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Index
Glossary

















































Table of Contents
Index
Glossary
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Next: Requirements for scientific articles Up: Scientific communication via articles Previous: Communication in experimental science

   
Scientific articles

In this section, we specify the means of communication: published documents , in particular scientific articles. By a document we mean a symbolic representation of a quantity of information that can be stored and retrieved separately (when it has been encoded in some medium).2.21 Communication via published documents has two distinguishing features that may compromise its effectiveness and efficiency: it is strongly indirect and heterogeneous.

In strongly indirect communication, there is no immediate feedback. In addition, the interactants are not connected to each other by a direct communication channel.2.22 This means that the transmission of a message from the sender to a receiver is nontrivial. The message is put into some `information pool', from which the receiver has to retrieve it, and the sender cannot be sure that the prospective receivers have indeed done so.

Communication by means of published documents is not only strongly indirect, but also heterogeneous: the audience consists of (potential) receivers with different needs. The needs of a receiver depend on the goals that he pursues at that particular moment and on his background, which determines what the receiver understands, accepts and finds interesting.

Narrowing down the type of documents, we concentrate on scientific articles. In a broad sense of the word, a scientific article is any document in which information on a particular subject obtained from scientific research is presented. We focus on scientific articles in a more narrow sense of the word: by a scientific article we mean a refereed full, original account of a research activity published in a scientific  journal, that constitutes a coherent unit for the purpose of communication to peers.2.23 In other words, the article forms a self-contained publication unit, in the sense that it provides what the target audience is supposed to consider a full account of a finished `piece of research'.

By a  scientific journal we mean a documentbase  in which certified documents of a particular type, on a specified subject in science, aimed at a specific target audience are published, and in which some form of peer review is implemented. A documentbase is a structured collection of documents of a particular genre, which can be accessed by more than one person and/or used for more than one purpose. Thus, a journal is defined by its functions of certification and registration of articles, of (allowing for) archiving and of making the audience aware of it.2.24 In our broad definition of the word `journal', we do not specify the medium. The journal may be published by any suitable means. The most obvious media in this context are the electronic medium and the paper medium. We do not specify the journal's schedule either. A journal traditionally is a periodical, but `continuous journals' can also be envisaged: articles can be published as a continuous stream instead of being gathered into periodically appearing issues.2.25

The kinds of documents that can be published in a journal include scientific articles according to our narrow definition, rapid communications, comments and reviews. The requirements or  guidelines for articles that are to be published in some particular journal are usually specified by the editorial board. The aims and scope of a journal are often explicitly stated. The subject may for example be chemical physics and the intended audience chemical physicists or all broadly interested physicists. The target audience of the journal, and more particularly of the article, is restricted to a specified range of fellow experts or at least fellow scientists. Nevertheless, it is still rather heterogeneous, as not every member of the target audience has exactly the same needs (as we shall see in section 2.2.2). 



Next: Requirements for scientific articles Up: Scientific communication via articles Previous: Communication in experimental science