From the 12 November 2013 report at PLoS (Public Library of Science)
In this paper, we reflect on our involvement in one of the first major research projects in the emerging area of geoengineering (the deliberate intervention in the planetary climate). The project, Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE), proposed an outdoor experiment that attracted substantial public scrutiny despite a strong consensus that the experiment posed no direct environmental risk. A programme of stakeholder engagement took place that sought a deep understanding of the views about the proposed experiment. The lessons from this experiment build on insights from public engagement with the biosciences and biotechnology. In particular, we see the importance of questions of context and purpose for scientific research. This has important implications for the governance of geoengineering research. Efforts to detach areas of research from public scrutiny by using thresholds, whether these are drawn at a particular level of environmental effect or at the doors of a laboratory, will encounter problems of public credibility. Geoengineering is unavoidably entangled in a political discussion that scientists should seek to understand and engage with.
The progress of biotechnology brings the potential for ever more intimate and disruptive interventions into human bodies and the natural environment. As previous papers in this series have described, there have been various attempts, especially in the last decade, to improve engagement between scientists and public groups on issues involving biotechnology . Engagement exercises, whether with particular non-science stakeholders or members of the general public, reveal layers of societal concern with these technologies. There is typically concern with the eventual downstream risks and the ethical implications of technologies. But these things are hard to assess in advance due to the profound uncertainty that surrounds emerging technology. Public engagement typically also reveals a set of “upstream” concerns.
When brought into dialogue about emerging technologies, before it is clear what the risks are likely to be, members of the public will typically express concern about the trajectory of technological pathways. A report of one large public dialogue exercise on Synthetic Biology drew out five questions for scientists that characterised public concerns about this nascent technology:
- What is the purpose?
- Why do you want to do it?
- What are you going to gain from it?
- What else is it going to do?
- How do you know you are right?
These questions get to the heart of the politics of emerging technologies and the foundations of public trust in scientific research. Conventional technology assessment considers the downstream products of research and innovation with a focus on technological risk and ethics. More recent anticipatory governance approaches, such as “constructive technology assessment” , “real-time technology assessment” , and “responsible innovation” , attempt to broaden the debate to include consideration of the processes and purposes of research, in line with the five questions above. Such approaches emphasise the importance of democratic deliberation in “opening up” the technological options and trajectories for appraisal. Geoengineering in general and the SPICE project in particular have become important test cases for this new mode of governance .
How Scientists Communicate Affects How Research Results Are Applied …as FDA approved drugs, nutrition values, violence prevention, and climate change models
Past blog postings (see below) here have often touched on the difficulties of obtaining recent scientific and medical findings in original biomedical articles. Most of these research articles are only found in journals that charge high annual subscription rates ($600.00/ year and up) or an access fee of about $20.00 per article.
Not only is this pricing arrangement making it difficult for scientists to get needed information, but it is becoming nearly impossible for even university and research libraries to buy subscription to the journals their customers want. Additionally article authors must pay publication fees to the journals which range from $1,000 to $5,000 per article.
Most stakeholders (researchers, librarians, publishing companies) believe that the relatively high costs of publishing articles is a major flaw of the current publishing system. These publishing costs used to be born by the researcher in centuries past and were relatively cheap and involved much fewer scientists in tight knit groups. But with the sheer numbers of those wanting information, the many biomedical specialities, and the sophistication of article content (images, videos, and audios), the cost per article has dramatically risen.
Some related statistics (from the posting How many science journals at Science Intelligence and InfoPros)
- Estimation: <> 25-40,000 journals
- 96% are published online
- 8-10% are published under Open Access models
- 20% of science articles are available free of charge
- How many articles have been published ever (means since 1665)? est. 50 millions
- Growth: 1.4 million of articles per year
- There are 2,000 publishers but Top 3 (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley) account for 42% of articles published
The open science model is one initiative which may reduce costs and increase readership. This approach may well also drastically reduce the time from article completion by the scientist to article publication. It is currently not uncommon for an article in a peer reviewed journal to take up to 1 1/2 years to be published after submission.
In a recent New York Times article (Cracking Open the Scientific Process), the conservative culture of science is outlined, as well as the plausibility of using social media as vehicles of communicating research results. The article also summarizes another fear of scientists. While social media is a less costly and speedier way to communicate research approaches and results, it currently lacks the quality control and trustability of the peer review process in selecting and editing articles for publication.
While Open Science overwhelmingly is geared for scientist participation only, the way scientists communicate does ultimately affect the application of research. Examples in consumer health include the drugs we take, the way treatments are prescribed, and the make up of a well balanced diet. Current questions about the Open Science model include how wise is the scientific equivalent of crowdsourcing? and who will pay for the costs involved and how much?
Some excerpts from the article
The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.”
Dr. Nielsen and other advocates for “open science” say science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet. And despite a host of obstacles, including the skepticism of many established scientists, their ideas are gaining traction.
Open-access archives and journals like arXiv and thePublic Library of Science (PLoS) have sprung up in recent years. GalaxyZoo, a citizen-science site, has classified millions of objects in space, discovering characteristics that have led to a raft of scientific papers….
…a social networking site called ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity…
…On Thursday [January 19] , 450 bloggers, journalists, students, scientists, librarians and programmers will converge on North Carolina State University (and thousands more will join in online) for the sixth annual ScienceOnline conference. Science is moving to a collaborative model, said Bora Zivkovic, a chronobiology blogger who is a founder of the conference, “because it works better in the current ecosystem, in the Web-connected world.”…
…[The Research Gate] Web site is a sort of mash-up of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and “like” and “follow” buttons (but without baby photos, cat videos and thinly veiled self-praise). Only scientists are invited to pose and answer questions — a rule that should not be hard to enforce, with discussion threads about topics like polymerase chain reactions that only a scientist could love….
Related past postings at Health and Medical News…