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 The Internet Is Changing the Scientific Method

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Number of posts : 1850
Age : 55
Registration date : 2008-03-08

PostSubject: The Internet Is Changing the Scientific Method   Sat 5 Apr - 14:54

If all other fields can go 2.0, incorporating collaboration and social networking, it's about time that science does too.

In the bellwether journal Science this week, a computer scientist argues that many modern problems are resistant to traditional scientific inquiry.

"There is an enormous success story for Science 1.0," Ben Shneiderman, a University of Maryland computer science professor said. "But the Internet is changing both the methods we use and the things we need to study. The challenge for the next 400 years is to understand how trust and empathy work."

In an editorial titled, "Science 2.0," Shneiderman argues that studying the interactions between people will be more important than studying the interactions between particles in bringing scientific solutions to big problems like disaster response, health care and energy sustainability.

The editorial comes amidst growing usage of the Internet to disseminate scientific information through open-access publications like the Public Library of Science. But Shneiderman wants to transform not just the way that scientific information gets to the public, but also the way that scientists go about their work.

"How do we measure the progress of society not by megahertz but by contribs and collabs?" Shneiderman asked, slipping into wiki-slang for contributions and collaborations. "What is it that made Wikipedia so successful? How do we make sure the wave of Wikipedias are successful, not failures?"

The internet is providing access to vast amounts of data about human behavior that Shneiderman argues provide the opportunity to study our interactions with the rigor seen in the natural sciences. He points to the success of design testing by prominent websites like Facebook and sees a future where scientist-designers move quickly from basic to applied research.

"Design science looks at how to make the world a better place," he said. "How do we do sustainable energy? We are going to design a world where the right things happen."

What do Wired Science readers think? Are MySpace and Facebook really important signs of the future of scientific discovery?
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