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Will the scientific paper always be the gold standard for sharing new results?

By James Dacey

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A new report released earlier this week concluded that physical scientists use and access information in very different ways depending on the precise field they work in. Based on interviews and focus groups with a range of physical scientists, Collaborative Yet Independent reports that researchers have started to use online tools such as social networking sites in relation to their work. It found, however, that when it comes to disseminating new scientific results, publication in a traditional scientific journal remains the “gold standard” for researchers.

We want to know whether you think this will remain the case looking to the future of science. In this week’s Facebook poll we are asking the question:

Do you believe that researchers will always view the scientific paper as the gold standard for sharing new results?

No, it will be replaced by other forms of communication

To cast your vote, please visit our Facebook page. And, as always, please feel free to explain your response by posting a comment on the poll.

In last week’s poll you may have clocked that we addressed the timely issue of timekeeping. It was the topic of the hour because last Thursday delegates were debating whether or not we should scrap the “leap second”, at a meeting of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva. This is a second that is added to or taken away from Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC) every few years to take account of the slight speeding up or slowing down in the rotation of the Earth.

Since the first leap second was inserted in 1972, people have deliberated whether this is the most effective way of dealing with time. Some have suggested swapping the leap second in favour of the addition of a larger chunk of time after a longer period – such as a leap hour roughly every millennium. Others have suggested abandoning astronomical time altogether, replacing it with an Earth-based reference such as an atomic clock. To do so would decouple time from the Earth’s rotation, allowing traditional night hours to gradually become day hours, and over millions of years the seasons would shift from their traditional months.

We asked for your opinion on this issue and 72% of respondents believe that we should define time using an atomic clock. The remaining 28% would prefer to maintain our connection with the heavens by keeping astronomical time.

One commenter, Robert Minchin, believes that we should keep the leap second to save a stitch in time. “Getting rid of them would simply be storing up problems for the future, when a larger leap-something will need to be introduced before the night becomes the day,” he wrote. Another respondent, who goes by the name of Strum Cat, feels strongly that we should ditch astronomical time. He wrote: “Are you kidding? Defining time by the rotation of Earth is fine for getting to work on time, but useless for precise science.”

It appears, however, that the debate is set to continue for some time yet. Last Thursday – after our poll went live – officials at the ITU announced that they have sent the issue back to a panel of experts for further assessment. They say a revised proposal will be introduced no earlier than 2015.

Thank you for all of your votes and comments, and we look forward to hearing from you again in this week’s poll.

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