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September 7, 2005

Trackbacks in the Chronicle

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a short piece (subscribers only) on the addition of Trackback support at the arXivs.

Compared with scholars in other academic fields, physicists have a reputation for forging ahead in the digital landscape. The World Wide Web came out of a particle-physics lab, and physicists pioneered the concept of making scientific papers freely available to all. For more than a decade, physicists have been posting their manuscripts on a public database, known as ArXiv (, even before they submit the work to journals for publication. Now the same preprint site, hosted by the Cornell University Library, is taking another leap forward: creating an archived comment system to accompany the papers.

And yes, they did quote yours truly:

In theory the process will promote a more free-flowing exchange of ideas among scientists. In the past, physicists would react to papers by talking in hallways or writing formal responses. The new process allows them to offer “quicker feedback that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise propagate very widely,” says Jacques J. Distler, a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin. He has lobbied for such a system for years in conversations with Paul Ginsparg, a professor of physics at Cornell who started ArXiv in 1991 and now serves as an adviser. Mr. Ginsparg asked the library staff at Cornell to enable TrackBacks, which they did late last month.

In related news, various non-blog sites like John Baez’s This Week’s Finds and CosmoCoffee have become Trackback-enabled1.

1 Well, at least for the sending of Trackbacks; until John decides to join the 21st Century, you still won’t be able send a Trackback ping to one of his excellent posts.

Posted by distler at September 7, 2005 11:02 AM

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