Science in the YouTube Age


Communication of data, results, and models is at the centre of research science. Yet while our understanding of our surroundings across a wide range of research disciplines has been transformed in the last 20 – 50 years the means of that communication remains trapped within the now centuries old convention of the published research paper (and the traditional stand and deliver presentation). In the initial phase of the development of the World Wide Web publishing practises remained fundamentally the same with the printed page being transferred online but remaining in fundamentally the same format. The advent of user-centred Web-based tools for information gathering, publishing, social networking, and collaborative working has challenged traditional models of publishing and archival. These tools have an enormous potential to make scientific communication more effective, timely and comprehensive. Examples of such approaches include tools for sharing of data and technique protocols via wikis, image, and video sharing sites, collaborative authoring of research papers using online office suites, and discussion of the published literature, research practise, and the life challenges associated with a research career through blogs. The availability of these tools is also associated with a growing interest in some sectors of the academic research community in adopting more ‘open’ approaches to research practice. The logical extreme of this ‘Web 2.0’ based open approach is to make the researcher’s laboratory notebook freely available online or even to carry out the preparation of a research grant in public.

While examples of the application of these approaches in academic research are currently limited they nonetheless raise serious questions about the future of both the traditional format of research publication and of peer review in its current form. Responses to the advocacy of ‘Open Science’ therefore, understandably, run the gamut from fanatical support, through amused tolerance, to derision and, in some cases, extreme hostility. In this talk I will discuss examples of Web-based and Open Science practices, including the experience of adopting these approaches within my research group, the state and usefulness of tools available to support these approaches, and the current position and future prospects of the Open Science community more generally.


The slides are available on the Slideshare repository