Re: [NGC4LIB] Discovery and science’s “new era”

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 12/03/2012 22:12, Laval Hunsucker wrote:

In _Nature_ 478.7369 (on p.321), Chris Lintott concludes his review of Michael Nielsen’s _Reinventing discovery : the new era of networked science_ (Princeton University Press, 2011) with the comments that the author “convinces us that radical change is a real possibility”, and that this book “will frame serious discussion and inspire wild, disruptive ideas for the next decade.”

Nielsen foresees a new scenario for creative scientific work, and for determining scientific success and recognition — one in which, for example, the traditional system of scientific ( journal ) publishing does not, to put it mildly, play a decisive role. Scientific communication, and the course of scientific progress, are going to become a whole ‘nuther ballgame, so to speak.

I was just wondering whether anyone on this list who has read Nielsen’s book might have any comments on what he or she believes such a scenario may entail for how library and information services will ( have to ) adapt, and for the way in which they will ( have to ) function differently from the current situation. [ If, indeed, there will even still be a place for such services, if the scientific enterprise becomes so fluid, and only active scientists will be aware of what is actually going on. ] Can we look forward to “wild, disruptive ideas” for adapting research librarianship and information services for a radically new environment ?  Is that a kind of imminent “next generation” down the road ?

Or is Nielsen ( himself a physicist / computer scientist ) just a daydreamer, and Lintott ( an astrophysicist ) too naïvely credulous ?

Thanks for pointing this out. I haven’t read the book, but I found a talk of his and watched it: Quite enlightening.

You ask a very good and provocative question about, will there even be a place for librarianship in that kind of scenario? I would like to think so, but librarianship must be radically reconsidered into something like, how to facilitate the incredible collaborations that Nielsen mentions and that we are only beginning to see?

A few thoughts:

  • I can see that many for-profit companies would want to get involved since this could be monetized for them in all kinds of ways. Librarianship, with its ethics and values, could play a trusted role in that the scientists could be assured that the librarians would not be in it just to see how much money they can get out of it.
  • I do not believe that information can organize itself. Therefore, from these collaborations there will be information, documents, datasets, and so on that will need to be searched, navigated and referred to. All of this information will probably have associated information with it: e.g. the members of the project found a specific document to be: valid, interesting but not immediately useful, wrong, stupid, etc. This evaluative information would be good to capture as well.
  • Of course, there is the assumption that everyone involved will be able to find any information they need themselves. That may not be true–even if they know how, perhaps they will just be too busy to do it themselves–and they may have need to turn to an “information specialist”.

I’m sure there are other possibilities as well.