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Science and the Beta-Society

How Web 2.0 platforms challenge scholarly communication. Presentation for the Science 2.0 Conference, 26.-27.03.2014, Hamburg

René König

on 27 March 2014

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Transcript of Science and the Beta-Society

(Raymond 2000)
Science and the Beta-Society
René König
Science 2.0 Conference
Hamburg, Germany

Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
Mail: info@renekoenig.eu // Web: renekoenig.eu // Twitter: r_koenig
How Web 2.0 platforms challenge scholarly communication
Software development: From the cathedral to the bazaar model
"Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers."
“I believed that the most important software […] needed to be built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards [...], with no beta to be released before its time. Linus Torvalds's style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches [...] out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.”

(Raymond 2000)
Case studies on various web platforms
Combining document analysis, participatory observation and literature reviews
How does Web 2.0 change scholarly communication?
Trend towards permanently beta
User: From "co-developer" to "product"
Stay permanently beta. Monitor, analyze and commodify your users.
Today´s software development: The mall
"Our users are on the Internet and use Google or Google-like discovery tools. They find the content they need and then expect the library to deliver the content. We concluded that if, indeed, this is the world of our users, if this is reality, if big commercial companies are able to offer freely accessible search engines containing scientific content, there really is no need for libraries to try and pull their users back to the library systems."
Simone Kortekaas, Utrecht University library
"In 2008 we set out with ResearchGate to help scientists embrace the web. We believe scientific data should be shared, used, reused, distributed and discussed. This is the heart of Open Science and it is founded on the principles of Open Source."

Ijad Madisch (2014)
CEO and co-founder ResearchGate

Platform providers often use "ideology of openness" to promote their platforms
Academia needs to keep its independence by creating and maintaining its own platforms with open standards and addressing academic needs.
But we also need to deal with the powerful existing and future platforms – proactively, critically, professionally.
“Other than as expressly set out in these terms or additional terms, neither Google nor its suppliers or distributors make any specific promises about the services. For example, we don’t make any commitments about the content within the services, the specific function of the services, or their reliability, availability, or ability to meet your needs. We provide the services ‘as is’.”

(Google Inc. 2012)
A study estimated that an average user would have to spend 40 minutes per day only with reading terms of service (McDonald/Cranor 2008, p. 560).
Web 2.0
Cloud Computing
Mobile devices
Broader conclusions:
What more can we learn from our observations?
"Radicalization" of the bazaar model
Take it
or leave it!
E.g.: Google´s terms of service
Lacking accountability
Characteristics of the Beta-Society
Low barriers,
hidden costs
Hiding the costs...
How is this a problem for science?
Scientists are (will be) part of the Beta-Society.
"The RG Score is a metric that measures scientific reputation based on how all of your research is received by your peers."
Contributions to RG
Interactions between RG members

Usability and usefulness are important (cf. Ursula Schulz) but we also need sustainable long-term solutions
Question low barriers,
look for hidden cost.
Actual factors
Rather a clever marketing tool to create traffic for an aggressive start-up than a serious metric to measure scientific reputation
RG Score is...
"Hidden" costs of RG (Score)
Wasted time
Potential negative impact on scholars/academia due to dubious methods
Not open at all (methodology/involved data)
(Beel/Gipp 2010)
"Hidden" costs of
Ineffective due to low ranking of scholarly content
Vulnerable to manipulation
Creates a new reality, whether we like it or not
No real competitors/alternatives in many fields (web search but also e.g. digitalization of books)
We need to create alliances and think big (far beyond academia)
Depending on
Giving up.
Trying the impossible.
Services are too important and valuable to ignore
Creating alternatives
e.g. by establishing an indepedent index of the web (new initiative led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Lewandowski, HAW Hamburg)
Leaving search to Google
Helping users
support (e.g. with tools like EEXCESS)
Improving the situation.
We should learn from the silicon valley:
"Listen to your users" is not a bad idea
Academia needs to overcome the utopia/dystopia divide
How can academia meet the challenge of the Beta-Society?
Full transcript