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INSAM - The International Society for Agricultural Meteorology

Last modified April 15, 2016 13:37

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Dear Members,
at INSAM we used to have the habit of writing columns/blogs/homepage texts at least every three months. We used them as homepage text and also sent them to members. As the founding president I did that till my retirement as current president in May 2014. It was our intention to continue that habit but the present current president, Prof. René Gommes, is retiring from his work in China later than originally planned. They cannot miss him there. The INSAM Steering Committee will therefore take over homepage texts for the time being; so that you do no forget INSAM’s existence.

ResearchGate, OUR NEW SEARCH ENGINE WITH A HUMAN FACE

Kees Stigter, March 2016

Science, I have learned, you do together; together with colleagues, students and all possible sources of information. I grew up as a scientist, in Holland (1958 -1975) and Tanzania (1975 – 1984, for almost nine years), by using Current Contents (CCs), a weekly paper journal that showed contents of scores of journals. There were various versions to choose from and in those days you could do with one or two definitely not cheap but absolutely necessary subscription(s). Without that you remained almost blind, as an isolated scientist. Eugene Garfield wrote what you these days would call a blog on the first pages of each CCs that was famous for its review capacity and interdisciplinarity. I still remember some of them.

Of course, in Amsterdam, where I studied experimental physics, great libraries were at our disposal with books covering the nineteens century and the twentieth up till the moment one entered the library. University General Libraries and Departmental Specialized Libraries were available and one had the history of a field of science, past and present, at one’s finger tips. We all had bicycles to reach these libraries and any paper or dissertation that did not cover what the literature learned in its field and on its subjects so far was unacceptable.

When I continued my studies in agriculture (agricultural physics and agricultural meteorology) in Wageningen, next to CCs, the city was full of libraries in all kinds of applied agriculture where one could find the journals of which the CCs had shown the contents. In the meantime photocopy machines were available but we also had pre-printed postcards with which we could ask for reprints to colleagues of which the addresses were found in CCs. In Tanzania that post card system was the only way to get reprints. My wife and children remember me on weekends on Dar es Salaam’s beaches for many years with CCs (of which the Dutch Embassy paid my subscriptions), and my wife wrote the post cards! I left after close to nine years an enormous amount of boxes with sorted out reprints on various subjects of importance in applied agrometeorology.

My first co-authored publication was in 1964, more than 50 years ago, my first sole author publication was in 1968 but my publishing really got off in the 1970s. Today it is at more than 1000 publications of all kinds, of which close to 900 can these days be found on ResearchGate, for many (about 600) at least the abstracts. So many papers are only available when one pays for them, even as a(n) (co-)author, because availability of electronic versions was not common for a long time. It appears that (illegal) changes in that situation are at hand. But bringing 600 more full texts into the system would take an immense amount of time. Presently, with “open access” journals, this problem could be less; but have a look at Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers (http://scholarlyoa.com/) and predatory open access stand-alone journals (https://scholarlyoa.com/individual-journals/). We have to look out sharply not to be fooled.

Nevertheless, how different has life as a scientist become with ResearchGate as a search engine/agent. Here something as 10 million researchers from all over the world have brought their work in and you can find them on name of the Author(s), title of the Publication, and some other inputs. Up and above that there is a “Questions” section that gives ResearchGate its human face. I love to spend some time each day to look at questions from less experienced young scientists and to try to be of some help. There is a very good exchange of knowledge through electronic literature between those discussing questions. There are also very good discussions on various subjects between people from all over the world. I am particularly interested in those on present and future climate (change) and farming/farmers because of my work in Indonesia and Africa. But there are many other subjects.

If I may advise you, if you are not yet on ResearchGate, get on! If I compare the efforts that I have described above that were needed at that time to remain a well-informed knowledgeable scientist; and when I see how at least quite a part of this knowledge now comes through the internet, with for me ResearchGate in first place, remaining knowledgeable has become a lot easier. But yes, there is also a lot more to be known.

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