A Journal of Brief Ideas

Update Oct 12, 2013: We are actively developing the Journal of Brief Ideas now at briefideas.org. The journal will allow you to submit but most of the functionality is not there yet, sorry. We’re only beginning. But drop me a note @physicsdavid if you want to see it developed further!


One thing slowing down the flow of research information is that the quantum of research, or the smallest publishable amount, is actually quite large, meaning that a lot of good ideas don’t get published (i.e. spread). Ideas stuck in a mind are no use to anybody except that one individual, and that limits the power of the idea.

Furthermore, in some fields it can take five years of work or more for a postdoc to gather enough data and do the analysis for a single strong paper. The quantum is definitely too large in those fields.

The idea of a long paper of many pages is an evolved phenomenon with the original “papers”–letters in early journals–often taking half a page or less to print. But those days are long gone.

Ideas which might be important but are small in size don’t have a natural home. So what if there were the equivalent of a journal, or more specifically the equivalent of the arXiv, for these briefly-expressible ideas?

The key features of such a journal would be:

  • time and date stamped submission, for claiming priority
  • revisions allowed with a new date stamp
  • easy to cite like arXiv entries
  • include citations to other ideas in the journal
  • allow good search
  • have RSS feed for individual authors so you can follow one person’s ideas if you like the way they think
  • have a tag folksonomy with the responsibility being on the idea submitter to tag well so that their ideas can be found appropriately
  • ideas should be rateable by others
  • limit to the size of what can be presented. If it takes too much space to write down it is probably breakable into smaller ideas. Ideally each entry should be a single idea.

In one sense, you could just replicate the arXiv adding tagging and you’d have a nice workable system.

One of the issues to face would be dealing with spam and users who might overload the system with crap. I’m not sure how to deal with the latter at first and it’s not clear how big a problem it would be. Perhaps a rating system could help deal with that.

Of course, there is also room for a peer-reviewed version of such a journal with the emphasis on brief communications. Having peer review would weed out a lot of the rubbish that could potentially collect.