All author's publications are listed below.
For decades, particle physicists have been using open access archives of preprints, i.e. research papers shared before the submission to peer reviewed journals. With the shift to digital archives, this model has proved to be attractive to other disciplines: but can it be exported? In particle physics, archives do not only represent the medium of choice for the circulation of scientific knowledge, but they are central places to build a sense of belonging and to define one's role within the community.
While several scientific communities have discussed the emergence of Open Access publishing in depth, in the science communication community this debate has never been central. Scholars in most scientific disciplines have at their disposal Open Access options such as journals, repositories, preprint archives and the like. Ironically enough, a community devoted to the study of science’s communication structures is witnessing this transformation without being directly involved. Both structural and cultural obstacles hamper the growth of an Open Access sector in science communication publishing. With this editorial I hope to start a debate on the need for a more open communication environment in our academic practice.
With this commentary JCOM continues its analysis of the transformations of science journalism in the new media ecology. The purpose of the papers we present here is enriching the discussion raised in past issues and giving the Science communication community new insights on the role of digital media in shaping the way science is communicated, distributed and discussed by new actors and with new publics. What is the future of science journalism in the new ecosystem? In “Has blogging changed science writing?” Alice Bell discusses blogs' impact on science journalism, arguing that in some areas the changes related to the emergence of the web are overstated. Rather than crystal ball gazing into the future, we should realize it is up for debate. In “Web 2.0: netizen empowerment vs. unpaid labor” Carlo Formenti goes further, casting doubts on the utopian fantasies of knowledge democratization and urging us to focus on the new forms of power concentration and exploitation that are emerging within the system of science communication. Finally, in “The future of science journalism in Ghana” Bernard Appiah and colleagues argue in favour of the potential of the web as a tool to increase the quality and quantity of African science journalism. Yet they warn us: issues of access to both information and resources are still in place and threaten the promises of digital media.
Genetic testing promises to put the ability to decide about our life choices in our hands, as well as help solve crucial health problems by preventing the insurgence of diseases. But what happens when these exams are managed by private companies in a free market? Public communication and marketing have proven to be crucial battlefields on which companies companies need to engage in order to emerge. This issue of JCOM tries to shed some light on the communication and marketing practices used by private companies that sell direct-to-consumer genetic testing, from single genetic mutations to whole genome sequencing.
We have published this issue of JCOM while the call for papers is open for the twelfth Public Communication of Science and Technology conference. The biennial meeting will be held in April 2012 and for the first time in Italy: the hosting city in Florence. The 2012 edition of the PCST conference is being held after more than twenty years of growth of the network of scholars that founded it and the expansion of its boundaries outside the European context from which it was created. JCOM is a part of this network, made up not only of individuals but also of organisations, university departments, journals, national conferences and so on.
Science must be open and accessible, and diffusion of knowledge should not be limited by patents and copyrights. After the Open Science Summit held in Berkeley, some notes about sharing scientific data and updating the social contract for science. Against the determinist view on technological and legal solutions, we need an explicit reflection on the relation between science and society. Both academic and industrial science seem unable to fulfill open science needs: new societal configurations are emerging and we should keep asking questions about appropriation, power, privatisation and freedom.
In this commentary, we collected three essays from authors coming from different perspectives. They analyse the problem of power, participation and cooperation in projects of production of scientific knowledge held by users or peers: persons who do not belong to the institutionalised scientific community. These contributions are intended to give a more political and critical point of view on the themes developed and analysed in the research articles of this JCOM special issue on Peer-to-peer and user-led science. Michel Bauwens, Christopher Kelty and Mathieu O'Neil write about different aspects of P2P science. Nevertheless, the three worlds they delve into share the "aggressively active" attitude of the citizens who inhabit them. Those citizens claim to be part of the scientific process, and they use practices as heterogeneous as online peer-production of scientific knowledge, garage biology practiced with a hacker twist, or the crowdsourced creation of an encyclopedia page. All these claims and practices point to a problem in the current distribution of power. The relations between experts and non-experts are challenged by the rise of peer-to-peer science. Furthermore, the horizontal communities which live inside and outside the Net are not frictionless. Within peer-production mechanisms, the balance of power is an important issue which has to be carefully taken into account.
This introduction presents the essays belonging to the JCOM special issue on User-led and peer-to-peer science. It also draws a first map of the main problems we need to investigate when we face this new and emerging phenomenon. Web tools are enacting and facilitating new ways for lay people to interact with scientists or to cooperate with each other, but cultural and political changes are also at play. What happens to expertise, knowledge production and relations between scientific institutions and society when lay people or non-scientists go online and engage in scientific activities? From science blogging and social networks to garage biology and open tools for user-led research, P2P science challenges many assumptions about public participation in scientific knowledge production. And it calls for a radical and perhaps new kind of openness of scientific practices towards society.
In his latest book titled “Communication power”, the famous sociologist of information society Manuel Castells focuses on the way in which power takes shape and acts in information societies, and the role of communication in defining, structuring, and changing it. From the rise of “mass self-communication” to the role of environmental movements and neuropolitics, the network is the key structure at play and the main lens used to analyse the transformations we are witnessing. To support his thesis Castells links media studies, power theory and brain science, but his insistence on networks puts in danger his ability to give to his readers a comprehensive and coherent interpretative framework.
In his latest book “The scientific life. A moral history of a late modern vocation”, the social historian of science Steven Shapin addresses the public image of contemporary scientists, their virtues and vocations. Who are, and how they represent themselves, those scientists who work on the edge between industry and academy, and who are responsible for the radical uncertainty embedded in the contemporary production of scientific knowledge? If “people matter”, as Shapin states, the genealogy he provides should encourage us to dig more deeply in the main stage of the virtues and ethos of scientists: the mass media.