After I explained the Public Paper Writing Process to my colleagues, I got some interesting feedback. Mostly comments on the additional overhead (transforming the paper into a blog format) which is generated by writing paper openly in the public. Also, the concern of getting too much comments on the public paper was risen and the question how to handle this was asked.
And, as writing a scientific paper is by no means a linear process, it might be difficult for readers to follow, because lots of updates happen when the paper deadline approaches.
The question of too much additional overhead is not difficult to address, because in this case, it simply boils down to the general question of how to collaborate online. In our case, the actual process is simple: we use subversion, tell the other co-authors what part of the paper is going to be edited by sending an eMail, update the paper, and commit the changes for the other co-authors to see. This works for us, because we use ASCII text files which contain the content, which include the Latex markup.
Now, if we decide to publish the content during the writing phase, we need to decide when to do this and to copy/paste the ASCII text (without the Latex markup) into a textbox in wordpress. Obviously, there is some editing necessary, but this can be helped with Latex to HTML tools and there are plugins (for blog systems like wordpress) that can handle Latex code.
The more difficult question, is however, to decide WHEN to publish WHAT. As already said, writing a scientific paper is meandering process with occasional dead ends and continuous updates of the paper content. One approach is to have a weekly schedule for publication, similar to weekly magazines. Every week there is either an update to an already published section of the paper or a new section. This schedule can be adapted, if necessary: longer intervals for times when experiments run or shorter intervals, if the deadline approaches.
However, the question of structuring and retrieving the current version of the paper (different versions, no linear sequence of paper sections, restructuring of the paper) is still open. We haven’t figured out a way to do this: one of our colleagues suggested to follow a Wiki approach and to have Wiki entries for each paper section.
We believe the best way to find out how this actually works is to do it. We are going to start the process next week with a paper for the 27th Symposium On Applied Computing (SAC). We are already writing the introduction and hope to have it ready for publication on the blog next week.
your ikangai science team
PS: We hope for lots of comments on our approach to write a scientific paper. The more the better .