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Free Online Scientific Repository Hits Milestone 111

ocean_soul writes "Last week the free and open access repository for scientific (mainly physics but also math, computer sciences...) papers arXiv got past 500,000 different papers, not counting older versions of the same article. Especially for physicists, it is the number-one resource for the latest scientific results. Most researchers publish their papers on arXiv before they are published in a 'normal' journal. A famous example is Grisha Perelman, who published his award-winning paper exclusively on arXiv."
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Free Online Scientific Repository Hits Milestone

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:25AM (#25299367) Journal
    When I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota, a professor instructed us to use Arxiv as a resource (I think Citeseer was another but paled in comparison). A large part of my undergrad and grad school days were spent perusing Arxiv and sometimes implementing ideas I had read in the Computer Science section. My hard drive became strained by the sheer number of PDF/PS files in my user directory. My room was littered with papers printed off to read on the bus or at work. My base knowledge of computer science I owe to my professors, most of the things beyond that came from Arxiv.

    I owe a lot of my knowledge to that site. Here's to another 50,000 papers, Arxiv. And another and another and another ...

    Also, the Arxiv Physics blog [] is a regular favorite in my Liferea news feed account.
    • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:32AM (#25299457) Homepage
      Perhaps Arxiv works for the hard sciences, but for the social sciences and humanities giving people access to an online repository of papers doesn't necessarily mean that they can easily stay up to date with the field. I get the impression that a lot of current thought in the community of my field (linguistics) is passed on through relatively private e-mail lists and informal discussions at conferences, and might not be written down and published for years.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        Guess that's why they call it linguistics.. no wait.. you're being sarcastic right?
      • If it's so informal, I have to wonder how Sociology and Literary Criticism stay up-to-date. []?
      • That's true for biology and is undoubtedly true for physics as well. The bar is high for papers, a lot of your results by themselves prove nothing but strongly indicate things, confirming or denying your ideas. You can "know" something years before you can say it's true, and although that can be misleading, a lot of times your colleagues will be very interested in it.

        Still, an online repository of papers is good for somewhat current stuff, full details, and getting information faster in many cases.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Ah, so you're working in the oral tradition, then?

      • perhaps that's simply an issue of convention. i don't see why linguistic papers couldn't be written and published in a similar fashion. is there no way to distill the private e-mail lists and informal conference discussions (transcripts) in a formal academic paper? seems like an open scientific/academic repository would benefit all disciplines, just as mailing lists and conference discussions do.

        i'm really happy to hear of Arxiv's success (i only heard about the site a month or two ago). this type of open e

      • by bjorniac ( 836863 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:17PM (#25301015)

        Well, this is the problem of perception a lot of people have - that scientists are the anti-social ones. Scientists cannot work in a vacuum - we need communications with one another, interactions and a knowledge of other work to get on with our own work. You build off other people's work, use the things recently discovered to move your own work forward, so you need to have constant fast communications of the latest discoveries. Good physicists are always talking to one another, asking about work done, clarifying points and collaborating - just check out how many of those papers have multiple authors, often at separate institutions.

        Compare this to a social science/humanity subject where sitting in your ivory tower is basically encouraged, with publications of great single-authored treatises seemingly the only output. They don't need to talk to one another and many are outright hostile to any discussion of their work.

        Disclosure: I'm a physicist with an SO in the humanities. The differences in our experiences are incredible - people in my department like each other and work together.

    • by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:43AM (#25299613) Homepage Journal

      My room was littered with papers printed off to read on the bus or at work.

      A good reason to buy an Amazon Kindle/Apple iPhone/Sony Reader.

      • A PDF on an iPhone? That's gotta strain the eyes.
        • Most Physics/CS papers use a standard two column format; you could pinch and zoom in to a single column filling the screen width-wise on the iphone; it would probably be decent.

      • A good reason to buy an Amazon Kindle/Apple iPhone/Sony Reader.


        I thought so too, so I bought the eReader from Sony. I deal with scientific papers alot, printing them and usually never reading them -- a pile here, a pile there.

        The Sony product just doesn't cut it. Here's an unordered list of why:

        • The screen is TOO SMALL. Scientific papers are in small print on regular sized paper. The equations are really small. The "magnify" function tries to reformat the page when it uses larger text, and the result
      • by Raenex ( 947668 )

        An e-reader will be worthwhile when it costs $100 or less and is the size of a magazine.

    • by Mgccl ( 1380697 )
      Nice thank-you-letter... How about get the capitalization right first? arXiv.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:27AM (#25299389)

    i'll beat all the cynical punch savvy posters to the punch!

    that comma is in the wrong place, i see 50,0000. I guess they need another article on properly writing numbers.

  • is that a typo for 50,000 or 500,000?
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:41AM (#25299587)

    Here are some in fields I follow :

    In astrophysics, almost all new papers appear first in Arxiv.

    In planetary physics, some but by no means all papers appear in Arxiv.

    In geophysics, basically no papers appear in Arxiv.

    I don't know why there are these differences, but there it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:42AM (#25299589)

    If it's a science publication, should it have hit a kilometer-stone instead of a milestone?

    • by RickL ( 64901 )

      Both units should be metric. I propose the kilometer-kilogram--which is about .1 milestones.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        The expression "milestone" is derived from the practice of placing a stone every mile that indicated how many miles it was from the place where the road started. So "stone" in this expression is not referring to a unit of any kind.
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:43AM (#25299619) Homepage

    But the question we are all asking ourselves is

    Who got the first post?

    The answer is Exact Black String Solutions in Three Dimensions [] by James H. Horne and Gary T. Horowitz

    Slightly better than the "Fkrst Pist" attempts on Slashdot!

  • How significant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by igotmybfg ( 525391 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:44AM (#25299621) Homepage
    Because quantity == quality...
    • Considering they were started in 1991 and have now only gotten to 500,000, this is significant.

    • int quality = 0;
      int quantity = 0;

      if (quality == quantity)
      {cout "Yes it does. :)";}
    • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .org> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:59AM (#25300733)

      Because quantity == quality...

      I realize that you were being snarky, but you accidentally hit on a corner of the truth. The real value of the ArXiV is indeed its quantity of results, mixed with the ease of access. The traditional journals typically restrict access to their output -- unless you are at a subscribing institution, it costs $15-$50 to access a single article from a single traditional scientific journal (depending on publisher). At professional institutes and universities, which typically have online subscriptions to journals, it is possible to surf through the Literature (depending on field, back about 10-15 years) and find recent relevant knowledge extremely quickly. If you aren't at an institution that subscribes, you're SOL. ArXiV fixes that - if you publish your article both in a journal and in the ArXiV, most indexing services will notice that it is the same, and suddenly everyone on the planet has unrestricted access. That's a no-brainer for an author.

      The way that professional scientists (like me -- I am a solar astrophysicist) access the Literature has changed drastically in the last ten years. My office has about 12 linear feet of Xeroxed journal articles in three-ring binders, but I practically never refer to them. It's far faster and more convenient to access (say) the entire archives of Astrophysical Journal online than to go "grep dead trees" at the library. Citation indices such as ADS (Google for adsabs) hyperlink both references and citations, so that I can search through 50 articles relevant to a topic in less time than it used to take to look up one article and Xerox it for reading outside the library.

      Old-style pay-to-read journals get in the way of that rapid access - for example, I have rarely cited articles in Astronomy and Astrophysics, because it's a pain in my ass to download them. Until recently, my institute didn't subscribe, so I had to either pay on a per-article basis (which adds up if you are skimming for the one relevant article in a dozen possibilities), or travel to the local university to get the paper I wanted. This is a very common problem: even large universities generally don't subscribe to all the relevant journals in a given field, because web subscriptions cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per year per journal!

      For everyone not fortunate enough to have a computer account at a large institute that can actually afford to subscribe to dozens of journals, ArXiV is the best way to access a large volume of the literature. Hence, articles posted to the ArXiV get cited more. That makes authors want to post to the ArXiV as a matter of course. It's a virtuous circle.

      So, er, yes, quantity is quality in this case -- ArXiV was canny and/or lucky enough to get a critical mass of good work, and the quantity is the driving force that keeps the whole thing going.

      • Well played sir.
      • Might I reccommend the four year college University of Maryland University College. They have a vast collection of electronic texts and one can access any of them while taking a (distance education) course. Just keep up your GPA and for the price of 1/4 time school you can access any journal you want. I have yet to find something (excepting textbooks) that I couldn't get either online or e-mailed to me. I personally intend to keep taking courses after I graduate just for the fact that its worlds cheaper tha
  • by ruin20 ( 1242396 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:44AM (#25299643)
    ...convince the scientific journal community that they should open their standards and let articles published in their journals to be republished by the author else where.

    I'm not going to pretend 50,000 is a lot, but the fact it's 50,000 and growing should make them worry. I hope the celebration of this milestone will help accelerate it's growth so we see 100,000 sooner than later. The quicker pay-for-access science disappears the better for all of us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hikaru79 ( 832891 )
      The summary misplaced a comma. The actual total is 500,000 not 50,000.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by lbgator ( 1208974 )


    • Many journals do let the authors publish elsewhere, as a matter of course. (Astrophysical Journal is one.) Others can be strong-armed. The copyright agreement they send is not just a formality, it is the actual terms under which the authors license the work to the journal. I routinely write in that I retain a non-exclusive right to re-publish. Haven't had problems with that yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems that a lot of people follow their field by reading pre-prints posted to arXiv. Isn't this kind of dangerous, considering the lack of peer-review? Or is there no problem because people only actually _use_ the results after they have been published in a proper journal?

    I've seen that they've started a system where you need an endorsement from another arXiv author to post a pre-print, but is an endorsement enough, considering the likely fact that endorsers don't really check the paper properly?
    • by kesuki ( 321456 )

      "It seems that a lot of people follow their field by reading pre-prints posted to arXiv. Isn't this kind of dangerous, considering the lack of peer-review?"

      Peer review is great for some things, but just ask Galileo how 'peer review' worked for him. 7 years in a prison as a part of the inquisition. I do realize, that today scientific breakthroughs are treated a little differently today, unless you're talking about Genetic Engineering, which has it's own set of inquisition style prohibitions.

      but yeah even oth

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Peer review is great for some things, but just ask Galileo how 'peer review' worked for him. 7 years in a prison as a part of the inquisition. I do realize, that today scientific breakthroughs are treate

        Just a note, Galileo's trial by the inquisition was not a problem of peer reviewing: it wasn't that he couldn't get his work published; it was what happened after it was published.

  • Congralculations on that SCIgen benchmark!

  • by Guysmiley777 ( 880063 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:16AM (#25300031)
    Wow, that's a lot of ten-thousands of papers!
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Either that, or it's Chinese/Japanese (they group digits in sets of 4 rather than 3 like we do, so the number 500,000 would literally be spoken as "fifty ten-thousand").
    • You jest, but if what very, very little I understand of Japanese is in order... Well, maybe our great Taco has merely been watching too much anime.

      In Japanese, ten-thousand is "man" (pronounced with an "a" somewhat like the "a" in "father": "mahn"). What we would call "five hundred thousand" would instead be called "go-jyu man" ("go" = "five", "jyu" = "tens", and "man" = "ten-thousands": "five tens, ten-thousands"). So, basically, "fifty ten-thousands" would be a fairly accurate English representation of

  • In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bakuun ( 976228 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:43AM (#25300481)
    PubMed Central, the central repository for open access Life Sciences research articles, is pushing on 1.3 million articles. These repositories is a wet dream of text mining researchers.
  • It is with great joy that I watch those who feel entitled to withhold knowledge in order to benefit their own avaricious needs by controlling the dissemination of popular art and science (starting with the Church to todays corporate greedy) - lose their hold on said resources faster than you can say Wall Street Meltdown. Kudos to the Internet and all those who espouse the FREE exchange of ideas.
  • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:42PM (#25301381) Homepage

    We really need to begin compiling our scientific knowledge into a hyperlinked wiki/database of sorts.

    Wikipedia's great for basic stuff, though there's still gobs of information (much of which is in the public domain) that's inexplicably confined to books and journals.

    Hyperlinks (and extended data sets) should be *standard* for all journal articles these days, given that we have the technology to do so. There's no reason that the arXiv needs to remain as a repository for dead-tree PDFs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 )

      At some level, hyperlinks (at least) are standard. They're called "references" and were the closest thing to a hyperlink before the intertubes were invented. Several free services (ADS is one: [] have spiders that walk the literature and create genuine URL-style links between articles. ArXiV is advancing custom along that path, by making many journal articles available for linking to anyone free of charge.

      Extended data sets are coming. Astrophysical Journal allows online publicat

  • Not a search engine. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    To clarify, arxiv is a document repository (you submit your papers there). If you want a scientific papers search engine, use citeseer [].

    Note that citeseer also indexes arxiv documents :)

  • If I publish a paper to arXiv, is it peer reviewed before being posted, or is it just accepted? Just curious
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by plusungood ( 805640 )
      It is NOT peer reviewed, but around half the papers eventually get accepted in a journal or a conference proceeding. It doesn't only contains articles, but also overviews, books and introductions.
  • XXX.LANL.GOV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @03:42PM (#25304531) Homepage

    was the original .. with the skull/crossbones icon. Now its all too easy and happy looking.

  • You know only terrorists need scientific information.

  • What we need is wiki-like research, where a mass of people collaborate to finish a research project little by little, asynchronously and spontaneously, just like wikis. If you are interested see this project of mine [] which although still in pre-alpha mode I hope could be useful some day.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.