Tuesday, June 16, 2009

InSITE-Connect: A Model for Dynamic Interdisciplinary Interaction

The keynote speaker of the InSITE 2009 conference is Gerry McKiernan. He gave a talk on social networking and Web 2.0 technology and how that could be used to improve the interaction within such a network as Informing Science.

One major problem with research networks today is that they are "paper-based", in the sense that the main output of the researchers are papers published in journals and presented at conferences. This is a very slow discussion, in which you will not get an "answer" until someone cites you and discusses your work. Of course, there are also lots of oral discussions in conferences, as well as lots of email discussions and so on. However, these are not archived, so in a sense they are here today, gone tomorrow.

Gerry McKiernan discussed several different networks already existed to (as I understood him) motivate Informing Science to make a move to some form of Web 2.0 technology. He mentioned several niche online social networks. One of them is ResearchGATE, which is a "professional network for scientists". SciSpace.net is a "collaborative network for scientists", which you need an invitation to join. Social Science Research Network is created to facilitate early distribution of research results.

Then there is Ning, of course. There are lots of communities on Ning, including the Norwegian Del og bruk, a sharing network for teachers which already has almost 2000 members.

One particular important sentence which could have been a motto for his whole talk, is this: "It is not about publication, it's about ideas." With all the silly index systems and systems for publication points, it is easy to forget this. In today's academia, it's better to have one moderately good idea that you can write five sufficiently different articles about, than to have one excellent idea that you only write one article about before moving on to other areas. The systems ask us to ask ourselves first if we could write more articles on the same old thing rather than doing the hard work of thinking about something new. The social networks, on the other hand, are not about publishing in the publication point way of thinking, but it is about distributing ideas to get our ideas further. Therefore, I wish I could ignore the publication points and just be Web 2.0-oriented...

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