Bumps in the road to Science 2.0

dunesby Hamed Saber

Why Web 2.0 is failing in Biology
[Via Bench Marks]

Last week I gave a talk at the American Association of Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing (AAP/PSP) meeting in Washington, DC. I was part of a panel discussion on “Innovative and Evolving Websites in STM Publishing” along with representatives from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society. While the other talks were a bit more evangelical, or mostly presented a look at new technologies that had been incorporated into the societies’ own journals, I tried to be a bit more practical, taking more of a hard look at what’s currently being tried, whether it’s succeeding and the reasons behind that success/failure. I’m posting my talk below, in hopes of receiving further feedback. This talk was delivered to a room full of publishers, so it’s directed with that audience in mind. In a few months, I’m giving a similar talk to a meeting of scientists, the users of these sites rather than the creators. So I’d love to hear from users as to your thoughts on how Web 2.0 is serving your needs.


There are some very important points in this article. Essentially, researchers will not just jump on these new technologies. They do not have the time to learn. They do not see the reasons why. Now most of the difficulties described here deal with academic researchers and the problems with using Web 2.0 ‘in the wild.’ They have concerns about priority, the effect on tenure, Facebook makes no sense to their work, etc.

Many of these problems stem from the fact that no scientist can see what is in it for them. Few of them do anything that does not make their life easier, as do most people. An example – researchers have little time but they always (or at least the good ones do) take time to put together a good lab notebook. This is not time used for experiments but everyone knows how vital it is to a career. So they take the time to do it right.

Similar things can be done with Web 2.0 approaches. Make them understand the personal benefit. For example, most scientists will think a blog is useless and a waste of time. But show them how to combine newsfeeds from scientific journals with a blog, and now they can have a very quick repository of interesting/important papers that they need to read. They can ‘clip’ these articles rapidly and then come back to read them at their leisure.

This directly affects their productivity since staying current with the literature is normally a time-consuming endeavor. I can scan over 1000 articles in 30 minutes and put the ones I want on my blog. The researchers that do this will be ahead of those that do not. But they have to be shown the direct personal benefits first.

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One thought on “Bumps in the road to Science 2.0”

  1. Thanks for the link. I gave a similar talk this past weekend, but this time to scientists, talking about what’s going on and what’s worth watching, rather than hollering at publisher to tell them they’re missing the point. The crux of that talk (which I’ll post on my blog later this week) is very similar to the message you’ve written here. Information overload is a big problem. The best and most useful Web 2.0 efforts are those that add new efficiencies, the mashups that combine multiple sources into one more informative source, or the folksonomy sorted database that’s easier to search. Even with these great tools, you’re right, there is still a lot of inertia to overcome to get folks to buy in.

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