Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scientific collaboration -- the first application

During World War II, President Roosevelt's science adviser Vannevar Bush imagined ways a network could facilitate scientific communication and collaboration. His 1945 Atlantic Monthly article As We May Think inspired internetworking pioneers like Doug Engelbart and J. C. R. Licklider. (See our Internet history notes).

Today, when we think of Internet applications, goofy movies on Youtube or downloading music come to mind -- not scientific collaboration. But the Internet is shaping and facilitating science.

John Udell discussed the role of the Internet in science in an interview of Timo Hannay, Director of Web Publishing, Nature Publishing Group. Nature is a leading scientific journal, and Hannay is looking for ways the Internet can facilitate science. For instance, he is interested in publishing data sets as well as articles and producing videos showing how experiments have been done. (See The Journal of Visualized Experiments). Some current examples of Nature's services are:

  • Connotea.org (bookmarks for scientists -- like del.icio.us)
  • Nature Network (A social network for scientists -- like MySpace)
  • Nature Precedings (Preliminary publication and discussion -- like blogs with comments and a rating system)
Hannay is interested in helping scientists communicate with lay people as well as each other, and they are using Podcasts to that end. Check this short excerpt from the interview for their discussion of the advantages of podcasts.