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learning to be a scientist in social web

December 13, 2007

Gradually, but it is more and more evident to me as a researcher, that new web 2.0 possibilities turn my making science different. Yet, compared with the traditional science-making, new researchers must overcome some internal dilemmas. Some, that my colleagues are most concerned of are:

IF IT IS PUBLIC, IT MAY BE STOLEN BEFORE I GET IT MARKED OFFICIALLY WITH MY NAME
IF I AM WRONG, EVERYBODY WILL SEE IT
IF IT IS NOT IN AUTHORIZED JOURNAL; IT CANNOT BE TRUSTED
IF NOT IN AUTHORISIZED JOURNAL; NO IMPACT
IF I DON’T ELABORATE LONG; IT IS NOT CLEAR

Here are just some of the new habits and principles i have experienced within a year as a scientist.

1) we publicly reflect in weblogs, how the ideas are born
The process of making knowledge becomes more important than the final product, even to the extent that there is no final product in the end, but we are always on the road. It is more and more evident, that the public ideas are found much more frequently than those in journals, and in the world scale they have more impact and chance to be considered.

We are not infallible as scientists, thus, we must stop pretending that all we are never wrong. We can, and always should turn back in the middle of the path, and say we were mistaken and start new path.

There are journals who try to use after-reflection for final papers, for keeping their community more lively. It is supposed to give opportunities to create knowledge in another format than evaluating the paper in new journal papers with critical or supportive references. However, mixing the two formats – ‘end product centred’ and ‘process centred’ seems not very fertile in those journal weblogs.

2) we publicly write knowledge as joint efforts in wikis etc. places
The community has the means and right to ground and contribute to the ideas publicly. The ownership of the ideas is collaborative. We as scientists need to dissolve in the masses for the sake of the product we develop.

3) synchronous chatrooms become the knowledge-construction playground
When all the knowledge is accepted as dynamic, and the process of creating knowledge is most important, scientists need places for ‘ brain poking and tickling’ as playgrounds, where knowledge was always flowing between individuals and getting variated. We don’t want to be deadly serious all the time.

No wonder many conferences are accompanied by social practices such as lively micro-blogging, or using shared tags to blog and deposit side-products (images, comments, summaries, reflections).

3) we pick up triggers from the ‘untrusted’ social web (weblogs, microblogging and social bookmarking sites) to create new knowledge
The validation of the ideas becomes public and democratic, demolishing the myth that few selected reviewers can give more objective review. It is evident that journal reviews are built upon the concept of final, objective knowledge. We, as scientists, should stop believing that there is final, objective truth in scientific ideas and accept that the process of constantly changing and playing with the knowledge is, what we are ought to do.

4) new, microblogging paper formats are here
If the process of dynamically changing knowledge is most important for keeping ideas updated, we go for ‘triggers’, and short and precise ideas become more important than long and elaborated final products. In new microblogging formats, each idea in my flow can branch. The rhizomic concept versus tree concept (eg. A
Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) is supported by new formats better than ever.

5) awareness of knowledge ‘out there’ must be maintained consciously
Already now, there are too many journals to follow their final ‘end product papers’, so we need to start using social web practices – social bookmarking, aggregating rss feeds from journal paper keywords to filter and become aware what is out there and be effective.

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