From a Researcher's Point of View

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From the Outside

What outsiders see of the Sub-editors

With such a large number of volunteer Sub-editors the contact between them and the researchers who's entries they are working on is naturally variable.

The experience of Catwoman in having (currently) five entries make that journey from personal space, through Peer Review and the editing process to the edited guide falls somewhere within the second and third possibilities. She has had contact with all five editors, but in each case the contact was initiated by her, either to enquire as to the current state of the entry or to point out errors that have occurred before or during the process. Only the Sub-editors themselves can say whether they would have contacted her had the need arisen, but as it stands, none of them did. To balance the argument somewhat, it should be noted that the Sub-editor for Catwoman's sixth (up-and-coming) entry initiated contact before even starting work on it. That particular Sub-editor happened to be none other than Whoami?

What happens to the entries

When researchers receive that much sought after posting telling them that their entry has paid its dues in Peer Review and has been recommended by a scout it is a time of celebration. For the researchers who have complete faith in the editors and/or who have lost interest in their entry the only remaining thing to do is sit back and wait for the ultimate prize: 'Congratulations! Your h2g2 Entry has been Approved!' But not all researchers are that way inclined, indeed many invest significant quantities of time ensuring the entry is as good as they can make it, and are naturally curious about the changes that will befall their hard work.

When an entry has been edited a duplicate appears listed alongside the original with two significant changes: There is no 'edit' option and the title has been suffixed by the magic word 'pending'. It is at this time that the researcher can re-read the entry, trying to spot changes and check for any mistakes. The Sub-editor can, at this point, notify the researcher of any changes - if not to gain approval then at least out of courtesy. Without contact a researcher may even go so far as to directly compare the edited and unedited entries. Either way, with any luck there will be few or no alterations to question or mistakes to correct, and the entry can proceed on its way to the front page.


Sadly this is not a perfect world and not all editors are perfect (for the sake of balance we'll say that researchers are sometimes far from perfect also). Changes in the entry's style can be dismissed with a casual shrug and a muttered 'Oh well, I thought it looked better my way.' or a 'That looks much better than my way of doing it!' But what about changes to the entry's content? Spelling mistakes, errors in grammar or (more usually) minor misinterpretations can be pointed out to the Sub-editor who, at least in Catwoman's case, has responded cheerfully and has made the necessary corrections without further quibble. But this is not always so with other researchers and their Sub-editors.

One such case is that of Researcher 114627 and his entry on The Coriolis Effect. During the editing process a further example of the effect was added in an attempt to make it clearer. Unfortunately the example was used incorrectly and the researcher took exception to the editor implying that they were equally knowledgable on the subject. The researcher obviously knew his stuff as the original (unedited) entry was extremely well-informed and composed - attempting to add to an entry that had been through many revisions and rewrites by the author (not to mention a rather hard time in Peer Review) was probably a mistake. The resulting discussion provides evidence of just how dedicated some researchers are and the conflicts that may arise in their cases.

In that particular case the entry almost made it into the edited guide (it was listed as 'pending') before the error was spotted by the diligent author, something that surely would not have happened if contact between the two parties had been maintained.


What line needs to be taken?

The span of researchers is enormous, from the experts in their particular fields wishing to share her/his knowledge with the rest of h2g2 to those who just want to have an entry in the edited guide regardless of content. The trick for a Sub-editor (or so it seems) is to be an effective judge of where, within the span a researcher falls, but politeness dictates that an author be allowed to preview her/his work before the rest of the world. Doesn't it? A secondary issue for those editors who fall into category 2 is to judge what constitutes a 'problem', and whether the problem is their's (eg a misunderstanding of part of the entry) or the researcher's (eg a lack of clarity in the original entry). Lack of contact between researcher and Sub-editor not only increases the 'us-and-them' divide between the two parties but also mocks the term 'community', a word so often used in the context of h2g2.

What needs to change?

Before the overhall of the Peer Review system a few months ago entries that had been 'scouted' appeared in duplicate form on the researcher's personal space with a 'recommended' tag, giving them the opportunity to view the editing as a work in progress. The current system omits this stage with the 'pending' article appearing some time after its recommendation, thus denying the researcher any part in the process.

How well does it all work?

Catwoman's personal experiences in this area have been very good, despite the lack of contact from Sub-editors - all her entries have gone from Peer review to the edited guide with little or no alterations. Having read about the experiences of some other researchers she feels herself to be very fortunate in this respect.

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