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More on science and the Web: the self-correction mechanism

July 6, 2009

You know you’ve been spending too much time on the Internet when you spend a significant amount of time offline being reminded of being online. Nevertheless, here’s more from Plastic Fantastic, this time on the self-correcting process of scientific journals and reproducibility:

The self-correcting process happened, but it was haphazard and disorganized, with a lot of self-doubt along the way. In comparison to the mythical picture of researchers as an army of self-correctors marching in an organized way toward the truth, science is more of a guerilla war.

Community/peer self-correction, of course, is supposed to help alleviate people’s qualms about under-edited, not-always-verified, self-published material via blogs, forums, etc. The paragraph is most likely meant to cast doubt on the idea that self-correction works well (though at least in its example, it did eventually work, at least), but I think there is a significant difference: No one expects the Internet to be an organized army. Really, the Internet is still in its infancy, and we don’t know where everything — including the standard truth-seeking mechanisms — will go yet.


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