Science 2.0: User-generated Research
In his landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn coined the term ‘paradigm shift’ to describe the way new scientific theories come to be accepted as fact. According to Kuhn, scientific knowledge is built up not by the simple accumulation of facts, but develops within a community of researchers operating in an environment of fluid intellectual circumstances and possibilities. When a new theory arises to challenge an existing paradigm this community tests it for coherence and elasticity, essentially asking whether the new theory accounts for more observable phenomena than the established paradigm. If the community answers in the affirmative, and the new theory is adopted as fact, a paradigm shift will have taken place.
For centuries this process of testing new ideas has been carried out largely at academic journals under the rubric of peer review. A researcher writes an article about his or her research and submits it to a journal for publication. The editors of the journal disseminate the article amongst a community of experts on the subject who evaluate the work for accuracy, coherence and intellectual rigor.
Although essential to the development of scientific knowledge, the peer review process has long been criticized for a very important reason. It’s slow. It can take months or even years for an article to be reviewed and appear in print. In a time when technological advances have opened new paths of research in almost every discipline, the peer review process can often seem too much to hinder the development of knowledge.
Adam Bly, founder of Seed Media Group (link: http://seedmediagroup.com/), has launched a venture that may be changing all that.
Established in September, 2008, Research Blogging brings the peer review process into the 21st century by offering researchers a place to post findings as they occur, and by providing a one-stop outlet for interested parties to find the latest research in disciplines as varied as physics and neuroscience on the one hand, and philosophy and anthropology on the other.
What Bly calls Science 2.0 harnesses the globalization and interdisciplinarity made possible by the internet to speed the process of peer review and thus to establish scientific facts more quickly. Thus the structure of scientific revolutions may be undergoing a paradigm shift of its own.
For more on Research Blogging, check out this article from The Economist.