What We Do

Short answer

We bring Web 2.0 approaches inside the firewall for research organizations.

But that misses some of the points. Web 2.0 is all about online conversations taking place in a social network. Our expertise comes from understanding how scientists operate in their social networks and why effective online communications are critical for solving research questions being asked today.

A Glut of Information

SpreadingScience makes it easier for scientists to move information around. Openness and transparency have been hallmarks of an effective Scientific Method for quite some time. However, the tremendous information glut in biotechnology due to such techniques as whole genome sequencing, microarrays and bioinformatics has made life very difficult.

A needle hidden in a haystack is not a model of openness. Searching that haystack using traditional approaches may not be an effective way to find the needle, especially if no one really knows which haystack it might be in.

Web 2.0 approaches hold the promise of speeding up the flow of data and surmounting the glut of information. When done well, there are now hundreds of people helping search the haystack. Openness returns quite rapidly.

SpreadingScience uses all technologies to help reduce the glut of information, turning into knowledge to make decisions. We help coach researchers for presentations, help teach them simple graphic design for posters, or help them create reference libraries to use for their papers.

These ‘Science 1.0’ approaches, though, are things that many scientists have already gained quite a bit of knowledge about. We can really help by preparing them for Science 2.0.

Science 2.0 101

Wikis, blogs, discussion forums, collaborative writing and podcasts all help further human social networks online. They allow individuals to come together and carry on a conversation. They lower the friction of data transfer, particularly inside the firewall, where organizations need rapid information flow to succeed.

Science 2.0 helps take the tacit information in researchers’ heads and make it explicit. Researchers can recombine information from a variety of sources, transforming it into knowledge that the orrganization needs to make decisions.

However, and this is something we have seen firsthand, the technology, while necessary, is not sufficient. These are social tools and there needs to be a recognition of the social environment they are to be used. Researchers are generally conservative by nature, particularly when it comes to new procedures.

Scientists have special needs that are not often seen when examining implementations of these technologies in unrelated fields. They have to be shown how these technologies will help them in their daily lives. And, as with many network-type tools, Web 2.0 only becomes really valuable if many people use them.

It’s A Social Network

This is where SpreadingScience really excels. We do more than just work with the relevant departments to implement Web 2.0 approaches that fit your organization best. We work with the researchers to help them understand the benefits of these technologies.

Training is a large part of what we do. With an understanding of the specific types of personalities often found in a research setting, we cultivate the talents of each of these groups, tailoring a message that appeals directly to them.

First, we identify the early adopters. Every lab has them. These are the ones who will try out almost anything or know someone who will. Showing them these approaches means that they will be among the first to get it and then to help evangelize the technology.

We identify the technical experts. These are the people who really know how to use BLAST to search a sequence database or really know the ins and outs of some bioinformatics application. These are the people who have to answer questions all the time about how to operate a piece of equipment. Showing them how to move their expertise onto a wiki by creating a simple FAQ means their days are not filled with having to answer questions they have already answered many times before.

We identify the troubleshooters. These are the people who know a method inside and out. They are the ones whose expertise make a procedure repeatable and who help others when the method does not work. Showing them how to create some SOPs for a wiki means that they can help more people solve their problems.

We identify the connectors. These are the people who inhabit the centers of social networks, know what everyone is doing and love to shuffle information around. They are the ones that email a copy of a paper that turns out to be critical to someone’s research because they knew it was of interest to that person. Showing them how their natural tendencies can be enhanced with Web 2.0 approaches means that they can accomplish much more connecting over a wider social distance.

We identify the scientific experts. These people hold a tremendous amount of knowledge in their heads and on their computers. They know how to get things done. This is information that can have huge impacts on what others accomplish. Showing them how to use a blog means that their influence increases because now everyone can find them easily.

SpreadingScience does more than just set up wikis, blogs and such. They will not be successful without an understanding of the social networks researchers operate in. By gaining such knowledge, we can produce a more rapid acceptance of these Science 2.0 approaches, helping ensure their success.

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