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Before and during my PhD (that I just recently finished) I have been taking notes summarizing basically everything I have read in my field (articles/monographs/dissertations). The notes are structured as nested lists with points ordered as they appear in the reference, with a page reference to each point. The notes are written in markdown with one file for every reference being summarized. There are around 220 of them so far. Some points in the lists are direct quotes, marked up as such. They sometimes include my own comments (which are typically critical, otherwise I don't have reason to comment) in square brackets.

Now, I had the idea of making these notes available as a GitHub repo and to mention it in my blog. I would have found it useful if other researchers did something similar, as I could then see what they found interesting about a particular work and I could make searches in their notes to find relevant references for stuff I am working on. What are the pros and cons of making these notes available? I have spent a huge amount of work reading literature and compiling these notes, and I am bothered by the thought of someone "stealing" my work, but at the same time I am thrilled by the thought of them being of use to others. The notes won't be very citable as such since they are only summaries of other works and anyone who finds them useful would have to go to the original source anyway, meaning I won't get much credit if people do find them useful.

I would keep adding to and editing the notes after they are made available.

  • You could consider releasing them with a CC-BY-SA (or similar) license. Essentially, if someone uses them, they must give attribution, and potentially they must share their notes as well. But IANAL, so I'm not certain how this applies to "notes" (as opposed to other productions). – tonysdg Apr 29 '16 at 21:34
  • There are some projects already out there like artelope.uv.es , for instance (that's just for one prolific writer's stuff) – user0721090601 Apr 29 '16 at 21:40
  • You got a PhD and only read 220 articles? What subject? – EnergyNumbers Apr 30 '16 at 1:42
  • @EnergyNunbers if he's talking about summaries of novels, essays, plays, etc, 200 or so is reasonable, that's pretty much what my reading list for exams came in at. – user0721090601 Apr 30 '16 at 2:26
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    "only"? I surely read much less during my PhD, probably 100 papers or so. It's not that you get a PhD by reading papers by the pound: in my field at the time there was a new paper every couple of years. – Massimo Ortolano Apr 30 '16 at 3:58
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Pros:

  • Contributing to an open and collaborative scientific process

If you've put a lot of work into something, it is great if that work can benefit others as well. If you can save another researcher a bit of time, or even better provide them with some inspiration, that is great for science in general.

  • Raising your profile as a researcher

It's almost always a good thing for people to know your name and be aware of what area you are working on. If people read your notes and find them useful, this will give them a positive impression of you and could make them more likely to collaborate with you in the future.

  • Provide motivation to continue updating your notes

Pretty sure it's an established psychological effect: if you share your goals with others it provides incentive to meet those goals.

  • Ego boost

As you said yourself, it would feel good!

Cons:

  • Possible negative impression to authors you are critical of

You mentioned that a lot of your notes are critical of the papers you read. I would say this is normal - we tend to focus on weaknesses when we pick apart a paper. But to the author, this might create a negative impression if they feel that you are unfairly harsh, or that you get hung up on details and don't "get" the main point of the article. On the other hand, researchers tend to be fairly thick-skinned and will be used to dealing with criticism.

  • Unlikely to be formally cited

Given that your notes don't contain much in the way of original material, they are unlikely to get cited. People are more likely just to cite the original papers that you refer to.


Overall, you can probably tell that my personal opinion would be to go ahead and post them - it sounds like a very positive step. But it might be worth spending a bit of time checking through your more critical points and perhaps moderating them slightly, or balancing them against something positive.

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    Unlikely to be formally cited: If you don't share the notes, it is impossible for them to get cited. Even a 0.00001% chance is greater than 0 :) (Besides I'm not sure that getting formally cited is the goal here) – user9646 May 30 '16 at 9:37
  • @NajibIdrissi I think Unlikely to be formally cited is to be read as Unlikely to be formally cited in comparison to the publications summarized in the notes. – Sathyam May 30 '16 at 17:13

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