Posted by: bluesyemre | September 29, 2018

#Scientific Facts, Are they like Myths, Told through Fairytales and Spread by Gossip? by Anita de Waard

athena minerva and jupiter zeus with ray orange and black vintage painting

Today’s post is by Anita de Waard. Anita is Vice President Research Data Collaborations for Elsevier. This blog discusses her research in new forms of publishing, sponsored by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and is a writeup of her presentation at the EuroScience Open Forum held in Toulouse, this July.

To create better systems for knowledge extraction from scientific papers, it is useful to understand how humans glean knowledge from text in the first place. Studying the language of science delivers some surprising results: fairytale schemas help us to understand the narrative structure of articles; the study of verb tense reveals common linguistic patterns of sense-making between science and mythology, and tracing hedging in citations allows us how citations work to spread claims much like rumors.

Scientific Papers Are Written Like Fairytales

Ever since I joined Elsevier, in 1988, my colleagues and I worked on what we see to be one of the key roles of publishers: to improve scholarly communication through the use of information technologies. Over these thirty years, we’ve witnessed a series of hypes, and jumped on many bandwagons: some were much more successful than we ever imagined (er, like, the web….) some, we wisely invested time and effort in (like RDFand MarkLogic) and some, which we were gunning for, never lived up to their promise (we had high hopes for XLink and SVG as carriers for scientific content, for instance…).

The Semantic Web has been a particular interest since it started, and offered a tantalizing idea: surely, with ‘smart content’ and clever agents, we must be able to finally let go of the centuries-old narrative structure of scientific articles, and invent a format that allows computers to consume knowledge directly? And scientists won’t have to read and write all those (bloody) papers? More recently, we are told that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing will do all the reading and understanding for us: AI is going to eat the world’; Alexa will make publishers obsolete, and new software will deliver not just knowledge, but Facts. Surely, the time has come to finally bypass this narrative nonsense, once and for all?

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