Monday, January 16, 2012

ResearchGate: A Facebook For Scientists

Image representing ResearchGate as depicted in...Image via CrunchBaseNew York Times: Cracking Open the Scientific Process
For centuries, this is how science has operated — through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate. ....... It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.” ......... science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet ....... Open-access archives and journals like arXiv and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) have sprung up in recent years. GalaxyZoo, a citizen-science site, has classified millions of objects in space, discovering characteristics that have led to a raft of scientific papers........... On the collaborative blog MathOverflow, mathematicians earn reputation points for contributing to solutions; in another math experiment dubbed the Polymath Project, mathematicians commenting on the Fields medalist Timothy Gower’s blog in 2009 found a new proof for a particularly complicated theorem in just six weeks......... And a social networking site called ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity........ the sixth annual ScienceOnline conference ...... Indeed, he said, scientists who attend the conference should not be seen as competing with one another. “Lindsay Lohan is our competitor,” he continued. “We have to get her off the screen and get science there instead.” ....... Ijad Madisch, 31, the Harvard-trained virologist and computer scientist behind ResearchGate, the social networking site for scientists. ....... has attracted several million dollars in venture capital from some of the original investors of Twitter, eBay and Facebook. ...... The Web site is a sort of mash-up of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and “like” and “follow” buttons ...... Only scientists are invited to pose and answer questions — a rule that should not be hard to enforce, with discussion threads about topics like polymerase chain reactions that only a scientist could love. ...... Scientists populate their ResearchGate profiles with their real names, professional details and publications — data that the site uses to suggest connections with other members. Users can create public or private discussion groups, and share papers and lecture materials. ResearchGate is also developing a “reputation score” to reward members for online contributions. ........ ResearchGate offers a simple yet effective end run around restrictive journal access with its “self-archiving repository.” Since most journals allow scientists to link to their submitted papers on their own Web sites, Dr. Madisch encourages his users to do so on their ResearchGate profiles. In addition to housing 350,000 papers (and counting), the platform provides a way to search 40 million abstracts and papers from other science databases. ........ find new collaborators, get expert advice and read journal articles ....... Now he spends up to two hours a day, five days a week, on the site. ...... Changing the status quo — opening data, papers, research ideas and partial solutions to anyone and everyone — is still far more idea than reality. As the established journals argue, they provide a critical service that does not come cheap. ....... (Like other media organizations, Science has responded to the decline in advertising revenue by enhancing its Web offerings, and most of its growth comes from online subscriptions.) ..... Scott Aaronson, a quantum computing theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has refused to conduct peer review for or submit papers to commercial journals. “I got tired of giving free labor,” he said, to “these very rich for-profit companies.” ....... Journals seem noticeably less important than 10 years ago ....... “trillions” are spent each year on global scientific research. Investors are betting that a successful site catering to scientists could shave at least a sliver off that enormous pie. ....... wait.. until younger scientists weaned on social media and open-source collaboration start running their own labs.
Looks like it is not only movies, music and newspapers that are in trouble.

This makes me happy.

Scott Aaronson: Review of The Access Principle by John Willinsky
But who on Earth could possibly be so paralyzed by indecision, so averse to change, so immune to common sense? I've got it: academics! ...... One would think such a request would anger everyone: conservatives and libertarians because of the unpaid labor, liberals because of the beneficiaries of that labor. ...... But the first step is for a critical mass of us to acknowledge that we are being had. ...... Today, many journal articles are online, but are accessible only from schools, companies, and research centers that have bought exorbitantly-priced "institutional subscriptions" to services like Elsevier's ScienceDirect. I've always been amazed by the arrogance of the view that this represents an acceptable solution to the problem of circulating research. Even if the subscriptions cost a reasonable amount (they don't), and even if the researchers who were "entitled" to them could easily access them away from their workplaces (they can't), who are we to say that a precocious high-school student, or a struggling researcher in Belarus or Ghana, has no legitimate use for our work? ..... Granted, it might not be feasible for every elementary school on Earth to stock journals containing articles about the Tribonacci sequence. The point is that today, in the Internet age, they shouldn't have to. And yet, even as I write, much of the serious content on the Internet remains sequestered behind pointless, artificial walls -- walls that serve the interests of neither the readers nor the authors, but only of the wall-builders themselves. ...... When will we in academia get our act together enough to make the world's scholarly output readable, for free, by anyone with a web browser?

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