HELA cell, which was taken and cultured without any notice to Henrietta Lacks, has become from an industrial perspective. If they can avoid it, academia certainly won't let multi-million (or billion) dollar enterprises spring up (again) without them receiving a piece of the pie.

Naturally, there are other factors compounding the issues at hand, particularly when one looks at negative research findings, which are sadly rarely ever published, particularly in an era of big data when what we know isn't true will surely help assist in defining the boundaries of what we do know and what could potentially be determined at that boundary. (Much the way that white space in photographs or in printed pages helps to define an image as much if not more so than the darker portions of the image.) Negative words are likely more difficult to get published as it may reflect poorly on researchers who are reliant on continued future funding and may see their sources disappear when they're not producing groundbreaking work. My hypothesis, however, is that it's more likely a direct economic impact based on technology transfer than it is the increased competitive landscape in academic research.