There are tons of articles that have been written about the impact of e-mail, IM, text messaging and the link on communication, but this is the first article that I’ve read that discusses their impact on the scientific community [via A&L Daily]. Besides claiming that scientists communicate more informally using the internet than when written letters were the most common form of communication – a non-controversial claim – it looks at the historical impact of not having a tangible record of scientsts’ communications. Analysis of conversation through letters has often been used to trace the path of ideas and ascertain scientists’ original insights and though processes as compared to simply their published final product. It seems possible that this might have implications on patent cases or determination of scholarly credit as well. It’s certainly the case that e-mail can be saved, but I think that most people delete messages or don’t bother maintaining old archives as they move from account to account as they change jobs. Given that one can’t really be sure what communications might be interesting in the future, it argues for more care being taken in electronic archival in general.