Friday, November 27, 2009


JSH: Authority from Google search results?

One of the more fascinating things that I've faced recently is the question of why some of my own amateur research like on my math blog comes up highly in certain Google search results. But one thing is clear, when newsgroups are presented with the information, posters immediately make efforts to discount such results, which is actually kind of interesting in and of itself.

What is the current accepted criteria for research authority is citation of published papers in formally peer reviewed journals where an additional layer of highly regarded formally peer reviewed journals is often given as well.

But web search offers the opportunity for research to just be used, regardless of whether it goes through some academic process or not.

And presumably search engines deliver to people search results they find useful.

When it comes to research then, someone like myself would like to present web search results as an indication of interest in my results, while the establishment might consider it a threat to the current peer review journal system.

That's because it IS.

If web search engines can objectively push up research based on world interest then they can simply remove human opinion from the process entire.

That could plunge formally peer reviewed journals into irrelevancy. Remove power from editorial boards at those journals. And even challenge the academic system by forcing professors at even top universities around the world to potentially compete with non-professionals doing their own research.

The question then is, does web search offer the possibility of an objective "peer review" of sorts that is simply more effective than the current academic journal system? Can the "wisdom of crowds" just out-do editors at journals around the world?

Is the modern journal system doomed by the Internet?

For the curious here are some Internet searches where I appear to dominate in Google, around the world:

define mathematical proof
solving binary quadratic Diophantine equations
Class Viewer
prime number compression

All those cases are WITHOUT quotes. Those should give #1. I have two results that show up highly in Yahoo! as well:

Class Viewer
solving quadratic residues

For results that just show up in the top 10:

optimal path algorithm
tautological spaces
core error
object ring

I have surmised that Google search results may be a leading indicator to research trends otherwise invisible, as some of you may be aware that often new ideas take a convoluted path to acceptance, and can seem unknown despite being around for years before some critical event occurs and they take over.

For instance, the leading indication from Google about the definition of mathematical proof may indicate that at some point in that future, my definition will be the established one, which will then be in dictionaries around the world, which is of course a self-serving notion!

I welcome disagreement. The data is fairly easy to check: you just do the web searches.

The implications could change our world, and shatter the academic hierarchy, forcing academics to not just compete with each other, or well-funded groups at private companies, but even with self-funded laypeople—from around the world.

The hotbed of intellectual activity that could result is hard to imagine. It could be a renaissance beyond anything the world has ever seen, or given a lot of the crap that is on the Internet, one might argue, it could be a recipe for intellectual anarchy.

What is the answer?

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