Sensemaking and Science Publishing

(Originally posted on Twitter)

A lot has been written about how the traditional science model of publishing and peer review is broken. One connection I haven’t seen made is with the sensemaking literature, which studies how people understand complex topics.


Sensemaking is a powerful framework that has been used mainly for analyzing organizations and surprisingly less for scientific research. What is science if not a collective process for understanding our complex reality? Anyway, sensemaking really helps to see why the current traditional science model is broken, and also how we can improve things.

While not directly mentioned in the figure below, classical publishing and peer review are at the end stages of a nested, iterative multi-scale feedback loop. Information search, filtering, relating concepts, etc are all part of the larger sensemaking process.


The sensemaking model shows us 2 important missing elements from trad-sci.

  1. Publishing happens across diverse scales and formats, as demonstrated by the rapid rise of various micro/nanopublishing/discourse graph initiatives


For example, nanopublishing aims at the “smallest units of publishable information”; even someone declaring they’ve read a paper can be a nanopub!


  1. Feedback also happens across diverse scales and formats. This is why scientists spend so much time on social media- we don’t want to wait months for noisy peer reviews. Scientists posting on Twitter are actually nanopublishing but don’t know it yet!


That is a current blind spot in our scientific infrastructure! Social media networks are not open or FAIR, so are ill suited to host these “proto” nanopubs.

The sensemaking framework suggests that for micro/nanopub efforts to succeed, they’ll need to be embedded in effective social feedback networks.

The idea of social networks for scientists has been around for a long time, but with social media going FUBAR, IMO it’s high time to revisit these ideas and integrate them with the exciting progress on micro/nanopublishing

I recently presented these ideas at MetaScience 2023 - check out for paper/slides/etc! Still work in progress, and we’d love to engage with fellow sensemakers interested in this space!

Researcher & Entrepreneur

Ronen Tamari. Interested in prosocial tech, artificial x natural x collective intelligence