Novel online research tools pop up constantly and they are slowly but surely finding their way into research culture. A culture that grew after the first scientific revolution some 300 years ago and that has brought humanity quite far is on the verge of its second profound metamorphosis. It is likely that the way that researchers publish, assesses impact, communicate, and collaborate will change more within the next 20 years than it did in the last 200.
Picture a situation in which scientists would be able to publish all their thoughts, results, conclusions, data, and such as they occur, openly and widely available to everybody. The Internet already provides the necessary tools that could make this possible (microblogs, blogs, wikis, etc.). But driven by an aged incentive system most researchers neglect to do so.
Moreover, picture a scientific culture in which researchers could be in the situation of doing so with the assurance that they will be credited appropriately. Examples for this could be citable data and blogs or research results that show how an idea developed into an experiment and a publication.
Imagine the potential for interactions between researchers. Knowledge could flow quickly, regardless of institutions and personal networks. Research results could be published as they occur. There would be no need to wait until results are complete enough to support a full paper or book. What sounds like far future is actually already happening in some distinct areas of research. Yet, most scientific fields still have a long way ahead of them.
Similarly, if projects were to be stopped, negative or small findings could be published in blog posts or other low threshold publications. These findings could therefore still contribute to the scientific knowledge process. Today, negative results are often dismissed and thus the entire knowledge created in such a research project is not available to anyone. Someone else might start a similar project running into the same problem that stopped the first project simply because the first project never published an explanation of its failure. This is especially drastic in medicine where the publication of negative results could literally save lives.
The above reflects the notions presented in our latest book, entitled Opening Science: The Evolving Guide on How the Internet is Changing Research, Collaboration and Scholarly Publishing. As of today, it features 26 contributions from scholars working in the realms of Open Science and Science 2.0. It is published both by Springer and under a CC BY license.
This choice of publication format reflects a research environment that is becoming more and more dynamic. Today, texts might get updated and corrected often. We wanted to feature this trend not only as a topic within the book but also as a functionality of the book. In doing that we hope that the book will grow over time and topics that are not covered yet will get written and included into the collection and topics that change will receive the needed updates to keep the book current. All EuroScientist readers interested in the changing nature of research are invited to become a contributor to the project using the online editor, which is based on GitHub.
It remains unclear how fast the research environment is adapting but it is evident that it has to. Researchers who neglect current changes or simply ignore them might one day wake up wondering on why they missed out.
Sascha Friesike is a researcher at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin, Germany. His research interests are on innovation and creativity and how the Internet is changing science. See also Sascha Friesike’s exclusive interview.
Sönke Bartling is the head of work group personalised interventional onco-therapy at the German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg, Germany and is also affiliated with the Institute for Clinical Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Mannheim University Medical Center Heidelberg University, Germany.
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