Discovering Open Science

A topic that has captured my interest this past month is “open science,” a movement that promotes collaboration among scientists on research questions by using digital tools, such as open source software and blogs.

Through open science principles and online collaboration tools, a scientific question can be answered by a community, or an idea can grow beyond the restraints of print.

In my opinion, right now is an exciting time to be a science communicator. We’re heading into a golden age of networked knowledge that can open up the closed-off world of scientific research and publications to millions of new audiences in ways that we never could have imagined ten years ago.

A Networked World Sets Information Free

Last month I attended a lecture by David Weinberger, author of the recent book, Too Big to Know. I was drawn in by the title of his talk, “A New, Networked Way of Knowing,” hoping to learn how to effectively process the deluge of information that constantly streams into our computers and smartphones everyday.

This was my first exposure to the idea of open science, and I was blown away. He quickly described the PolyMath project, which is one of the first examples of online collaboration of mathematicians and scientists to solve a problem via a blog. In summary, Weinberger described how scientific knowledge isn’t confined to print and journals anymore; it’s taking on the properties of the Web.

I’m looking forward to reading his book and learning more.

Gaining Traction

My next exposure to open science was at the Northwest Science Writer’s Association panel on the ScienceOnline 2012 conference.

In addition to the many great science writers/social media savvy panelists, Brian Glanz, director of Open Science Federation, discussed how his nonprofit organization is working to expand the reach of scientific knowledge across the Internet.

And open science is making appearances in national media. The New York Times recently published an article about open science and a website called ResearchGate, where “1,620,849 connections were made, 12,342 questions answered and 842,179 publications shared.”

At the beginning of 2012, I can sense a dramatic shift taking place. The idea of open science seems to be gaining traction. This gives me a sense of hope about advancing science beyond labs and headlines, and into the daily lives of anyone using blogs, Twitter and other tools to share ideas. Science is becoming more accessible, and I hope this trend continues.

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