Cyberscience Without Scientists?

As high as the potential of web 2.0 for the communication among scientists might be, any kind of widespread use is nowhere to be seen. Academia mostly reacts hesitantly at best to the new technological opportunities. The discussions in our recent international workshop, however, also revealed that „Science 2.0“ is no closer to becoming mainstream as „Journalism 2.0“, since hardly any science or innovation journalists seem to be earnestly using the new platforms yet to identify topics or experts.
The reluctance among scientists when it comes to interactive media has just been confirmed by my colleagues (see project „Interactive Science„):


3 out of 4 scientists still use the good old „mailing lists“ to keep up to date with calls for papers or conference announcements. However the usage is mainly passive.


Less than one out of ten scientists use blogs at all. And those who use them use them mainly passively (68%). Any kind of intended collaborative use, therefore, is still the exception.


The bottom line also from our own studies is:

  • Web 2.0 is still underdeveloped, both in science and in science journalism
  • There are very few cutting edge researchers and institutions experimenting extensively with the new opportunities, which inevitably results in a significant divide
  • The old systems in both research and publishing prove to be more resistant to change than many online evangelists originally had anticipated, so that refereed publications and classic media formats prevail
  • Scientists and their institutions, as well as science journalists, increasingly demand orientation when it comes to the paradigmatic changes allegedly on the verge of a breakthrough.

Youtube recording:
Open Science Workshop, June 2011, Berlin


What has happened so far… (as in the sequels)

First, the good-old „peer review“ system as an increasingly criticised means of assuring quality and relevance has given way to new approaches like Open Access, where we see a „public peer review“ nowadays as an open discussion with the community.
Once the first scientists had discovered that interactive media means much more than just to blog or tweet, the first science-specific online platforms and software tools appeared, claiming to make scientific practice more efficient and transparent. Instead of stockpiling publications on the institute’s web site, researchers could now share them with their peers and get automated or even personal recommendations for related material. Hundreds of thousands of scientists worldwide meanwhile discuss on platforms like BiomedExperts, NatureNetwork or ResearchGate, thereby cultivating an increasingly collaborative research practice which often brings about new trans-disciplinary knowledge networks. Whether these figures, however, are a lot or a little, is hard to answer.
In our workshop we showed how connections between scientists or even citation cartels today can be analysed and visualised within seconds. Researchers now have „followers“ publicly showing their „impact points“ as if that was their personal golf handicap. Some university chairs service their own TV channels on iTunes and live out the new opportunities of public science as far as possible. While the experts are still debating potential impact falsifications of scientific publishing through academic search engine optimisation, some scientists are already making intensive use of the new ways of pushing their publications up in the rankings and search results.
There is a widening gap between the masses of „ordinary“ scientists and the very few cutting edge researchers and (mostly large and renowned) institutions experimenting extensively with the new opportunities. Therefore it will be a major challenge for us in science communication (research) to come up with appropriate advice and practical orientation for every interested scientist and science journalist to apply.

Please feel free to watch an amateur recording (mostly with good audio quality) of our workshop at Youtube:

Introduction by myself
[09:33 min.]

Video statement by Dr. med. Soenke Bartling,
radiologist and researcher in molecular imaging, German Cancer Research Center
[11:39 min.]

Video statement by Dr. Ijad Madisch,
M.D. PhD, founder and CEO, ResearchGate
[09:20 min.]

Video statement by Lou Woodley,
Community Specialist, Nature Publishing
[01:36 min.] More statements later in the discussion

Video statement by Ian Mulvany,
Vice President New Product Development, Mendeley
[07:16 min.]

Discussion (in 8 parts)
[ca. 100 min.]

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