Don’t take the generosity of new media for granted! Make use and discover more.

If in this day and age we want to proliferate and accelerate scientific discoveries through the World Wide Web, good intentions ain’t enough. Cooperation is the key. 

Let me unpack this slowly and section-by-section.

Foundations of Science

In 1970, scientific progress was utterly a formidable job for any scientist who intended to bring about change in human knowledge. Namely, to boldly document a ‘scientific revolution’. In the 101-year-old journal (at that time) of Nature Publishing Group, science historian Maurice Crosland claimed that every step towards new discoveries is simply shaky. Whether it eventually endorses or overturns the milestones in history, as marked by Newton, Descartes,  Bacon and Galileo, just to name but a few, whose ideas

unlocked the gates to modern world (Crosland 1970, p. 945).

Today, the ways in which science is researched and published is still fairly conservative. As an academic edifice, scientific knowledge is produced and stored in stability with the hierarchical paradigms of industry practices and government scrutiny.

Yes, we are suppose to credit scientists’ works because that is what they deserve. Yes, we should publish them formally to show that we appreciate such knowledge production. And this is where the printing press comes forth as a six-hundred-year-old idea to lay the foundation of science.

Really? Many don’t see how that’s leading our future.

One of the troubles with science/technology/publication transitions actually embeds in the source of validation (usually with strong pride): peer-reviews. This method of validation is crucial to what makes science SCIENCE, an invention so great and potent. However, these long and slow methodological processes conflict with the fast snapping nature of online networking. In other words, the careful construction and tender testimonies (if these words even make sense!) of scientific knowledge can’t really catch up with the seemingly rough and wild norms of Web2.0.

Kevin Kelly, the executive editor of WIRED, has generated an amazing diagram that shows the development of science publications in chronological orders. (Click the link in the next sentence to see this diagram) In his article, ‘Evolving the Scientific Method’, Kelly takes on a technological determinist perspective to illustrate how significant technological developments carves the ways in which scientists conduct knowledge production.

The scientific method, like science itself, is accumulated structure…Technological advances keep adding connections among facts and more complex relations among ideas.
(Kelly 2010)

Let’s Keep the Secret of  Science with Our BFF: Patents

For a long period of time, scientists study, make new discoveries and develop constructive knowledge in their own closed labs just so they can race to patent their works against other competitors. It is understandable that we tend to be protective about our productions because they are our babies. And to scientists, their discoveries and/or achievements are babies with spikes sticking out of their skins; they are intellectual properties that have every right to claim copyright. More than often, however, scientists end up doubling the knowledge, which is a pity. Status seems to mean everything. But why bother when these hard works are barely known by the public, by the world? Why don’t scientists selflessly see their own intelligence as property of the COLLECTIVE, from which they were granted with the resources for their research in the first place anyways? What scientists frequently forget is the sole purpose of their studies – to benefit the entire global ecosystem in terms of wellbeing and advancement.

The Internet as the Gate to Open Science and Transparent Knowledge

Allow me to quote Jonathan Zittrain in his TED talk 2009:

Imagine, you being part of a network where, you’re maybe at a sporting event, and you’re sitting in rows like this, and somebody asks for a beer, and it gets handed at the aisle. And your neighborly duty is to pass the beer along, at risk to your own trousers, to get it to the destination… And, in a way, that’s exactly how packets move around the Internet.

No doubt the Internet has been one of the most beautiful creations to date. But our tendency to overlook its capacity to propagate information and its virtue of sharing data becomes the obstacle to a brighter future. If, by opening up science via such medium, we could save more lives with transparent databases of rare blood types and new DNA codes, we could solve complex mega chemical equations or unearth new synthetic forms of elements, why don’t scientists do so?

Collective Intelligence with Collective Conscience

The dilemma lies in the very culture of science, and in scientists’ disbelief in modern publishing tools, mainly the Internet (which is reasonable because neither do many other people). The methodology of thinking and developing science should change in order for publication of knowledge to transcend publishing barriers through “unconventional means” for common “conventional ends” (Nielson 2011). If scientists in all disciplines reach the consensus that sharing discoveries is the route to better global welfare, bearing as the responsibility at large, then the incentive for and productivity of innovation will go exponential.

Building Reality with Transversals as a Kind of Discipline

This implies expected hyper-potentialities of transversals, on both conceptual and practical levels, in the social organisations of scientists and ecologies of scientific knowledge development. Transversals allow a global interdisciplinary network of science to fully emerge, be it a virtual or actual reality. Thus, social (re-)organisations of scientific contributions rely on new technologies/techniques to maximise the dynamism, connectedness, ubiquity and instantaneity of the discipline of transversality.

Contemporary Forms of Sharing Science

It’s about real-time sharing of scientific knowledge which simultaneously should be formally validated. Therefore, reality is a multiplicity (Fuller 2007). Everything is connected and relates to one another. This applies the same to transversals that people like Nielson are hoping to obtain.

An example of  technics/tools that attempt to or have succeeded in opening up science and recording such progresses is open access publishing: online journals that are open, freely accessible and available to all web users. Nature Publishing Group launched ‘Scientific Reports‘ in June 2011 to begin a new chapter of growing openness of science. Scientific publications are assembled and archived. According to a Scientific American report on PLoS ONE’s findings, we are presumably living in the aftermath, or in an extended period, of the “Consolidation Years” (2005-2009) in which the number of papers in freely accessible journals is growing at a steady 20% per year (M. Laakso et al. PLoS ONE 6, e20961; 2011, as cited in Whitfield 2011).

Here is a diagram from the ‘The Development of Open Access Journal Publishing from 1993 to 2009’ report by Laakso et al. 2011. Evidently and consolingly, the numbers of both open-access journals and articles are increasing at a comparably steady rate.

Image source: M. Laakso et al. PLoS ONE 6, e20961; 2011

References

Crosland, M. 1970, ‘Foundations of Science’, Nature Publishing Group, Vol. 228, 5th December, p. 944-945.

Fuller, G. 2007, ‘Transversality’, Event Mechanics, weblog, 9 May, accessed 5 May 2012, <http://eventmechanics.net.au/2007/05/transversality/>

Kelly, K. 2010, ‘Evolving the Scientific Method’, The Scientist, 1 December, accessed 7 May 2012, <http://classic.the-scientist.com/article/display/57831/>

Laakso M, Welling P, Bukvova H, Nyman L, Björk B-C, et al. (2011) The Development of Open Access Journal Publishing from 1993 to 2009. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20961. <http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020961>

Nielson, M. 2011, Open Science Now, TED Conferences, video, accessed 4th May 2012, <http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_nielsen_open_science_now.html>

Whitfield, J. 2011, ‘Open Access Publishing of Scientific Research Comes of Age’, Scientific American, 21 June, accessed 8 May 2012, <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientific-research-open-access-publishing-comes-of-age>

Zittrain, J. 2009, The Web as Random Acts of Kindness, TED Conferences, video, accessed 4th May 2012, <http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_zittrain_the_web_is_a_random_act_of_kindness.html>

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