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A report from Science Foo camp

August 9th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

A report from Science Foo camp, held this past weekend (Aug. 3-5) at the Googleplex.

SciFoo is an O’Reilly-Nature event. Over 200 leading scientists, science fiction writers, technologists, and an assortment of others are invited to the Googleplex, making this a truly cross-disciplinary and engaging event. Although there were numerous topics discussed, Open Science was a key theme. A few interesting points on the topic:

1. There was an overwhelming consensus that a problem exists with the current way science is communicated, be it in respect to publishing and journals, or in communication between scientists. And with the growing interest and attention given to “Web 2.0” and all that comes with, many believe that those developments are part of the big push to change how this is done. (“this” being the problems specified above, briefly touched upon for sake of time.)

2. More than one session looked into the reasons behind the apprehension existing in the community preventing the full adoption of current advances of the Web by scientists. There was also a lot of discussion about the further exploration of innovate modes of scientific collaboration.

This topic was first visited in a session entitled “Open Science 2.0” on Saturday morning. (for an in-depth look at that session, see Duncan Hull’s recap here). The first half of the session was spent rehashing the current state and frustrations with publishing, breeding a culture of fear and anxiety. (for more, see Alex Palazzo notes, here.) Fear of not getting published, tenure concerns, and more of the “publish or perish mentality”.

3. A follow-up session born out of “Open Science 2.0” looked at these issues from the perspective and relating to young scientists (led by Andrew Walkingshaw and Alex Palazzo. Notes here, here and here.) Though I sadly had to miss the session, I was able to catch up with Andrew later that day, as well as read write-ups after the fact. Alex brought up a good point in that unless a general consensus comes from all of the players (publishers, funders, academics, etc.), junior scientists are less likely to participate in new 2.0-esque and exploratory methods of scientific communication. Too much of a risk exists that could have lasting effects on the young scientists’ careers.

4. A good amount of attention was paid to recent technological advances, especially social networking, blogs, wiki-science and so forth. A session on social-networking and nature, led by Josh Knauer and John Durant, looked into how to best take advantages of these applications and what, if any, place they had in the future of science on the Web.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to what can be written in the days following SciFoo. To follow the other chatter from the science blogging community, you can visit this site, graciously set up to aggregate participants’ blogs.

One Response

  1. Marcus Banks, on August 9th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for this very informative post.

    I’m a librarian, and think these are very exciting times for challenging the prevailing publishing paradigms discussed at the “Open Science 2.0″ panel. Perhaps libraries could publish and preserve academic work in-house, without buying it from third-parties that have vested interests in the current system.

    Publishing, especially peer-reviewed publishing of complicated material, is very difficult to do well. So this would not be a trivial transformation. Nevertheless it is worth considering seriously.