‘Science 2.0’: European Commission opens talks about the future of science

From 03.07.2014 to 30.09.2014 the European Commission has opened a consultation on “Science 2.0”  in order to gauge the full potential of and desirability for policy action, concerning the evolution of scientific work. Furthermore, through the consultation, valuable information about the degree of awareness for the changing research environment, the new opportunities, challenges and implications of future policy for scientific work and research would be assessed.

Many undergoing processes in science and society have necessitated the need to review  how we look at and work in science. Some of them include:

  • Changes in scientific research and communication, accomplished by the new digital technologies;
  • Increasing number of researchers operating in a globally networked digital system;
  • Considering new ways to evaluate researchers’ careers and requiring new types of research skills from researchers;
  • Publishers and researchers moving towards Open Access for publishing not only scientific research, but research data as well;
  • New models for evaluation the quality and impact of research;
  • Increased societal demand for access to scientific information;

source: http://ec.europa.eu/research/consultations/science-2.0/background.pdf

But what do you, as well as the EC understand by the term “Science 2.0”?

Since it is still an emerging topic, the definitions and understanding of what exactly Science 2.0 means, are constantly being updated and slightly changed. Various stakeholders are vocal in their opinions on what they envisioned is the road ahead that should be taken.

Many people list as the advantages of Science 2.0 that it increases the productivity of scientists, helps with collaboration between them,  provides faster development times, decrease in cost of doing research, as well as provides wider access to tools, research and results, that scientists can use, see and comment instantly on.

Not all is perfect though and there are certain drawbacks  – when more people are involved, it is  getting harder to attribute discoveries, which in turn is making payment harder to obtain.  The instant access to results could furthermore result in intellectual property theft, the outcome of this being loss of patents and thus money.

Although the subject of Science 2.0 is not new – the discussion being started over at Wired in 2008 with mixed opinions, the current request for comments from the European Commission gives a clear sign to the importance of the subject. The Commission also postulates that Science 2.0 encompasses:

Increase in scientific production and a move towards an open research collaboration and Open Access. The sharing of scientific results thus hopefully will decrease significantly the duplication of scientific work.

Data-Intensive Science – possible mainly due to the availability of large-scale datasets provided by simulation software and high-performance computing.  According to Science Daily, 22.05.2013 the scientific output currently increasing at an annual rate of 30% . The push for opening more data could have potential benefit not only for researchers, but for the SMEs as well. With the amount of data collected and opened increases, new data strategies and management plans will have to be put in place.

Citizens in science – we are also witnessing increasing number of people involved in science, including even the so called citizen science like Zooniverse, ETSI and so on. Moreover many grassroots groups and foundations are involved in funding various types of science. Additionally, the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of crowdfunding as a way to fund your research with many people giving small amounts of money for projects they feel passionate about.

According to the consultation paper provided by the EC, Science 2.0 has significant implications for the society and the economy mainly concerning the transparency of the research, robustness and soundness of scientific results, all resulting in possible benefits for the SMEs in regards to increase in manufacturing and services, competitions, better allocation of resources, etc.

Big Data of course is expected to add app. 1.9% of EU-28 GDP by 2020. Text mining and data mining are also expected to be major pillars bringing economic potential through mining of unstructured data for knowledge discovery.

One of the most important observations and notes made in the document from the EC I believe is the acknowledgement that one of the major challenges in front of the scientific community will be the management, preservation and curation of data for long term use and potential benefits. Additional problems could be the lack of funds for scientific research and publication in Open Access journals, as well as problems with the quality of the work, if it is rushed for publication. Intellectual rights and patents could introduce various issues with the fear of plagiarism if people share their data too soon.

Still, EC sees Science 2.0 as a facilitating utilities, improving scientific work and providing better chances for collaboration with scientists throughout EU and the rest of the world.

If you have an opinion either as a citizen, scientist or organization, you can fill out the questionnaire so your opinion will be reviewed.