The new nature of scientific debate

Over at The Loom, Carl Zimmer muses on blogs as vehicles for scientific debate, future directions and what it all means for science writers such as himself. He makes a variety of excellent observations, not least of which is the reluctance of scientists to engage in online activities:

What I find striking, however, is how quiet it is over at PLOS One.

I suspect this situation has come about because scientists as a group are only just becoming comfortable in the blogging environment.

What always puzzles me is why life scientists are so slow to grasp the potential for online communication, given that they’re meant to be smart people always on the lookout for the latest technological developments. It’s always seemed to me that with respect to the power of computer science there are basically two types of biologist: those that get it and those that don’t. Even now with the publishing world (slowly) coming on board, a lot of scientists just seem to me to be stuck in their old ways. It’s hard not to conclude that they’re simply not interested.

Carl’s post and the comments will take you to interesting places. It was inspired by this debate on a recent paper in PNAS. Also, take a look at this prescient article entitled Internet Groupware for Scientific Collaboration – written almost seven years ago.

4 thoughts on “The new nature of scientific debate

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  2. Rick

    I for one don’t think this has much to do with scientists intelligence to pick up on the latest technologies. Mainly because such simple things as EMAILS have been around for eons and every now and then I’ll send an email to a professor here or there with some question or comment, and it’s basically the same as emailing a black hole.

    I’d assume they are too busy filling in grant papers or stuck in books to see all these bits and bytes…

  3. nsaunders Post author

    I’d assume they are too busy filling in grant papers or stuck in books to see all these bits and bytes…

    Yes, I think the “too busy” excuse is a common one. I suppose everyone has limited time to explore new things and people make their own decisions as to what’s worth their while and what isn’t. What gets to me is my inability to convince some people to try something new. I’m not saying “I’m a great expert, listen to me” – I’m saying “I really benefited from this and I think that you could too.” That’s what divides the “get it” and “don’t get it” camps in my mind.

  4. Rick

    How about try and convince about 80 to 90% of students at my faculty (university?) that there is more to internet than MSN Messenger, Youtube and social networks (hi5, myspace, etc)?

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