Science Social Not-working
By Mark Drapeau, in the Huffington Post, about Research Gate, and the social networks for Scientists in general.
“A “Facebook for Scientists”? It may sound silly, or redundant, but it’s becoming more of a reality. Maybe. (…)
ResearchGate has already convinced roughly 1.4 million researchers to become members and begin sharing. On it, you can search your email accounts to find people you know, read PDF documents of research papers, and chat with others about why a particular lab technique isn’t working for you. Reportedly, the service is appealing to young researchers in their 20’s.
None of this is particularly original. There have long been scientists on Facebook and LinkedIn and connecting via other websites like Scienceblogs. There have long been stores of PDF documents online, and searchable databases of them (particularly if you work at a university). There have long been job boards where you might find your next gig. And there have long been discussion boards or similar places where you could ask questions about lab techniques or which conference to attend this year. (…)
But the ecosystem seems even worse, because many others have tried and failed, or tried and not necessarily caught on, or tried and are much more like “science publication management software” than a social network where people openly share. They have names like Academia.edu, Laboratree, Mendeley, myExperiment, and Epernicus. (…)
The scientific community fundamentally operates under the notion that a peer-reviewed research paper published in a traditional research journal is the discrete end-product of a series of experiments aimed at testing one or more hypotheses. Anyone who has actually been a laboratory scientist knows that this is a complete farse; I need not even elaborate on why. Nevertheless, publishing such papers is the primary yardstick by which you are judged as a grad student, postdoctoral fellow, and professor, even at the more senior levels. On top of that, the same exact research published in a “good” journal vs. an “okay” journal is somehow emotionally different to the reader. The only reason why is perceived prestige of some publications vs. others regardless of actual long-term value of the research. (…)
These are two-fold. One, a culture of secrecy whereby the more “secret” information (vs. community / shared information) is perceived as more valuable. Two, a culture of discrete publications (vs. living knowledge and data sets) whereby people are primarily judged by traditional processes dating back, in the case of science, a couple hundred years. And while there are some well-intentioned, smart people discussing Science 2.0 and what it would take for that to happen, it is in my opinion extremely unlikely that the entire system of how academic science operates in the U.S. will change within the venture capital-backed funding cycle of one of the science social networking companies like ResearchGate. (…)
Drapeau, Mark. Social Networks for Scientists Won’t Work. The Huffington Post, 17th of February 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-drapeau/social-networks-for-scientists_b_1282692.html