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Chapter 13. Critique and controversy in digital scientific communication

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Abstract

In the last few years various formats of digital communication on the internet have created new opportunities for scientific critique and controversy. Based on detailed case studies conducted within the framework of a major project, the present article discusses the possible impact of such formats on the practice of scientific controversy. In addition to providing a space for factual scientific information, formats like mailing lists, blogs, and open peer review journals are used as platforms for critical reviews and polemical exchanges. These new media have the potential to change three important aspects of scientific communication, the spread of scientific information, the speed of publication, and the amount of interactivity between scholars. For example, some forms of open peer review not only organize an accelerated and publicly visible reviewing process, but also encourage authors to reply to criticism and permit a wider scientific public to join in the critical discussion. So this format potentially contributes to an increase in transparency and interactivity of the reviewing process, thereby offering opportunities for clarification and further development of ideas. In these new digital formats traditional rules and patterns of controversy are often retained, but there are also new communicative tasks which call for new or modified principles and strategies. The article aims to show characteristic structures, opportunities and problems of polemical interactions conducted in these formats.

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