Scientific communication practices in High Energy Physics: potential of preprints

By Gonzalo Rubén Alvarez and Sônia Elisa Caregnato

In Particle Physics and Fields, also known as High Energy Physics (HEP), the concern and need for the fast circulation of information and dissemination of scientific discoveries among community members dates back to the 1960s. For a long time, the clearinghouses served as alternative information channels as institutional repositories for storage and dissemination of preliminary versions of articles, whose objective was to stimulate speeding up research communication among physicists, thereby circumventing the delay caused by peer review, required by journals in the area.

The adoption of a communication system may vary according to the particularities of each discipline and area, and it is related to the object of study, the organizational structure, the research method, and the nature of the research (theoretical/experimental), among others. Established within the large international collaborations (teamwork), HEP requires high financial investments to perform complex experimental programs distributed in very few laboratories. In this context, the celerity in transmitting scientific information is paramount in the field, since the delay in the communication process may have serious consequences, making it impossible to advance the research with the “large” detectors and particle accelerators, causing significant economic losses and duplicate experiments.

The “culture” of preprints in HEP allows members of “invisible colleges” to participate in the evaluation and quality control of preliminary research results, promoting remote collaboration among physicists and consensus in validating scientific data. Open Access initiatives that allow the free circulation of information and the self-archiving of reports and manuscripts in institutional repositories or clearinghouses, in order to increase their visibility and interaction between researchers, have long been a novelty in HEP. In 1969, the first preprint server, the Stanford Public Information Retrieval System (SPIRES) was developed within the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). In the early 1970s, Stanford University, which owns SLAC, adopted SPIRES for academic purposes, seeking to meet the informational demands of its scholars, students, and staff. The evolution of SPIRES as an information system was marked by the advent of the World Wide Web in 1991 and the collaborative action of several laboratories in experimental physics: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Deutsches Electronen Synchrotron (DESY), Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and SLAC. By working together on developing SPIRES, these laboratories have perfected it to function as an interoperable database with other preprints repositories, such as arXiv, NASA-ADS, PDG, and HepData. It then became known as INSPIRE.

ArXiv is an open access thematic repository on Physics, created by Paul Ginsparg in 1991 at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), including preprints from several other areas, besides the main ones, such as Quantitative Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Electrical Engineering and Systems Science, Statistics, Finance and Mathematics. Posting on arXiv is an innovative practice that complements the traditional publishing system, providing immediate dissemination of scientific results and accelerating communication among scholars. The use of arXiv as a preprint repository is not mandatory for researchers, but presents itself as an alternative for physicists seeking authorship recognition by their peers and greater visibility of the output.

The potential of preprints as sources of scientific communication was corroborated by some researchers, among them Alvarez and Caregnato1, proving that 70% of the documents submitted to arXiv between 2010 and 2015 were subsequently published by the main journals in the area. This indicator shows a peaceful coexistence between two dissemination channels with different characteristics and objectives, i.e., preprints and original articles. Preprints, as a mechanism to accelerate research communication among scientists seems to be a well-established practice in areas such as HEP. Furthermore, it promotes curiosity, attention and scientific interaction, stimulating peer participation through comments and suggestions about the development of the research, making the knowledge-building process more consensual and collaborative.

Regarding the reliability that preprints offer as a communication channel in areas such as HEP, scientists affiliated to CERN such as Goldschmidt-Clermont2 believe that they may, in fact, prioritize science in the sense that, according to the ethics code among high energy physicists, credit and authorship should be given to a researcher for an original contribution, either just an idea or a suggestion, regardless of the oral or written form in which it is expressed. In spite of all the mistrust generated in the academic world with the possibility that the market can be quickly “flooded” with preprints in order to guarantee unethical priorities, the cited author says that the great majority of scientists give little attention to dishonest practices; ignorance, contempt, indifference and irony are important means of coercion in HEP. Given the complexity of the experiments and the high investment that research in this area requires, the disclosure of scientific results must necessarily pass through the scholars’ assessment, so that they are validated and recognized to yield to new research.

Besides arXiv in Physics, other areas, possibly inspired by this initiative, have already settled their preprints repositories in order to improve the dissemination and discussion of research outputs. It is the case of the Cognitive Sciences Eprint Archive (CogPrints) that allows self-archiving of documents in the areas of Anthropology (Archeology, Paleontology), Biology, Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics), Philosophy, Linguistics, Medicine (Psychiatry, Neurology, Human Genetics), Neurosciences, Psychology, besides other disciplines included in the physical, social and mathematical sciences, and the Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), which provides for the inclusion of manuscripts in Economics (RePEc, 2018).

In terms of innovation, we understand that the success achieved by the Open Access SPIRES and arXiv initiatives in the field of High Energy Physics discussed here, is in line with the SciELO venture to implement a preprints server in 2018. The SciELO campaign aims to improve and accelerate the process of scientific communication in different disciplines through the use and submission of preprints, besides ensuring researchers the corresponding authorship for their discoveries. Clearly, the initiative will bring discussions in the context of the editorial processes and the evaluation of scientific output. However, it becomes essential to reflect on the importance of speeding up communication and promoting free access to information, aiming at fostering research in several scientific areas.

This post is based on the authors’ article “Preprints in scholarly communication of High Energy Physics: analysis of submissions to the arXiv repository (2010-2015)”1, published in Perspectivas em Ciência da Informação (DOI: 10.1590/1981-5344/2830).

Notes

1. ALVAREZ, G.R. and CAREGNATO, S.E. Preprints in scholarly communication of High Energy Physics: analysis of submissions to the arXiv repository (2010-2015). Perspectivas em Ciência da Informação [online]. 2017, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 104-117, ISSN: 1981-5344 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. DOI: 10.1590/1981-5344/2830. Available from: http://ref.scielo.org/whczt8

2. GOLDSCHMIDT-CLERMONT, L. Communication patterns in high-energy physics. High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine [online]. 2002, no. 6, ISSN: 1424-2729 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. Available from: http://webzine.web.cern.ch/webzine/6/papers/1/

References

ALVAREZ, G.R. and CAREGNATO, S.E. Preprints in scholarly communication of High Energy Physics: analysis of submissions to the arXiv repository (2010-2015). Perspectivas em Ciência da Informação [online]. 2017, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 104-117, ISSN: 1981-5344 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. DOI: 10.1590/1981-5344/2830. Available from: http://ref.scielo.org/whczt8

AYMAR, R. Scholarly communication in high-energy physics: past, present and future innovations [online]. European Review [online]. 2009, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 33-51 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. DOI: 10.1017/S1062798709000556. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-review/article/scholarly-communication-in-highenergy-physics-past-present-and-future-innovations/405A6F78D3C4BA55418DEE7B1B62E23A

GENTIL-BECCOT, A., MELE, S. and BROOKS, T.C. Citing and reading behaviours in high-energy physics. Scientometrics [online]. 2010, vol. 84, no. 2, pp. 345-355, ISSN: 0138-9130 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. DOI: 10.1007/s11192-009-0111-1. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11192-009-0111-1

GOLDSCHMIDT-CLERMONT, L. Communication patterns in high-energy physics. High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine [online]. 2002, no. 6, ISSN: 1424-2729 [viewed on 15 February 2018]. Available from: http://webzine.web.cern.ch/webzine/6/papers/1/

Links externos

Cogprints <http://cogprints.org/>

RePEc <http://repec.org/>

 

Translated from the original in portuguese by Lilian Nassi-Calò.

 

Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

ALVAREZ, G.R. and CAREGNATO, S.E. Scientific communication practices in High Energy Physics: potential of preprints [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/02/15/scientific-communication-practices-in-high-energy-physics-potential-of-preprints/

 

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