social network

Social networks for scientists - what works, and what doesn't? A workshop proposal


UNESCO has been central to the establishment, in 2004, of the World Association of Young Scientists (WAYS) that hosts this blog. Yet their ideas and those of us scientists (used here in the broader sense that includes all academic fields) as to how the network should be structured and operated were not always aligned. On the other hand, the common goals led to a number of common activities, most notably a series of sessions at the biannual World Science Forum.

In a meeting last week, the topic of social networks was discussed anew, and we noticed that our perspectives had come closer recently. For instance, they showed an avid interest in what science would look like if it were invented today and how to foster open approaches to science. These issues can hardly be discussed without reference to online platforms for scientists and their design features: What factors affect their use by scientists, what is working and what is not, and how does all this depend on the research focus of an individual, on their computer literacy, or on funding practices of the country in which they are based?

What could an online tool do to support your research?

The British Library are currently running what they call a "Biomedical Research Information Support Survey", whose last question is number 31:



I do not think that discussing this supplementary question here would spoil the survey, so I invite possible answers, irrespective of whether you filled in the survey or not. I shall post a screenshot of my answer here tomorrow.

Social filtering of scientific information - a view beyond Twitter

This comment has received input from a number of FriendFeed users, as detailed in this thread, and was jointly blogged today by Björn Brembs (FriendFeed; blog post), Allyson Lister (FriendFeed; blog post) and Daniel Mietchen (FriendFeed; this blog post).



                                              "It's not information overload, it's filter failure." (Clay Shirky)

Bonetta (2009) gave an excellent introduction to the micro-blogging service Twitter and its uses and limitations for scientific communication. We believe that other social networking tools merit a similar introduction, especially those that provide more effective filtering of scientifically relevant information than Twitter. We find that FriendFeed (already mentioned in the first online comment on the article, by Jo Badge) shares all of the features of Twitter but few of its limitations and provides many additional features valuable for scientists. Bonetta quotes Jonathan Weissman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of California, San Francisco: “I could see something similar to Twitter might be useful as a way for a group of scientists to share information. To ask questions like ‘Does anyone have a good antibody?’ ‘How much does everyone pay for oligos?’ ‘Does anyone have experience with this technique?’” It is precisely for such and many more purposes that scientists use FriendFeed, which allows the collection of many kinds of contributions, not just short text messages.

Survey on Social Scientific Network

Dear all, we invite you to respond to our survey :

Click here to take survey

Deadline to respond : December 22nd, 2009

The way in which researchers debate and publish scientific results has not changed substantially within the last decades. The way this process takes place does not answer the need of field actors and stakeholders such as governmental and non governmental organizations for the diffusion of project results and the availability of specific information in their fields of action.

Researchers and field actors nowadays make increasing use of digital media. Tools such as blogs, wikis and scientific networks can enrich scientific communication. A network could enable field actors to meet the right people or get crucial information at the right time for their project development.

Food for thought: How to design online networking platforms with an added value for participating scientists

As you may have noticed, ways.org is not the only social network for scientists (even though it's one of the first and one of the few with non-profit status). In fact, one commenter once stated "they are breeding like rabbits". However, none of the cross-disciplinary ones, including ways.org, seems to have taken off so far in the sense that scientists actually use it. Platforms with field-specific focus fare better, as examplified by pyrn.ways.org.

What does this mean in terms of desirable and non-desirable design features for collaborative platforms? This is the subject of two recent blog posts by Christina Pikas (here and here). Of course, the posts raise more questions than they answer but the one advantage of the rabbit-like sprouting of these networks is that we are now in a position to take a closer look at design features, business models and marketing strategies that do and do not work. For discussion, see this friendfeed thread, also embedded below.