Secret of the Western science:A little piece in a larger jigsaw 科学秘密:一条大锯上的又一个锯齿

Our present system of scientific communication depends almost entirely on the “primary” literature. This has three basic characteristics: it is fragmentary, derivative, and edited. Three characteristics are, however, quite essential.

“The invention of a mechanism for the systematic publication of fragments of scientific work may well have been the key event in the history of modern science. A regular journal carries from one research worker to another the various discoveries, deductions, speculations and observations which are of common interest. It is no longer necessary to amass a vast quantity of material, or to conceive a complete new “world system”, fully armed at all points, before going into print with a great thick book. Although the best and most famous scientific discoveries seem to open while new windows of the mind, a typical scientific papers has never pretended to be the more than a little piece in a larger jigsaw – not significant in itself but as an element in a grander scheme. This technique, of soliciting many modest contributions to the vast store of human knowledge l, has been the secret of the Western science since the seventeenth century, for it achieves a corporate, collective power that is far greater than any one individual can exert. Primary scientific papers are not meant to be final statement of indisputable truth; each is merely a tiny tentative step forward, through the jungles or ignorance. ” — Ziman (1969)


“科研论文发表机制,把科学研究工作中获得的片片断断的知识系统地公布于世,一定算得上现代科学史上的关键性事件。 一份期刊把各种各样的大家普遍感兴趣的发现或推论或观测,从一个研究者传递给另一个研究者。一篇典型的科学论文总是认为自己不过是一条大锯上的又一个锯齿——它本身并不重要,但却是一个更大项目中的一份子。这种论文发表技术-这种使得许许多多以微薄的贡献进入人类知识库的技术-乃是17世纪以来西方科学的秘密所在,因为它获得了一种远远超过任何个人所能发辉出的共同的、集体的力量。科研文献不再是不容置疑的终极真理呈现,每一篇都只是在无知的丛林中试探性地向前迈出的一小步而已。” –Ziman (1969)


Ziman J. Information, Communication, Knowledge. Nature. 224: 318–324 (1969).