Monday, August 17, 2009

Science 2.0

For Physics Today subscribers (or members of AIP organizations), the August issue contains an excellent opinion piece titled 'Encouraging good Science on the Web' (doi: Timely read, after watching the Science 2.0 videos (O'Reilly, Wales, et al.), pointed out by Jonathan Eisen.

Some of the biggest challenges associated with impactful science, include validity of experimental methodology, critical review and feedback, and the integrity and merit of the data and conclusions. The author (Alex Antunes) notes that much research/literature review/related activities now is web-based, and the contributions of both scientists and non-scientists make scrutiny even more important. This is reason enough for scientists to be sure to contribute the results of their experiments to open-access journals, as well as in numerous blog and/or wiki style forums. Beyond this discussion, I thought the author made one particularly important point, which I will address in future posts. This being that the visibility and acclaim generated by a stimulating online discussion or contribution is lower on the reputation ladder than a poorly received talk at an international conference. After thinking about this, it could not be more true. Regardless of the positive/negative feedback that I may experience at a conference, I list most major talks/posters that I deliver on my CV; but (of course) I do not list an invigorating exchange of ideas housed on a blog, even though I have probably learned far more from such exchanges (some even embedded as threads in personal photography sites such as flickr, or in short bursts of characters via twitter). So, to supplement the recognition of this research/feedback dichotomy, I will start to publish non-proprietary research and related discussions in open-notebook style via this blog. Some entries might be formal experiments with results, while others will be simply in the idea germination phase. Formal papers will still be submitted via journals, but methods, data, interpretations, and solicitation for feedback will all be posted in a series of blog entries. Many times, I have received ideas for projects in such forums, while I have also been forced to reconsider my position on certain topics.

In the end, such discourse is good not only for scientific progress, but it may also contribute to a better public understanding of science in ways that general blogging about important scientific topics might not capture.

No comments: