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The Internet Science

A New Kind of Science Collaboration 96

Posted by kdawson
from the science-two-point-oh dept.
Scientific American is running a major article on Science 2.0, or the use of Web 2.0 applications and techniques by scientists to collaborate and publish in new ways. "Under [the] radically transparent 'open notebook' approach, everything goes online: experimental protocols, successful outcomes, failed attempts, even discussions of papers being prepared for publication... The time stamps on every entry not only establish priority but allow anyone to track the contributions of every person, even in a large collaboration." One project profiled is MIT's OpenWetWare, launched in 2005. The wiki-based project now encompasses more than 6,100 Web pages edited by 3,000 registered users. Last year the NSF awarded OpenWetWare a 5-year grant to "transform the platform into a self-sustaining community independent of its current base at MIT... the grant will also support creation of a generic version of OpenWetWare that other research communities can use." The article also gives air time to Science 2.0 skeptics. "It's so antithetical to the way scientists are trained," one Duke University geneticist said, though he eventually became a convert.
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A New Kind of Science Collaboration

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  • Isn't it just.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:12AM (#23154576)
    Like what the internet was originally developed for by those physics chaps - before all the advertisers found out they could make money off it?

    It's almost like going back in time to the future to go back in time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You speak as if scientists stopped using the Internet when advertisers started using it. Have something against advertisers? I do, but I doubt that scientists' use of the internet was influenced much by the availability of advertisements and teenage myspace accounts.
      • Re:Isn't it just.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by mysticgoat (582871) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @09:27AM (#23157146) Homepage Journal

        The initial direction of HTTP and the WWW was to promote freely available access to scientific papers.

        Then something very unexpected and very strange happened. Elsevier and its ilk arose out of the brew. Now scientific papers are accessible only to those with institutions that can afford to pay the gatekeepers.

        For want of an understanding of the denizens that lurk in markets, scientists have lost the way to realize their dream for the WWW.

        It would appear that scientific training, with its emphasis on demonstrable truths, is of little benefit when dealing with adversaries that are comfortable with using smokes and mirrors as weapons.

        • by pimpimpim (811140)
          Elsevier has been a publisher of scientific journals for a long long time, so you can hardly say that they arose in the Web. More likely, they were the first to notice any danger to their publication empire and took quick action.
          • Same difference. They moved from a company that made a reasonable profit publishing a few hardcopy journals to a company that functions as the gatekeeper to a much larger body of knowledge— where they really contribute very little any more, especially in comparison to their decreased costs. There are certainly less expensive ways to implement a referee model.

            If you want to control scientific research, a good place to start would be to get a seat on the board of Elsevier.

            My experience with this com

            • by pimpimpim (811140)
              There were a bit late with their bibliography site ScienceDirect, though. Apart from that, it is actually quite scary that the bibliographic access (which is de facto the only access, the high stream of output makes it impossible to check by journal only) is in the hands of a few private companies (e.g. Thomson's Web of Knowledge). At some point there was a German initiative to do the same, but the effort needed was just too high. Now Thomson can more or less do what they want with their database, and scien
    • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:45AM (#23154822) Homepage Journal

      Like what the internet was originally developed for by those physics chaps - before all the advertisers found out they could make money off it?

      Precisely.

      I assume the funding will also be equally shared among all the people documented to have contributed?

      No, I didn't think so...

      So much for Utopia.

      The reason people withhold such information isn't that they are evil and trying to abuse their own work. It's that they know that others are happy to use up the value they've poured into the work and offer nothing in return.

      As with free software and a lot of other such ideas, the problem isn't that this won't benefit a lot of people, the problem is that it's not looking out for the good people who have created the value. When the world is going out of its way to make sure researchers are well taken care of without the need for money, of course researchers will be happy to share this kind of thing without asking for recompense.

      Making sure one has a way to pay one's own way in the world is not evil, it's pragmatically necessary and socially required. Charity is only possible when necessity is taken care of.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Well, wouldn't the information on a scientific wiki/collaboration be covered under a GPL? That would prevent someone from using your contributions for profit.

        Thorough analysis of a page can clearly show who did what. A scientist may have made only one edit, but that edit may have been the missing component of a crucial piece of research. The records would clearly show this (as anyone who has ever checked through the backlogs of a wiki article can attest to.)

        I concur with you the hard sell: scientists wo

        • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @03:04AM (#23155422) Homepage Journal

          Well, wouldn't the information on a scientific wiki/collaboration be covered under a GPL? That would prevent someone from using your contributions for profit.

          Copyright protects the form of an expression, not the content of the expression. You can't copyright an idea or a fact. You can only copyright the words you used to express it.

          If you have a brilliant idea, patenting can get you some rights, but patenting rewards the first to submit an application. You could propose that the global science/wiki-thing should be the patent office, and propose that the first to edit an idea in would always get the money. But the next day the wiki would be full of random junk put there by speculators, and you'd be sued for removing a single word of it. So since it wouldn't work for this to be the patent office, you'd either still have the patent office (and someone watching for edits would be submitting patent applications) or else you'd have to get rid of patents as an obsolete thing--eliminating another source of funding.

          By the way, I absolutely don't believe the goal should be to keep people from profiting. I'm totally for the idea of profit. I just think that the people who contribute the work must be among those who profit!

          Even if copyright would work for this, the GPL is a terrible model. In practice, you're forbidden from charging if you built your work on anyone else's--and it's just plain too administratively complicated to actually pay all those underlying people. So everyone throws up their hands and just gives it all away and that's that. I'm not saying it's impossible to make money under GPL, I'm just saying I doubt any claim that the contributors will be routinely well taken care of.

          I don't want Scientists to have to have jobs as cooks, janitors, etc. just to earn a living wage. I want them to spend as much of their time doing what they do best, and I want us to reward them for it directly, not make them have to spend their free time (or even their full time) chasing money so they can squeeze in a little time doing Science if there's any time left at the end of chasing money.

          Nor do I think it would be good for them to resort to "applied science" for their money. Science and its applications are different things. Basic research is not the same as product development, and the two should not be confused.

          I don't even think it would be bad to have a few millionaire scientists. Money runs the world, and no amount of giving stuff away will fix that. The people who are a threat to Science have plenty of money; if Science doesn't find ways to enrich some of its own, it won't have the power to hold the forces of anti-Science at bay.

          Thorough analysis of a page can clearly show who did what. A scientist may have made only one edit, but that edit may have been the missing component of a crucial piece of research. The records would clearly show this (as anyone who has ever checked through the backlogs of a wiki article can attest to).

          True. But no one would care. Once the information was out, people would argue it wasn't valuable, or that it was obvious. Or that they were about to come out with the same thing. People pay for what is scarce, and the moment you publish something world-wide, it is not scarce.

          I'm not saying I want scientific research to be scarce. I'm saying I want scientists not to be scarce. And asking them to give up any financial incentive for doing their work doesn't sound like a recipe for motivating people to contribute to science.

          If you're imagining a promise up-front that you'd be paid if you just contributed something, even something "important", I'd like to see the wording of that promise before I'd bother to discuss it, because I doubt any such promise is forthcoming.

          • I think that is what has changed in "Science" over the last 50-70 years. It is a career now. Fund is tied to organizations that have specific goals. Giving away information or contradiction your Organization leaves you without a job.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Grishnakh (216268)
            If you have a brilliant idea, patenting can get you some rights, but patenting rewards the first to submit an application. You could propose that the global science/wiki-thing should be the patent office, and propose that the first to edit an idea in would always get the money. But the next day the wiki would be full of random junk put there by speculators, and you'd be sued for removing a single word of it. So since it wouldn't work for this to be the patent office, you'd either still have the patent offic
        • by gardyloo (512791)

          After all, only three people can be nominated for a Nobel Prize, not three hundred.
          Many hundreds (even thousands) per year can be nominated.
        • by mbaer (1099749)

          Well, wouldn't the information on a scientific wiki/collaboration be covered under a GPL? That would prevent someone from using your contributions for profit.

          No it wouldn't. The default state of things is that every contributor holds copyright, if copyright applies at all, to his contributions.

          Plus, GPL type of licensing would actually be a very sensible strategy for a project, precisely because it facilitates derivative works as long as they are themselves published under the GPL. However, you wouldn't want to use GPL for such endeavour, you'd better go for a non-NC creative commons license, that is, one that explicitly permits profits to be made from the wor

      • by Hojima (1228978)
        I know I sound like a communist, but science is one area where capitalism doesn't shine well. The thing is, the communism that people think about is just like any other dictatorship. If we had a democracy where government controls commerce, science projects would be more collaborative money wise (can you imagine all the particle accelerators built suddenly merged into one?) and people wise (that and the money wont go to some rich prick who will spend it on cars he never drives). It's sad that socialism and
        • by PachmanP (881352)

          can you imagine all the particle accelerators built suddenly merged into one?

          Can you imagine how compromised into uselessness the one would be?

          that and the money wont go to some rich prick who will spend it on cars he never drives

          I would rather some rich prick get to not drive 10 farraris, so I can have the opportunity to drive a BMW instead of a yugo or whatever the "people's car" would be.

          so yeah, go back to Soviet Russia where capitalism complains about you.

      • Parent post confuses those who do research with those who charge money for the results. When you spend several hundred dollars for a subscription to an online journal, most of the money goes to Elsevier or another "publisher". Very little goes to the researchers who wrote the papers. In fact, they may well be paying for the opportunity to let Elsevier make money off of their work. This has become the driving force behind the shape of today's refereed journals, but that shape is far different from what a ref

        • None of it goes to the researchers, at least in any of the conferences and journals I've submitted to. I agree; it is high time to take the parasites out of the loop.
    • Yes, the advancement of the Intergalactic Computer Network as described in 1963 [kurzweilai.net] by J.C.R. Licklider.
  • Credit (Score:2, Informative)

    by tsa (15680)
    No way I'm going to use that. Stealing data and claiming it to be yours is pretty common in the scientific world. I won't publish my data anywhere in any form but an article in a peer reviewed journal thank you. I worked hard to get my data and work out all the difficulties and I want the credit for it.
    • Re:Credit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by regularstranger (1074000) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:20AM (#23154640)
      But you probably acquire quite a bit of data that doesn't get used for your peer-reviewed articles (maybe you got results that don't seem interesting). Would you consider putting that data on these websites so that other people could at least verify your "non-interesting" results, or know not to bother with the experiment? Even if you don't find a use for it, somebody somewhere might.
    • Re:Credit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:28AM (#23154706)
      Sounds to me like the opposite is true, because everything is timestamped it's very easy to tell and claim that the work is yours.
      • by anilg (961244)
        Consider the discovery process as A->B->C->D->E->F as is published in a peer reviewed paper.

        However, if the scientist is to publish A->B on a wiki, theres no stopping someone else stepping in and figuring out ->C->D. Whether this is better or not is debatable, but the point is scientist of the peer review paper is better off in terms of recognition.

        • I think the benefits to science itself outweigh the personal objections in this case. Attribution is important, but we shouldn't allow it to interfere with progress.

          The quicker others find out C->D, the quicker they can find out D->E->F and get on to F->G. In other words, it would make science move faster.

          That might be the death of the traditional scientific paper... but I think it would lead to a more effective system. What we would instead have are communities where individual authors post

          • by anilg (961244)
            Yes, I mentioned that whether or not this method is better is debatable. My reply was to the "Sounds to me like the opposite is true" comment.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LingNoi (1066278)
          What nonsense, they'd have to describe how they got to B in the first place at which point you could see that they've taken your work.

          The "old" system is just as bad for theft anyway so it can't get any worse. You make it sound like the end of the world.
    • Re:Credit (Score:5, Informative)

      by quanticle (843097) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:31AM (#23154726) Homepage

      That's exactly the sort of thing this new openness initiative is trying to prevent. Currently, while your paper is waiting in the publication queue, your data is at risk for being used without credit. If you confront the other person, it turns into a he-said, she-said dispute, as neither side has the evidence needed to prove plagiarism, rather than independent discovery. With an initiative like this, you can get your data and experimental procedure out there earlier in the process, making it much clearer that you were the first to discover or research in the area that you're working on.

      I guess the best analogy I can make is the distinction between patents and trade secrets. With patents you publish early and notify the world that you're investigating a certain area. In return, the world recognizes that any other discoveries made in this area can be conceivably based of your original research and that you should be compensated. This is similar to putting up your experiments on the OpenWetWare site. You're announcing to everyone what you're working on, and potentially giving away your ideas, but, if you're the first, you can establish your primacy much more easily later on.

      The traditional model of keeping research secret until publication is like the trade-secret model of intellectual property protection. You get a lot more control over who sees your data and experimental method, but, if someone unsavory makes off with said data, you have far fewer options for censuring them.

      • Re:Credit (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mathinker (909784) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @03:29AM (#23155528) Journal
        Reality is a little more complex than that. Even though the following story doesn't match the scenario which you are talking about, where someone steals the current work of an active academic, I think it brings up other issues which you ignore.

        I know of a case where a Russian mathematician published an original result in Russian but then left academia and his result got little publicity, except in Russia. Many years later, a German mathematician (who is known to be able to read Russian) "rediscovered" and republished the first mathematician's work without giving him credit (obviously, since the second mathematician really did not add anything of significance, and in fact, didn't even change the original notation much). The mathematical discovery in question has therefore become much more well-known in the mathematics world (since the second mathematician is in academia, so he is constantly lecturing about it in conferences, and such).

        The first mathematician (disclaimer: I know him personally and heard the story from him) is of course very upset about all of this, but claims to actually have very little recourse, because he is no longer an academic, and therefore has practically zero political power in the academic circles involved. He still has a few friends here and there, and found out about the story from one of them.

        Now from the point of view of kiddie good/evil, it's clear that the second mathematician has sided with the "dark side" (if we believe the first mathematician's opinion, that the second one is merely stealing his results). But from a different point of view, by stealing the first mathematician's work and publicizing it (as his own) he may be doing society a favor by enabling a possibly significant result to gain more recognition (i.e., that might be worth more to society than the damage caused to society by the second mathematician getting more grant money, etc., than he actually deserves).
        • by quanticle (843097)

          But from a different point of view, by stealing the first mathematician's work and publicizing it (as his own) he may be doing society a favor by enabling a possibly significant result to gain more recognition (i.e., that might be worth more to society than the damage caused to society by the second mathematician getting more grant money, etc., than he actually deserves).

          I agree that there might be societal benefits from the second mathematician publicizing the work. However, this does not absolve him of the responsibility to acknowledge that the work is not his own, and to cite the first mathematician where appropriate. To do otherwise deprives the first mathematician of the recognition he deserves, and gives society an incorrect picture of the second mathematician's abilities.

          • by Mathinker (909784)
            This is the first time I try to post from "elinks" so please excuse any mishaps...

            Firstly, I personally also agree that the second mathematician is not absolved from citing the first one even if society as a whole benefits from his transgression.

            Secondly, I'd like to emphasize the other issue from my first post, which is that there is quite a bit of politics behind the supposedly objective scientific process. From another academic, I've heard stories of current biological research which didn't get published
      • Re:Credit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by John Newman (444192) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:00AM (#23155634)

        hat's exactly the sort of thing this new openness initiative is trying to prevent. Currently, while your paper is waiting in the publication queue, your data is at risk for being used without credit. If you confront the other person, it turns into a he-said, she-said dispute, as neither side has the evidence needed to prove plagiarism, rather than independent discovery. With an initiative like this, you can get your data and experimental procedure out there earlier in the process, making it much clearer that you were the first to discover or research in the area that you're working on.
        This sounds like a good way to get hosed out of any credit for developing an interesting idea. The way the process works now in biology is that you first have the flash of an unexpected result or an interesting insight. You then spend weeks to months hashing out the significance of this new idea and planning experiments to flesh it out. Those experiments then take months to years to complete. Somewhere in the middle of those months to years, you realize that the idea will work out, and that completing the line of inquiry will land you in a prominent journal or propel your career. You then spend further months to years actually getting the first chunk of data into a journal. (This for a successful idea - of course, the idea can fail at any juncture.)

        Today, your risk of being scooped is mostly towards the end of this process, after the idea has cleared most doubt and after the experiments are sufficiently advanced for you to begin presenting the data at conferences and submitting it to journals. You can build up a two-three year head start in blood, sweat and tears (i.e. painfully worked out protocols and accumulated materials) that make it difficult for all but the largest labs to catch up, should they so desire.

        In this transparent world, your idea would be out there from day #1. At the latest, from the first experiments. At that point you have no lead and no investment, and *anyone* can swoop in and develop your idea faster than you can. When it comes down to a race, he with the most postdocs wins, and that's not you. Sure, you can try to take credit for the flash of insight. But who is the community (and the tenure board) going to reward - the guy who claimed to think of it first (maybe everyone else had already thought of it, but deemed it too trivial to comment on...) or the guy who does the actual work to *prove* it? Under the current model you have few good recourses for complaint, but under this model you'll never have standing to complain in the first place.

        The traditional model of lab-secret research is the worst possible model except all others that have been proposed. It's the only way for the "little guy with a big idea" to make way in the world without bringing research to a grinding halt with something like patents [shudder].
    • ""It's so antithetical to the way scientists are trained," one Duke University geneticist said, though he eventually became a convert."

      "I won't publish my data anywhere in any form but an article in a peer reviewed journal thank you. I worked hard to get my data and work out all the difficulties and I want the credit for it."

      Perhaps good examples how things are wrong. What great discovery is waiting on just some little tidbit of data being seen in a different light by someone other than the one who gather
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cp.tar (871488)

        ""It's so antithetical to the way scientists are trained," one Duke University geneticist said, though he eventually became a convert." "I won't publish my data anywhere in any form but an article in a peer reviewed journal thank you. I worked hard to get my data and work out all the difficulties and I want the credit for it."

        Intriguing.

        I live and study in Croatia, where it is not that uncommon that a professor takes his student's work, puts his name on it and doesn't even credit the student for any work whatsoever. Publishing whatever you've done on the internet seems one of the easiest ways to defend against plagiarism, and some people actually do that.
        Anyway, I think this is a great idea.

      • What great discovery is waiting on just some little tidbit of data being seen in a different light by someone other than the one who gathered it.

        Probably many great discoveries are waiting here, but also many many false positives. Peer review is a way to try to increase the signal to noise ratio in the scientific world, which is low enough as it is. Take that away and you'll maybe get a bit more useful stuff coming through, but you'll never be able to find it amongst all the crap.

        People complain at the moment about the conflicting messages coming out of science. When the media can get their hands on anything any student or scientist wants to

    • by giorgist (1208992)
      ?! That is such a bad attitude ... Think library of Alexandria where anybody was allowed to come and study, but whatever document was brought inside was taken and copied, and a copy was given to the scholar. You will have credit for your work. Throughout your career you will either distinguish your self or you will fade but help others. G
    • by seasunset (469481)

      No way I'm going to use that. Stealing data and claiming it to be yours is pretty common in the scientific world. I won't publish my data anywhere in any form but an article in a peer reviewed journal thank you. I worked hard to get my data and work out all the difficulties and I want the credit for it.

      By "your data", you mean that all expenses of your research were covered by you? Including Salary/Stipend and Field/Lab work?

      You see, if you have public funding, maybe the public should be aware that you are calling something payed with all our taxes as "yours".

      Regards,
      A PhD student funded with public money
      PS - I know the this practice of appropriation of common goods is pervasive in science, I am not targeting you as an individual, but the majority science community which has the view of "my data, my prop

  • I love the idea of sharing information in this manner, but do we really have to call it Science 2.0? People might think that Science 1.0 was buggy.
    • Science has always had jealousy and competition for funding etc, but that is far more prevalent than it ever was. Most research establishments are funded by people with a vested interest. That prevents free thinking science. Can't publish stuff that might offend the funders. Can't do research that offends them.

      Unless this funding model changes, the new openness will never happen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by doppe1 (856394)
      No, no. Science 1.0 was the development version, Science 2.0 is the buggy version. I'm waiting for at least Science 2.1.
  • ... is as smart as all of us. I've seen it attributed to Vince Lombardi, an ancient Japanese proverb, and a few other sources but it's true.

    I work for a Fortune 50 company that's doing the same kind of thing but writ large across the enterprise (not just in the science based portion of our business.)

    It's in an embryonic state right now, and only time will tell if it works out - but the idea that resonated with me both with our knowledge sharing and with Science 2.0 was the idea that all of our collective e
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PachmanP (881352)
      None of us is as smart as all of us... And nothing is dumber than a crowd or more dangerous than a mob! Yay for platitudes!
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      You got that quote completely wrong. It's "None of us is as dumb as all of us." It's a good saying for a poster in a meeting room.
  • It's about time.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gQuigs (913879) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:24AM (#23154676) Homepage
    that peer-reviewed didn't just mean those that buy into scientific journals.

    Citizens have produced some great scientific discoveries with little (or self) training. They should be treated as peers in the review process.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Citizens have produced some great scientific discoveries with little (or self) training. They should be treated as peers in the review process.
      OMG, do you have ANY idea of the number of kooks and conspiracy nut jobs that would appear if these
      forums were opened to all comers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358)

      No, they shouldn't. That's not to say they have nothing to contribute; obviously they do.

      If an untrained observer finds a mistake in the work, then that's useful. If an untrained observer fails to find any mistakes, that says nothing. If a suitably trained observer -- ie, one of the researcher's peers -- goes over the work and fails to find any mistakes, that can be taken as a decent indication that the work is of high quality.

      • by DrMaurer (64120)
        Yeah, because a Sokal Hoax [wikipedia.org] could never happen in a en editorially reviewed journal...

        Yes, I am an English Major, too. I don't buy into post******ist theory, though...
        • by evanbd (210358)
          I think the Sokal Affair would be harder to duplicate in a field that was actually scientific, ie involving experiments and data. And if you did do it, you'd have to fake the data... and that's a big no-no. The assumption behind peer review is that the authors tend to be honest, but may make mistakes. If they're going to just plain lie, that doesn't usually get noticed until people try to replicate their results. Whether the Sokal Affair is the same thing ethically or not, it's clearly distinct in a pr
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's not always going to be appropriate. Papers should be reviewed by people who have some understanding of the subject matter.
      For example, unless you know about dynamical systems, optimisation, discontinuous ODEs, functional analysis and operator theory, you simply won't be able to review my thirty page math paper on the use of sub-gradients in discontinuous differential equations for control systems. It will be completely foreign to you. If I had to write it so you would be able to understand it, it wou
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:26AM (#23154694)
    Finally, a start on reversing the trend of "commercializing" University research. The latter is an abhorrent practice, especially when funded by taxpayer money. One hopes this is just the beginning.
    • by icebike (68054)
      Damn few university research projects yield any benefit to mankind unless and until they are commercialized.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There's a difference between commercializing the results of scientific research and commercializing the process of scientific research.
      • There is also a difference between commercializing publicly funded and publicly available information, and the relatively recent trend of patenting or otherwise "privatizing" the results of publicly-funded research so that only a few profit from the investments of many. The latter is more what I was referring to, and as far as I am concerned it is criminal.
    • by caino (683265)
      Ask MIT's tech transfer office how many of their scientists working on commercial projects are posting their data on the OpenWetWare. I'll give you a hint it starts with a zero. You will never reverse the trend of commercialising University research. I'll tell you why. Research projects that are new and innovative, and have an immediate/significant effect on mankind always will have a commercial partner and become a commercial project. Commercial projects are funded by people who want a return on their
      • I never wrote anything of the sort. Please read the rest of this thread.

        What I was referring to was the destructive effects of the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act, otherwise known as the Bayh-Dole Act, and trends that seem to follow it.

        As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I have no problem with successful commercialization of publicly-funded information that is also publicly available. What I have a problem with is the "privatization" of research results that were paid for larg
  • by arotenbe (1203922) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:33AM (#23154740) Journal
    Who else looked at the title and went, "Oh God, Stephen Wolfram is involved, RUN LIKE HELL"?
    • ...for people too lazy to read a scientific paper. And like other Wolfram ideas ignores existing precedent that a lot of clever organizational science exists now cf. the H. Genome Project. The scientific paper, in need of a little reform about credit, will prevail.
    • Stephen Wolfram wants your data for his next book. It will be called "A New Kind of Science, 2.0".
    • I know. I thought, "A New Kind of Science Collaboration"? What is that, like Stephen Wolfram tells you what to do, and you go, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

    • Yeah, but you can digg him down!

      I heard Scientific American has dropped Bjorn Lomberg from its Friends List and made all future issues Friends Only too.

      God help us all. I used to love reading my Dad's collection of back issues of SciAm from the 60's when I was a kid.
  • by bigpat (158134) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:41AM (#23154786)
    The whole point of "science" in the first place was that it only becomes science when observations are related and published in enough detail to allow for reproducible observations and experiments. Otherwise it doesn't matter. This is a natural progression of science using new technology, not some radical shift.

    Except in so far as science is always in danger of drifting backwards towards alchemy and superstition and needs constant vigilance to keep it from becoming the domain of wizards and charlatans again.

  • Clear to me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DigitalisAkujin (846133) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:43AM (#23154804) Homepage
    It's clear that this is simply the next logic step in this discipline known as "Science". What a lot of people forget to understand about hardware technology and it's relationship to the Internet is that the Internet is simply allowing applications to develop very rapidly on a global level in any possible nook and cranny of human interaction on every level in anything. This will continue to accelerate as memory, cpu, space, and bandwidth capacities continue to double every 12-18 months with no real end in sight for at least one decade.

    Thinking about how the Internet has changed the world in the past 15 years and how it will continue to do so in the next 50 years.

    It's the natural tendency to use tools that speed up your work and therefore make you much more productive in your specific field. Naturally you gravitate towards things that help you stay at the top of the field.

    It's like a great cultural revolution in every possible field every couple months/years as software gets better.

  • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:45AM (#23154818)
    When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    Why is it a Wiki is the answer to everything? Why does a Wiki qualify as "Web 2.0" (what ever the hell that is).

    It would seem to me that a researcher using a wiki could easily get lost in the endless back and forth bickering and sniping on the wiki. The research would be constantly diverted off topic, and and results obtained could never really be claimed as one's own.

    Patent miners would arrived soon after any idea was discussed and you would have a hard time convincing a patent judge that a wiki which anyone can modify constitutes prior art.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think you hit the nail on the head there. Although I think part of the point of collaborative editing is that one individual can't claim all of the results. That's part of the deal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)
      Wiki is the hammer used on everything because many believe open collaboration is the key to the success of many different projects and ideas.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      It would seem to me that a researcher using a wiki could easily get lost in the endless back and forth bickering and sniping on the wiki.

      Why would there be much or any? A wiki != wikipedia.

      The research would be constantly diverted off topic, and and results obtained could never really be claimed as one's own.

      Wikis work well when half the participants don't have the intelligence and social skills of a retarded goldfish.

      Patent miners would arrived soon after any idea was discussed and you would have a hard time convincing a patent judge that a wiki which anyone can modify constitutes prior art.

      Why exactly? Wikis have history and if thats no less reliable than most other ways of storing information. Actually since it's in the public view and likely has many copies it's a better way of claiming prior art than most other methods. A bunch of old files on a floppy in the back of a drawer aren't going to beat it.

      • by arotenbe (1203922)

        Wikis work well when half the participants don't have the intelligence and social skills of a retarded goldfish.
        That explains a lot.
  • Although the Scientific community is thought of to be open by nature, some parts of it are extremely closed. Membership to certain groups, the journals that hog publication and distribution rights, and worst of all, the misrepresentation of research credit by professors (this is especially bad outside the USA).

    Science 2.0 is a horrible name for something that has been bound to happen. If everyone blogs there is no hiding the truth. All of our observations can now be recorded and published without any sugar
  • by iris-n (1276146) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:00AM (#23154898)
    As a scientist, I have to say that this model is utterly beneficial. One of the greatest problems we run when trying to replicate experiments is that the dirty lab details are (intentionally or not) omitted from the fine print articles, making us lose quite a time figuring them out. Obviously it would disappear if such openness became the standard.

    Although the idea of making science collaboratively is as old as science itself, it merits having a working model (just don't patent it!) and standing the principle quite out.

    Oh and I *hate* this marketing way of naming everything like software versions.

    • by dkf (304284)

      Oh and I *hate* this marketing way of naming everything like software versions.
      But it's Marketing 2.0!
    • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @08:25AM (#23156654) Homepage
      That's intentional for a variety of reasons.

      1) Journal articles are generally supposed to be concise explanations of your research findings. Not a thorough documentation of your lab procedures. I agree that most papers should go into more depth than they actually do, although omitting a detailed explanation of your experimental procedures is perfectly acceptable because:

      2) Eliminating the nitty-gritty details forces you to create your own experimental procedure to verify the results. This greatly helps when attempting to find/isolate flaws in the original researcher's findings that may be due to faults in his procedures. A decent paper should at the very least provide a "roadmap" for repeating the experiment.

      3) If this all fails, phone up the original author of the paper, and tell him that you're having trouble repeating 'X' part of his experiment. More likely than not, he'll be flattered that you've taken an interest in his research, and will be happy to assist you, as external verification will greatly increase his reputation and validity of the paper. Conversely, he really doesn't want somebody to publish a paper stating that his findings were not reproducible.
  • Tradeoffs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LwPhD (1052842) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:11AM (#23154934)
    As a professional academic scientist who does both experimental and computational projects, I think there is a very good argument that for many types of science, this sort of approach will fail miserably, even after the technology to take care of it is completely mature. For example, take a genomics project of moderate complexity and moderately broad interest. Such a project may not be SO important or SO interesting or SO difficult as to require an entire consortium of scientists to complete. However, it may be sufficiently complex that it will require coordinated experiments that will cost into the 10s of thousands of dollars and require more than a man year of work to complete. In such cases, it is almost always best for a single lab to do all experiments (for quality control reasons). If a lab were to complete all experiments at great expensive (for a regular lab), why would they then give up that data immediately for others to work on? Sure, it would be quicker, and more insights would come faster. But to be perfectly honest, this would probably decrease the ability for that lab to promote its members by getting priority with good publications. Currently (at least in genomics) there is no way to reward a scientist through contribution to the community in this way. Now, if a way to award credit for this type of work were to be created that allowed:
    • students to apply such work to graduation requirements;
    • postdocs to apply the work to faculty job applications;
    • junior faculty to apply their contributions to tenure review;
    then I think this could be a viable system. However, in academia, this is very unlikely for a very long time. It is amazing and wonderful that journals like PLoS are trending in that direction. And it is even better that MIT is pushing from the University side of the equation. But until Science 2.0 methods are explicitly taken into the incentive system of academic review, this type of approach is a non-starter for expensive, time consuming, experimental science. On the other hand, I could see this sort of approach being very useful for computational science. With much data already freely available, it is usually super quick to get certain types of data analyses done, though quality is frequently questionable. (Go to a journal club on a bioinformatics paper if you want hear academic work seriously shredded.) However, this kind of work responds rapidly to the sort of peer review described in TFA. So, perhaps science could start with the bioinformatics model and figure out how to meaningful track credit in that arena before applying the model to experimental work?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JKelly555 (893253)
      One fact of life in "open science" discussions is that there are going to be people who think it doesn't make sense in their (very competitive) field to be open early about their work. However, there are many, many scientists whose principle problem isn't having their work stolen - it's that no one notices their work. This is especially true among younger scientists still making a name for themselves or folks in smaller fields.

      I think there is already significant incentive for young scientists to publici
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by LwPhD (1052842)

        I have a great deal of respect for this approach to science, but interestingly not for any of the reasons you cite.

        I believe that broadening collaboration (expanding collective knowledge) and rapid development (increasing the "effective population size" of a meme pool to use a popgen analogy) are much more compelling arguments for adopting this type of science than are problems publicizing work. If the "Science 2.0" becomes the norm, it is anybody's guess if the signal (work of students wanting their sci

        • by JKelly555 (893253)

          I believe that broadening collaboration (expanding collective knowledge) and rapid development (increasing the "effective population size" of a meme pool to use a popgen analogy) are much more compelling arguments for adopting this type of science than are problems publicizing work.

          Couldn't agree more. I was just pointing out that there is incentive already for scientists to start doing this now, instead of waiting for big changes in how the reward system works.

          I also think that any work worth doing is worth rewarding and/or scooping. Just because a young scientist may not have a thesis or project "worthy" of publishing in Science or Nature, doesn't mean other scientists in similar situations wouldn't be interested in reading that work or getting credit for it. A publication in a medium to low impact factor journal can count towards graduation in most places, and therefore is VERY valuable to an individual student.

          I think the bars for work being valuable to an individual student and work being so good that someone else is going to secretly steal it, race you to the results, and publish first (e.g. "scoop you") are dramatically different. I'm not arguing that work that's not published in the tabloids isn't good work / valuable -- im j

    • by MrHops (712514)
      ...Now, if a way to award credit for this type of work were to be created that allowed: * students to apply such work to graduation requirements; * postdocs to apply the work to faculty job applications; * junior faculty to apply their contributions to tenure review; then I think this could be a viable system.

      It just struck me that Google's page-ranking system might have some applicability to this problem. Not that I am claiming to know the details of their ranking system, but one could e
    • You painstakingly gather data, and have some initial insights about it. You publish all the data immediately.

      Someone else sees the data, and because they are coming to it fresh, not so close to the data, and not exhausted by hard work (unlike you...), they instantly see something that you haven't yet seen.

      Note that this is definitely better for the world... but who gets the credit? The accolades? The grants? The promotions?

      And who gets the feeling of discovering something?
    • by DecoyMG (228535)
      Perhaps the ENCODE project is a map for how genomic data will be produced in the near future. Quoting from the ENCODE project data use policy:

      Users of Consortium data, whether members of the Consortium or not, should be aware of the publication status of the data they use and treat them accordingly. For example, all investigators, including other Consortium members, should obtain the consent of the data producers before using unpublished data in their individual publications.

      Any data collected by an ENCODE member lab, must be placed online immediately after verification. The verification step is usually an experimental replication, so the raw data goes into databases well before publication. By convention, the producers of the data have the first shot at publishing.

  • OpenWetWare (Score:3, Informative)

    by comm2k (961394) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:13AM (#23154944)
    I use OpenWetWare primarily to get protocols for experiments. It is quite handy as there are usually several protocols for doing the same thing or comments of how some people do step X or Y different. You can get a much faster overview of a method than the usual learn X only.. then much later you learn about Y and how it could have been a better way to do it.
  • I wonder what ever happened to it? The thing wearing that name now is OMNI without the scifi. I loved OMNI for what it was, and what it was was not Scientific American, and neither is this.

    They can call it 2.0 all they want, but it's still the same web with the same handful of things people do, evolved to have more pretty widgets. Everything they mention here we did or could have done before, even pre-web.

    I'm not buying it. I want my stuff peer reviewed, by qualified editors at the journals I submit to. I d
  • A new model (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stox (131684) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @01:44AM (#23155088) Homepage
    I wonder if this could lead to a new model in science, a split, those who produce the data and those who digest it. To a small extent, this is already true in the HEP community. It could lead to an an exciting new era in research.
    • This isn't a particularly new model, such a division has existed in many fields since around the beginnings of science. High Energy Physics is just the only field where one side of the divide felt it necessary to differentiate itself from the other. (Though sometimes, nowadays, geologists feel the same need - to differentiate between those who go into the field and those who never leave their lab bench or computer screen.)
  • hmmmmm....interesting!!
  • Too bad I don't see and computing (computer science or engineering) colleagues on the list of groups. We need real reform in our industry.

    I pretty much gave up on academia in the computing field after becoming disgusted at what I saw in graduate school. We are by far the most unscientific engineering discipline around and it's costing us.

    Encouraging release and discussion of negative results is by far the most useful thing this collaborative effort will bring. I can't tell you how many times I talked

  • I've had it up to HERE with two point oh. Enough already.

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