Science 2.0 – theory, culture, practice, politics
[19.11.12 , 16:18 von admin]

The Special Interest Group at Switch, a Swiss based university IT-provider, has been founded be its chairwoman, Ricarda Reimer, in 2011. The members of the group share a lively interest in a subject that is as much object of their research as it is daily practice: Science 2.0 – science in the age of internet 2.0. In our blog-role we would like to share some of our experiences, debates, insights and research results, and at the same time further animate a debate with and among our peers. We are convinced that science 2.0 is as much relevant for a theory of science as it is for our daily practice in doing science, for our culture of being scientist in the age of 2.0 – and that science 2.0 has strong political implications as it is based on the conviction of and allows for a free access to knowledge.

I would like to start our blog-role with the following three questions:

  1. What is our own practice in science 2.0?

  2. What is science 2.0; how can it be defined?

  3. What could be the future scope of our activities and interests around science 2.0?

1. What is our own practice in science 2.0?

The question for the individual practice in doing science 2.0 is not rhetoric or a marketing issue. It is as much an intent to give some empirical evidence as it is a prove to show seriousness and the authenticity of the cultural habit linked to this professional attitude. At the same time, the practice case is used to exemplify traditional critiques toward both science 1.0 and 2.0 models.

Not only at universities of applied sciences, one of the main drivers for science 2.0 is “learn more and learn faster”. In a collaborative writing project of the author, which is ongoing right now, we practice a process more or less as shown in the following drawing:

generic science 2.0 writing process

generic science 2.0 writing process

Turkish, British and German colleagues are collaboratively writing an article on mobile learning, based on researches in the three countries represented in the research and publication process. First ideas spread by google+ and blog-discussions, are being intensified in occasional video-conference-meetings. The empirical research process in this case is done with respect to the academic entities of the authors plus desk research in the English and German speaking literature. The empirical national research is done individually, whereas the desk research is done highly collaboratively as papers, comments and first drafts of text are shared immediately.

In this case, the paper will be published to the scientific community of the authors to gather critiques and comments. Another form of publication is planned in a conventional printed medium. As soon as these are online, all colleagues will start spreading the digital offprint to their scientific and web 2.0-communities.

Of course this process has many other possible forms and phases and can be achieved with a large variety of tools, not exhaustingly indicated in my sketch.

An often heard critique towards traditional research media is that they are slow in production and publication, but also university staff is said to be slow in adopting web 2.0-tools and especially scientists reluctant in accepting 2.0 culture.(s. wikipedia) This might be true in some cases; however, not in the surroundings of the author, which tend to be quite technology-friendly.

Another aspect and in fact advantage of being published in a 1.0-journal is the marketing of the research that (hopefully) is done by the print journal or its editor, respectively. The English Wikipedia correctly argues that journal publications accredit researchers with an emotional pay back. Citation (and assignation of time of publication) is another concrete advantage of being published in a journal.

On the other hand classical value creation process in science business is dominated by a few editors of (ranked) journals and some publishing houses. The papers that the journals are composed of have been written on the expense of researchers life time, tax paid universities staff and infrastructures – and at the end of the publicly funded research process the publishers sell the results back to the same universities often for many thousands of dollars a year.

The quality insuring function is another endemic argument in this dispute. When the afore mentioned colleagues will have written their paper – who will then guarantee that numbers and figures are right and quotations correctly made and so on?

A research for a customer of the author’s department at the ZHAW in 2009 was about important influencers in e-learning and influential prognosis of future trends in e-learning. We found that blog-sites are of increasing importance for the research field and start to be as important as traditional printed journals – at least in this area dealing with innovations and technologies. But if blog-sites are gaining importance for scientific dialogue and, hence, are perceived and marketed seriously by the research community, it seems unlikely to the author that researchers will take the risk of publishing online “less reliably” than in printed journals. Just the contrary seems convincing as speed and width of online publication tend to be much higher than in most printed research journals.

A last argument is that only the printed source allows for a trustworthy quotation which is the ultimate motivation and pay-off of a researcher. The citation itself, however, has long been replaced by a mere hyperlink, but possibly it is less reliable for a citation index to count the web-based sources that quote an author on the basis of hyperlinks than on (a determined number of) printed sources. On the other hand metrics of scientific and personal reputation are much more transparently and comprehensively done with social media tools than by traditional citation indices. Another question for debate, however, will be, in how far scientists really do want their “scientific Klout scores” and the like to be a new basis for rating their scientific activity and reputation.

1.1 2. What is science 2.0 and how can it be defined?

In our group the definition of science 2.0 was not easily found and also not undisputed (in fact the discussion is ongoing). The English Wikipedia informs us that

Science 2.0 is a somewhat controversial umbrella term, not precisely defined, which describes a range of activities, described by proponents of the term as coalescing into an emerging open science movement. The term suggests the benefit of increased collaboration between scientists, often digitally based, using computer networking and the Internet. To do Science 2.0, scientists use wikis, blogs, video journals, and other collaborative web technologies to share findings, which may include raw data and “nascent theories” online. The sense of the term suggests the benefits of openness and sharing, regarding papers and research ideas and partial solutions.“

On the web 2.0-side of the phenomenon, we learn that the following three aspects form essential criteria: collaboration, information, and the management of relationships (Ebersbach et al. 2.2011: 39ff). Baumgartner (2006) adds that the striking aspect of “collaboration” and “management of relationships” in social media is that now the subject matter forms the basis on which new relationships (i.e. in our case research partnerships) are formed. For scientists, this is not a new model – but web 2.0 gives a new scope to the possible width of social networks.

Possibly more important for defining a new phase in scientific history, indicated by the “2.0-badge”, is another aspect, namely an epistemological implication. Science 2.0 may combine hypothesis-based inquiries with social scientific methods; i.e. the operational empirical process is at the same time directly influencing on the subjects (and realities) being researched.(S. Wikipedia on Shneiderman) Whereas the constructivist view of research producing its own reality is not at all new (e.g. for cultural anthropologists), the co-creation of the research hypothesis by the research subjects is!

A last but important impact of web 2.0 on science comes from the economic and sociological side. Web 2.0 introduces post modern modes of production to science or at least contributes to make them more feasible and more easily adaptable. German Universities are a good example: jobs being offered to scientific staff are normally temporary, part time – and underpaid. Assistant researchers often get contracts that try to make sure that the academic has no right and no possibility to claim further employment by defining that work place, infrastructure and work related relations are not taken account for by the university. Web 2.0 and Open Access mean nearly complete liberty of (scientific) work concerning time and space, which becomes a boomerang in terms of employment situation and social security.

1.2 3. What could be the scope of our activities and interests around science 2.0?

From the aforesaid questions in three relevant research areas arise to my mind:

  1. Scientific practice: What are scientific practices, how are they accomplished, what are typical results and impacts of research activities “2.0” – and how have they to be assessed in comparison to “1.0-activities”? And if there were a positive effect: How can scientist be informed about and convinced of this productivity booster, and how can scientific processes best be realised and / or optimized under web 2.0-circumstances?

  2. Scientific theory: Is the age of technological productivity, initiated by the web 2.0, a mere productivity factor for scientists, or does it really have implications on methodology and episteme, and where could these reliably be shown?

  1. Sociology of science: What is the concrete social and economic practice of researchers 2.0? How have / will web 2.0-processes change their profession, their role models, their social lives and biographies, their typical ways of production and symbolic change. Will there be a shift of scientific values towards more openness and a stronger reluctance to a capitalist exploitation of scientific work due to the mass democratization of communication and scientific productivity tools – or will the web 2.0 model be the basis for an even deeper and accelerated exploitation process of (young) academics (or the two at the same time)?

A critique of the Wired Magazine towards the concept of science 2.0 was whether or not it should be called science 2.0 – or simply science (s. wikipedia). The point is right: “science 2.0” becomes merely “science” as soon as the whole context around scientists and universities is 2.0. In that case, as a matter of fact, it would not make any more sense to differentiate science 2.0 from science 1.0. However, to the author it seems to take quite a while until we will have reached this stage.

1.3 References