The Scientific American magazine has an interesting article (“Science 2.0“) about the web, open-access, blogging and research. Should researchers post their results online? Should scientists blog about their methodology?
It seems like academic research is the perfect forum for social networking and blogging. The sharing of ideas is a key means towards scientific invention/innovation. Posting raw data is a great way for other researchers to verify results, or utilize the same data for different purposes. One cancer researcher noted:
- “To me, opening up my lab notebook means giving people a window into what I’m doing every day,” Hooker says. “That’s an immense leap forward in clarity. In a paper, I can see what you’ve done. But I don’t know how many things you tried that didn’t work. It’s those little details that become clear with an open [online] notebook but are obscured by every other communication mechanism we have. It makes science more efficient.”
The site OpenWetWare let’s laboratories share their daily experiences online. Further, researchers who are traveling can access their lab notebooks from anywhere in the world with OpenWetWare.
Further, social networking can allow easier collaboration between colleagues working in different parts of the country or different parts of the world.
It seems like researchers would be some of the first people to utilize Web 2.0, but…
- “It’s so antithetical to the way scientists are trained,” Duke University geneticist Huntington F. Willard said at the January 2007 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference, one of the first big gatherings devoted to this topic. The whole point of blogging is getting ideas out there quickly, even at the risk of being wrong or incomplete. “But to a scientist, that’s a tough jump to make,” Willard says. “When we publish things, by and large, we’ve gone through a very long process of drafting a paper and getting it peer-reviewed. Every word is carefully chosen, because it’s going to stay there for all time. No one wants to read, ‘Contrary to the result of Willard and his colleagues….’”
Beside the fact that writing about unfinished results is not the way scientists are usually trained, most individuals worry about having their ideas stolen. Having your idea “stolen” by another individual means you will not get the recognition you deserve for coming up with an idea, and your career path can be adversely affected. Doling out credit for work accomplished is an important component of the “old school” journal system.
Other worries include the fact that when junior faculty post critical comments of the work of senior faculty, they may fear some sort of reprisal. This has lead some individuals to use pseudonyms.
There are some serious drawback to Science 2.0, but as Timo Hannay, head of Web publishing at the Nature Publishing Group, states, “Our real mission isn’t to publish journals but to facilitate scientific communication.”