Global innovator calls for new approach to science

March 7th, 2008 - 4:27 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 7 (IANS) A leading global innovator and researcher has called for a radical new approach to science, combining the potential of digital connectivity with lab research methodology, static since Francis Bacon promoted it about 400 years ago. University of Maryland’s Ben Shneiderman calls it Science 2.0 and believes the new approach would help vastly improve use of new human networks spurred by digital connectivity.

He feels they can be applied to homeland security, medical care and the environment, according to a university press release.

Shneiderman pointed out how the World Wide Web and cell phones have impacted human collaborations and influenced society.

“Amazon, eBay, Netflix have already reshaped consumer markets. Web-based political participation and citizen journalism are beginning to change civil society.

“Online patient-centred medical information has improved health care. MySpace and Facebook encourage casual social networks, but they may soon play more serious roles in emergency disaster response,” Shneiderman said.

“It’s time for researchers in science to take network collaboration like this to the next phase and reap the potential intellectual and societal payoffs. We need to understand the principles that are at work in these systems,” he added.

About 400 years ago Bacon had promoted a research strategy, which Shneiderman calls Science 1.0, that has ruled scientific quests ever since.

“Science 1.0 is reductionist thinking closely linked to controlled experiments, a method that, while successful in explaining natural phenomena, sometimes diverges from solving practical problems and only occasionally advancing broader goals.

“Science 2.0 is about studying design of rapidly changing socio-technical systems. These studies are not replicable in a lab,” said Shneiderman.

“Science 1.0 remains vital, but this ambitious vision of Science 2.0 will require a shift in priorities to combine computer science with social science sensitivity. It will affect research funding, educational practices and evaluation of research outcomes,” he said.

The scientist and a number of his colleagues at the University of Maryland are already on the frontier of applying Science 2.0 methods to the computer-based human networks that he calls socio-technical systems.

Scientists at the university are developing Community Response Grid, an emergency response system that would rely on the Internet and mobile communication devices to allow citizens to receive and submit information about significant homeland security community problems.

One of the researchers, Jennifer Golbeck, is using Science 2.0 methods to understand how people come to trust technical communication networks, something that can’t be studied in a laboratory, Shneiderman said.

Her results can be applied to many applications of social networking including medical care, voting and security.

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