Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Facebook for science

Discussion with Brett Buttliere, of the Knowledge Media Research Center at the University of Tübingen in Germany, who wrote briliant article on Using science and psychology to improve the dissemination and evaluation of scientific work.
Brett Buttliere said: I believe science would benefit from having one online platform for people to do basically all aspects of science in, including review. Such a system would probably involve: a user friendly profile, a feed of (science) stories based upon previous viewing behavior, the ability for users to like, comment, and interact with content (e.g., papers, datasets, materials) within the system, and some sort of impact metrics that quantify the individual’s contribution into the system; basically, something like a Facebook or Twitter for science.

Such a system would take the most laborious and time consuming aspects of the research process and facilitate them within the system, making it better for everyone involved. Especially the data associated with such a system would achieve this by encouraging researchers to make contributions that are appreciated by the community (e.g., statistical reanalysis, replications, insightful comments, curating good content).
Researchers would be encouraged to reanalyze data or make insightful comments because they would gain a reputation by doing so. Researchers would want to upload their data because it would enable these trusted individuals to reanalyze it and leave their stamp of approval (thus drawing others in). Readers would benefit from seeing these efforts and the system could even examine network maps of papers, authors, and keywords to find the best paper(s) to inform their own research.
More generally, I understand that many are already working toward these goals, so in the paper I focused more on trying to take what we know about psychology into the design and implementation plans for such a system. People are not rewarded under the current system for doing the things outlined above, so they generally don’t; the current system actually rewards doing bad science, and we are all worse for it. The system needs to be focused on rewarding good behaviors rather than punishing bad ones, which experience shows tends to make the problem worse by making better cheaters (think of what happened with alcohol during the Prohibition Era.)
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