Science2.0 and the Scientific Bzaar: collective brainstorming for better research

Saturday I participated in Sci(Bzaar)Net, an event organized by Gianandrea Giacoma (thanks Gian!) for discussing about how we can (in Italy) make use of the Internet for a better spreading, production and management of scientific knowledge.

(photo from Luca Mascaro, released under CC-BY-SA)

There were around 40 people and 15 presentations of 10 minutes each plus 10 minutes discussion and, at the end, the global brainstorming.

My presentation was titled “Science2.0 or How happy is a researcher discovering the existence of Yet Another Social Network for Science?” and I was playing the devil’s advocate on why researchers didn’t embrace in mass Web2.0 tools for their daily activity. Actually I understood I had to speak for 20 minutes so I prepared the slides accordingly but then I was told it was only 10 minutes so I had to run a lot (speaking at double pace!), the alternative could have been just to present one slide every two but I choose the “speak very very fast” strategy. You can find my presentation on slideshare or embedded here below, I would be very happy to receive feedback! It is released under CC-BY-SA so feel free to reuse it.

I got many interesting points which I try to briefly summarize in the following. But first photos from Flickr tagged as sci(bzaar)net and slides from Slideshare tagged as sci(bzaar)net.

One thing I noticed is that there were no professors and, since we like to think big, no University rectors! So I launch a contest: the first one who convinces a rector of an Italian University to open a blog gets a weekend in Trento, hosted by me, everything included! Can you handle that? Come on, go and find the blogging rector!

I didn’t follow too much the first presentations because I was finishing mine (my bad!). The first one I was able to follow was by Federico Bo and it was a very interesting survey about how Italian universities are using Web2.0 tools: touchscreens, webtv, blog aggregators, second life, e-catalunya, moodle, podcasting, social bookmarking, … Check the presentation by Federico.

Another interesting presentation was by Paolo Guglielmoni: “Culture as a virus” claiming that viral marketing and culture are not enemies, they never were in history and they are not now. He cited Booktrailers as a creative example of this. Still, how can I make my research into a viral meme is not an easy question.
The most amazing presentation was by Folletto who is a master in making visually impressive and semantically profound presentations, this one was titled “Paralipomeni dell’Oggettivazione Sociale” (Paralipomeni of Social Objectivism) and you can see it on slideshare.

It was great to meet again Bonaria, who is becoming an expert on library2.0 and Matteo Brunati who is trying to import the innocentive model in Italy with fullout and to meet a lot of interesting people I didn’t know yet. I also met David Orban, of openspime fame, which I managed to invite for a talk in Trento, probably on June 6th.

The final brainstorming was very interesting as well. Overall I think that, at least in Italy, for changing how researchers approach Web2.0 tools some push from the top is needed. It is not enough to have a push from the bottom (normal people like me and the other ones who met in Milan for Of course from the bottom we can try to show the light to people on top. For example I think the European Union now asks that every funded project must have a public Web page with its own domain, possibly a blog and surely a repository of produced documents and reports. It also somehow encourages to release the software as Free Software. This is a push from the top which, I think, is going to have a much higher impact than anything the sci.bzaarers can never achieve from the bottom.

Idea I see in my notes that I need to write down somewhere: write something about “the long tail of trust”.

Last thing I want to mention is the use of a human counter for signaling the passing by of time. On the back of the room, just in front of the speaker it was projected a previously recorded very big image of one of the guy (forgot the name!) Dario Violi with a red ball on top of it for every minute already passed. When the time limit was approaching, the face was becoming more and more sclerotic and when the 10 minutes were over, it was going totally mad and it was impossible for the speaker to keep speaking, it was too funny and disturbing. A very clever way to keep speaker in their time slot! I need to use it if/when I organize a conference!

Thanks to Flickr I also discovered that I move a lot the hands while speaking ;)

And thanks again Gian for organizing a great event!

9 thoughts on “Science2.0 and the Scientific Bzaar: collective brainstorming for better research

  1. Pingback: Sci(bzaar)net » Blog Archive » Riflessioni su Sci(bzaar)net da parte dei partecipanti

  2. paolo Post author

    Thanks Foll! I’ll try to minimize slides in every next talk I give.
    I updated the post with the name of Dario, thanks again!

  3. alezzandro

    Paolo, good slides!

    On the content, I agree blogging and 2.0 in general would be an added value for one’s research activity.

    In my opinion, the issues you point out (work recognision, risk of loosing ideas, etc.) are only partially solved. Apart from that, I think there is also another reason why these tools are hard to enter the research community (which should be open to innovation… I guess…;).

    Ideally, research is a collaborative effort (we stand on giants’ shoulders, etc), but in reality it is a very competitive and selfish world: many researchers are not seriously interested in sharing their knowledge and, to many of them, conferences are a way to show up, not a chance to exchange ideas with other people with similar interests.


  4. paolo Post author

    @alezzandro, yes, research is competition.
    But what about business? Is not business more competition than research? Still (some) businesses are moving into the 2,0 era (see wikinomics), the fact research is not still puzzle me a bit …

  5. alezzandro

    Paolo, you are right, businesses are moving into the 2.0, but 2.0 tools are used “within” the same company as a response to a specific need for better information management.

    Companies have always recognised the importance of sharing information among employees, of building their own best practices, of creating a knowledge base that can be accessed efficiently and effectively by everyone. Now they are moving from Intranets toward 2.0.

    In a research environment the individual (the “brilliant researcher”) is considered more important than then the group he/she works with (I think this is particularly true for the university) and the time spent on wikis/blogs is simply wasted (he/she only is the value!).

    I don’t agree with this, but my feeling is that this is how people think. There was a panel at last VLDB (Vienna, 2007) and the provocative question was something like: “Why DB researchers have missed the train of Web 2.0”.

    There was no clear answer, only questions. I will post something as soon as I find the notes I took at the time.

  6. paolo Post author

    Yes please post your thoughts!
    Anyway when I was referring to enterprise I was referring also to:
    – how they “sell” their stuff (word of mouth, grassroot marketing, …)
    – how they try to get “external” minds inside (crowdsourcing, wikinomics, …)
    Universities are further behind also in this.
    This is strange since it should be the objective of univs to spread knowledge and tap into world knowledge.

  7. Pingback: Ibridazioni | Sci(bzaar)net una bellissima esperienza

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