The interview with journalist Evanildo da Silvera for an article in the Questão de Ciência magazine ended up raising a series of other questions among my buttons, the main question can be summarized as follows: How do scientists identify themselves? Scholar here means something more or less in dictionaries: a person or person (professional?) who practices science.
Whether they are students considering their first research projects, or famous leaders of groups of fellow scientists. And here the caveat, the following refers to the sciences, the so-called natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology, among others. Remember my professional socialization, when I learned the attitudes and behaviors of this unique class of professionals, I came across the sweaty initial compilation of my post list. Sweaty because it wasn’t easy to get something to add to a paper resume until I completed the first page.
Looking for bags, I saw colleagues increase the line spacing, the page count was impressive. In fact, counting the items was just a second impression. And there we identified, at least I saw the construction of my identity: the titles of the articles and journals in which they were published, and the partnership with the supervisor on authorship. And she didn’t wander the halls to hand out copies of lists of publications, it was intimate, but necessarily shared with an anonymous group that judged the new grant application.
Over time, I learned that it is possible to search the lists of colleagues, through the Scientific Citation Index from the Institute for Scientific Information. It contained an index of sources, where you could see what each of them published in a given year, and a citation index, where you could check the citations received by a particular author in the chosen year. Thus, to check the total list of publications and citations, it was necessary to consult several volumes. Nowadays, the Institute for Scientific Information has become the Web of Science platform, with almost daily updates rather than annual updates, cumulative and actually referring in one take to the citations as well. The illustration below shows a clip of “Cabibara” (a bizarre autobiographical pseudonym, which has gone from quick police papers to casual conversations at the academy) on Web of Science affixed to the image of a page in the Science Citations Index dedicated to my last name.
The mediation of technology has led the public to expose what I called the identity above, and due to its increasing use in assessments, listings seem to have grown in importance. Moreover, this identity I mentioned is up-to-date, molded from what is contained (indexed) in the platform chosen as a guide for consultations on what might be relevant to the science that each one practices. In any case, identities and lists get mixed up.
We learn this way and so it seems natural, there is no pun intended for the sciences involved. However, nothing is natural, as the human and social sciences can explain. It is a social construction of what is a science and who is recognized as a scientist, and it dates back to the nineteenth century, when lists and their contents were defined. In particular, the laborious history of preparing the Catalog of Scientific Papers (1800-1863), compiled and published by the Royal Society of London, is impressive. Historian Alex Cesar tells this story in an essay titled suggestive: “How Life Became Lists and Scientific Articles Became Statements: Cataloging the Literature During the Nineteenth Century”
The compilation of this catalog, which was preceded by other attempts, initially responded to the need to compose an inventory of sciences, which led to the accumulation of an increasing number of discoveries and developments. In this scenario, it was necessary to develop a search technology (catalog), but the legacy became another. The decisions made to create the catalog shaped our vision for science.
The creators, to make the index possible, needed to define what the scientific article was, among the many forms in which scientific communication took place, from letters to the official text with a systematic discussion of the introduction, passing through various methods close to the records. They also needed to decide which publications to consider, as discoveries and developments published were described not only in scientific journals, but also in the publications of what we now call scientific publishing, as well as newspapers and magazines for the general public. Determining authorship was not easy either, as many important scientists signed only their initials, or used pseudonyms, such as Thomas Young (1773-1829), one of the great physicists of the early 19th century.
The decisions made and carried out resulted in the index, whose front appears next to a page dedicated to the great Swedish chemist J. J. Berzelius (1779-1848). The similarity of this list to the scientific citation index catalog is no accident. What is the meaning of this effort by the Royal Society in the last century? I’ve cut out the following from Csiszar’s text in quotation marks. “The view in which knowledge is built from separate and connected articles to the author”. “Its construction was an act of forming a canon that helped normalize the idea that scholarly publication consisted of a special kind of texts and authors, which were separated from a broader section of publication.” The lists created began to privilege a specific representation of an academic profession: the list of publications in scholarly journals.
In short, naturalists construct an identity, but it is orchestrated within a law, cut from a much broader realm of expression and which has normalized the idea that it is private. But my story does not end here, one of the quotes above deserves more attention: knowledge built from separate articles (as independent chapters of a book rather than a book as a whole) connected by an author. Yes, in the 19th century, most articles (when signed) were by a single author, but the same knowledge, law, and list view was assumed for lists of articles with multiple authorships. Authorship is a thorny subject and limited visibility when looking at the lists creates other problems, but with space short, I refer to another text on this, which, by the way, ends with a question that today takes on a new dimension: What science are we doing and which scientists are we training?
Dwigth Aktinson, who analyzes changes in scholarly articles over three centuries [V], draws attention to some of the positions of scholars regarding their texts. on one hand. We will have articles in purely automated language communicating the existing data and how it relates to the data that came before. A scientific article is a technical report. On the other hand, many scientific practitioners oppose this idea: the construction of text has a central role in the construction of knowledge. In this sense, what are the different formations of knowledge between the co-authors who are actually writing the article and those who are involved in other stages of research? And if no one else has written the article, what knowledge is being built? The question sounds ethereal, but it’s the question the article in Questão de Ciência raises about papers generated by artificial intelligence.
Evanildo da Silveira’s article focuses on the use of artificial intelligence seen as fraud, but I believe the cult of turning souls into lists and articles into data is on the threshold of a new stage: knowledge without construction and without authorship.
This is exactly (or roughly) what the Scribbler – Scinote platform offers: a solution to the dilemma “The search and discovery part is exciting, isn’t it? But what about the moment you have to sit down to write the article from scratch?” After all, the page says “You spend what It takes up to 72 hours to write an article”, a lot of time, right? (He will only write a hundred articles a year!) He continues: “Writing from scratch is the hardest part of writing. Build the meanings of all the data into an article you are really proud of.” However, the author (?) recommends a final revision of the AI-generated text in just 24 hours. In short, science is promoted that no longer needs to build knowledge. But life (?) turns longer and longer lists and articles into an ever-increasing amount of data.
Science, what would you look like?
Peter Schultz has been a professor at the Unicamp Glebe Wattagen (IFGW) for 20 years. He is currently a full professor at the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FCA) in Unicamp, in Limeira.
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