Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Research Organizations in the Information Age

How can an academic research organization engage a broader public in its work? How can it provoke the common man to buy in to its research process?

Academics need to ask focused questions about which they can gain some insight from the hidden analysts in the general public. Discussion boards that allow for ratings, such as the Obama online discussion about health care, provide for the rise to prominence of the strongest ideas and critiques. Researchers can learn from these and can create a sense of investment by demonstrating that they are doing so.

Ultimately, grants will be written so that data is shared with the public even as analysis is ongoing. If someone else can do a better analysis of ‘my’ data, so much the better for society. If someone can correct my errors before I write up my work, so much the better for me.


Jeff DeGrasse said...

I love the idea in theory, but it would only work if competition is removed from science. Competition will always exist as long as there are more scientist than the "money pie" can feed.

Unfortunately, scientists are not immune to human nature. Competition drives some unscrupulous scientists to loosen their ethics and morals to the point where stealing another person's work is justifiable.

Even aside from competition, the element of feeling overexposed by public scrutiny of the details your life's work may be too much for some. While I share the sentiment of the last paragraph, my experience tells me that we are in the minority. Indeed, some scientists are reluctant to share raw data amongst friends!