– Thoughts on Strategy and Management

Great Idea: Great Ideas in 200 Words

Is it possible to publish a scientific research idea in 200 words or less? From now on it is.

The Journal of Brief Ideas is a new project that aims to free ideas from the heads of researchers. The main condition is: The writing must not be longer than 200 words. The Journal of Brief Ideas shall provide a place for such short ideas to be published and archived permanently – searchable and citable.

Why this?

The founder team around David Harris identified a set of problems in research:

  • Good researchers have lots of ideas, often more than they can pursue
  • Many of these ideas are not publishable. They are too short or still partial.
  • Good ideas get lost just because researchers don’t have the time to develop all their ideas to a level at which they are eligible for a top-tier scientific journal. Publishing at such journals requires extensive work and takes time.

In the result, many interesting ideas simply get lost. They are never pursued and disappear. Or somebody else comes up with the same idea, develops it and gets the credit for it. Hence, David says: All that intellectual capital is tied up solely in the heads of the researchers rather than circulating where it could be doing some good.

What is it all about?

The Journal of Brief ideas aims to fix these problems. It gives researchers the opportunity to virtually set their surplus ideas free. All entries are permanently archived, searchable and citable, so they have the same publication status as in any other journal.

Simlar to a blog, the journal lists entries with their headline and a teaser.

Since peer review would be impractical for such brief writings, the founders decided for a post-publication review system. Visitors who sign in can vote for ideas they like. Thus, you can take the number of votes as an indicator for the quality of an idea.

The moment I am writing these lines, I count 33 entries in the journal. This is 4 more than two days before when I first checked the site. Given the fact that the first entry is for the Journal of Brief Ideas itself and is from February 1, this number is promising.

Entries cover a variety of topics from many fields of science. These examples may illustrate the range:

  • Why Renewable Energy Cannot Replace Fossil Fuels
  • Religion and Terrorism: how to stop their affinity?
  • Extragalactic radio sources as lighthouses for SETI
  • The Effect of Economists and Other Professions on Economic Growth
  • Does transpiration in hyperaccumulator Pteris vittata mediate asenic translocation from the roots to fronds via xylem?

The founder team has deliberately limited to number of words to describe an idea to 200. They are convinced that it should be possible to say important things in a few sentences. As they state, scientists have done exactly this back in history.

Is it useful?

Well, time will tell. I think the idea has the potential to fill a gap in scientific publishing. Its success will depend on the international research community’s willingness to share their unpursued ideas within that framework.

What I like about it

  • If successful, the Journal can bring to light an enormous amount of knowledge and ideas that would otherwise remain uncovered and unused. Thus, the ideas are given the chance to realize their potential.
  • The world limit forces contributors to get their idea across in a few sentences. That makes it easier to browse through the stock of ideas. Even laymen have a chance to understand what the idea is about.
  • The website has a clean and tidy look.

What I think is still missing

  • There is a search function. However, I did not discover a way to brows by topic. Maybe they set up some sort of searchable structure later, when they see what research topics are covered.
  • It would be nice to have some sort of follow-up on the way the ideas took after their publication. Again: such a function might already be in place and there just isn’t anything to report after such a short time.

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