James Williams


At Carleton College, Jim studied math and physics and learned how scientists think. And longed for California sunshine. At U.C. Berkeley, Jim got a Ph.D. in mathematics.

At Berkeley and later at BGSU and the MITRE Corporation, Jim wrote research papers. Back then, the rules for writing reference lists were informal and reasonably simple.

After retiring, Jim became curious why his doctors thought medical marijuana could help with his prostate cancer. He learned that CBD, THC, and a dozen other cannabis compounds are relevant to serious illness. Jim went after the details.

PubMed is now posting thousands of cannabis articles per year. Jim's reference lists have grown to more than a thousand entries. Meanwhile, the requirements for writing reference lists are growing like Topsy. The National Library of Medicine guide includes 25 chapters, not counting five appendices on the art of abbreviation.

In writing his citations and references, he tried out an approach that involved writing "raw" citations and references, which he then transformed to numeric citations and references by hand. He thought, why not automate the transformation?

And why not use a reference style suited to his medical marijuana audience? But which style—NLM, APA, MLA, Chicago, other? None of these styles are supported by needs-based research. We who venerate science are using reference styles that are not backed by science. All of these styles reflect ingrained traditions that predate the Internet. The web is becoming our medium of choice, yet we still use styles created for an ink-and-paper world. What styles would result from doing the necessary research?

Today, Jim has done the research, shown that author needs differ from reader needs, designed separate styles for authors and readers, and written the transformation from the author style to the reader style.