Quite a number of extremely intelligent, insightful, and innovative scientists have been discussing the idea of open science and/or “Science 2.0”, generally meaning a more social approach to the practice of science. This has been going on for a number of years now. Here is a snapshot of the terms used in the conversation in 2009.
Here is a snapshot of the terms used in the conversation in 2012.
The conversation has only grown and expanded and morphed over those years, with ever increasing focus on collaboration, transparency, and sharing. Many at NIH are supporting the core ideas, many other leading funding agencies, many science thought-leaders and influential names in science. There has been this increasing PUSH for scientists, clinicians, clinical researchers, and academics to engage in online spaces and social media; to become more open and involved in conversations in public spaces and with the public.
A big part of the conversation has been around how do we, the academics / scientists / thought leaders etc., who are already engaged in this space and who deeply understand the value of it persuade our colleagues to join us in these spaces and activities? The arguments in favor of it are many.
– More citations to your work.
– Increased accuracy, especially better error checking, data cleaning, and fact checking before publication.
– Books born as blogs seem to be more likely to win awards.
– You discover more potential research collaborators.
– More potential research collaborators discover you.
– You have an automatic verifiable date-stamp on your statements and concepts, preventing or reducing intellectual theft.
– Access to more and different data.
– More rapid turnover of concepts.
– More rapid response to research information needs.
– Increased pace of scientific discovery.
– Citizen science.
– Increased productivity.
– Research that has never before been possible.
– You’ll recruit more research subjects, or more patients.
– … and much much more.
(Yes, I need later to pull in some citations in support of this list.)
However, gushing at other scientists about how wonderful we’ve found the online ocean doesn’t seem to be making big waves. If anything, for every few who join, many more are afraid to dip their toe in what might be cold water on what is perceived as a rocky shore.
Recently, I’ve been having a number of conversations about why it is so inexplicably difficult to convince scientists to engage in social media. This is a conversation that seems to be happening with increasing frequency, in the healthcare social media community as well as in the open science community. Last month, I was talking with Andrew Maynard about this. The context was that a team I’m working with has yet another effort underway to attempt to build a broader engagement with social media among our peers on campus and in the region. Andrew is, on our campus and beyond, a leading voice arguing in favor of engaging with social media. He is also one of the sweetest folk I’ve ever met, genuinely interested and enthusiastic at the same time that he applies a keen intelligence to problem-solving.
I expected him to be as enthusiastic as he usually is about the project I wanted to describe. Instead, he played devil’s advocate. As a proponent of social media who is in a leading position in the University, his conversations about it tend to be less of “preaching to the choir” and more along the lines of serious academic debate. So for every reason I could provide to try to persuade folk how useful this could be for them, he had a counter-argument from those debates.
More likely to win an award with your book? I don’t need an award, I just need tenure.
Increased accuracy of your research? I don’t need it to be perfect, I just need it to be published.
More credibility with the public? Less credibility with my tenure committee or my peers in this department.
The gist of it was that social media is more likely to appeal and benefit those who are working above and beyond the norm, those who want to make a difference in the lives of the many, those who want to change the world for the better.
I went away and thought very hard about this. Discussed it with my team. Discussed it with others. Brought it up in Twitter chats. And now I want to get others thinking and talking about it. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to convince all of our peers about the wonders of social media and online collaboration.
Perhaps “Science 2.0” or social science really isn’t appropriate for all scientists. Or all doctors. Perhaps “Science 2.0” is best for those who want to make a difference in the world, a difference in someone’s life, who want to foster change, who want to achieve renown, who want to give back to the community, who want to partner or collaborate with others, who want to share their excitement and enthusiasm for science. Maybe open science is really only for the leaders and the best.
What do you think?