The publisher at AAAS/Science wrote something truly remarkable about how he sees his job.
In an era with more access given to less qualified people (laypeople and an increasingly unqualified blogging corps presenting themselves as experts or journalists), not to mention to text-miners and others scouring the literature for connections, the obligation to better manage these materials seems to be growing. We can no longer depend on the scarcity of print or the difficulties of distance or barriers of professional expertise to narrow access down to experts with a true need.
Ah, the good old days, when hoi polloi were excluded, when journals were locked away in dusty library stacks and only the initiates in science were aware of their existence, and when we knew that only an elite few actually needed access to knowledge.
I’d really like to know what he means by “better manage”. His concern seems to be that there is a body of obsolete knowledge that has shifted from being current and topical to merely of historical interest, that there is actually a lot of garbage in the archives, and dredging up antique, discredited work a) clutters up and complicates search results, and b) implies that science makes big mistakes. We’re supposed to serve up the fresh shiny stuff, and if it ages poorly, we should just conveniently forget about it.
Personally, I think it’s important to be aware that everything, even the glitziest stuff published in the prestige journals last week, must be examined critically, and it’s extremely useful to be conscious of past fads and errors because it might help provide a corrective perspective. I can see where the publisher of Science might find that uncomfortable, though.