Greg Satell at Forbes: “In 1945, Vannevar Bush, the man that led the nation’s scientific efforts during World War II, delivered a proposal to President Truman for funding scientific research in the post-war world. Titled Science, The Endless Frontier, it led to the formation of the NSF, NIH, DARPA and other agencies….
One assumption inherent in Bush’s proposal was that institutions would be at the center of scientific life. Scientists from disparate labs could read each others papers and meet at an occasional conference, but for the most part, they would be dependent on the network of researchers within their organization and those close by.
Sometimes, the interplay between institutions had major, even historical, impacts, such as John von Neumann’s sponsorship of Alan Turing, but mostly the work you did was largely a function of where you did it. The proximity of Watson, Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, for example, played a major role in the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Yet today, digital technology is changing not only the speed and ease of how we communicate, but the very nature of how we are able to collaborate. When I spoke to Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist at Digital Science, which develops and invests in software that makes science more efficient, he noted that there is a generational shift underway and said this:
When you talk to people like me, we’re established scientists who are still stuck in the old system of institutions and conferences. But the younger scientists are using technology to access networks and they do so on an ongoing, rather than a punctuated basis. Today, you don’t have to go to a conference or write a paper to exchange ideas.
Evidence would seem to bear this out. The prestigious journal Nature recently noted that the average scientific paper has four times as many authors as it did in the 1950’s, when Bush’s career was at its height. Moreover, it’s become common for co-authors to work at far-flung institutions. Scientific practice needs to adopt to this scientific reality.
There has been some progress in this area. The Internet, in fact, was created for the the explicit purpose of scientific collaboration. Yet still, the way in which scientists report and share their findings remains much the same as a century ago.
Moving From Publications To Platforms For Discovery
One especially ripe area for innovation is publishing. Typically, a researcher with a new discovery waits six months to a year for the peer review process to run its course before the work can be published. Even then, many of the results are questionable at best. Nature recently reported that the overwhelming majority of studies can’t be replicated…(More)”