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Mar 22, 2010 Commentary
Special issue on peer-to-peer and user-led science: invited comments

by Alessandro Delfanti

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.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Mar 22, 2010 Editorial
Users and peers. From citizen science to P2P science

by Alessandro Delfanti

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.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Mar 09, 2010 Article
Social network science: pedagogy, dialogue, deliberation

by Richard Watermeyer

The online world constitutes an ever-expanding store and incubator for scientific information. It is also a social space where forms of creative interaction engender new ways of approaching science. Critically, the web is not only a repository of knowledge but a means with which to experience, interact and even supplement this bank. Social Network Sites are a key feature of such activity. This paper explores the potential for Social Network Sites (SNS) as an innovative pedagogical tool that precipitate the ‘incidental learner’. I suggest that these online spaces, characterised by informality, open-access, user input and widespread popularity, offer a potentially indispensable means of furthering the public understanding of science; and significantly one that is rooted in dialogue.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Mar 02, 2010 Article
The public production and sharing of medical information. An Australian perspective

by Henry C.H. Ko

There is a wealth of medical information now available to the public through various sources that are not necessarily controlled by medical or healthcare professionals. In Australia there has been a strong movement in the health consumer arena of consumer-led sharing and production of medical information and in healthcare decision-making. This has led to empowerment of the public as well as increased knowledge-sharing. There are some successful initiatives and strategies on consumer- and public-led sharing of medical information, including the formation of specialised consumer groups, independent medical information organisations, consumer peer tutoring, and email lists and consumer networking events. With well-organised public initiatives and networks, there tends to be fairly balanced information being shared. However, there needs to be caution about the use of publicly available scientific information to further the agenda of special-interest groups and lobbying groups to advance often biased and unproven opinions or for scaremongering. With the adoption of more accountability of medical research, and the increased public scrutiny of private and public research, the validity and quality of medical information reaching the public is achieving higher standards.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Feb 22, 2010 Article
Changing the meaning of peer-to-peer? Exploring online comment spaces as sites of negotiated expertise

by Marie-Claire Shanahan

This study examines the nature of peer-to-peer interactions in public online comment spaces. From a theoretical perspective of boundary-work and expertise, the comments posted in response to three health sciences news articles from a national newspaper are explored to determine whether both scientific and personal expertise are recognized and taken up in discussion. Posts were analysed for both explicit claims to expertise and implicit claims embedded in discourse. The analysis suggests that while both scientific and personal expertise are proffered by commenters, it is scientific expertise that is privileged. Those expressing scientific expertise receive greater recognition of the value of their posts. Contributors seeking to share personal expertise are found to engage in scientisation to position themselves as worthwhile experts. Findings suggest that despite the possibilities afforded by online comments for a broader vision of what peer-to-peer interaction means, this possibility is not realized.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Oct 30, 2009 Article
Science cafés. Cross-cultural adaptation and educational applications

by Michael Norton and Kayoko Nohara

Tokyo Institute of Technology (TokyoTech) has been developing a number of methodologies to teach graduate students the theory and practice of science communication since 2005. One of the tools used is the science café, where students are taught about the background based primarily on theoretical models developed in the UK. They then apply that knowledge and adapt it the Japanese cultural context and plan, execute and review outcomes as part of their course. In this paper we review 4 years of experience in using science cafés in this educational context; we review the background to the students’ decision-making and consensus-building process towards deciding on the style and subject to be used, and the value this has in illuminating the cultural influences on the science café design and implementation. We also review the value of the science café as an educational tool and conclude that it has contributed to a number of teaching goals related to both knowledge and the personal skills required to function effectively in an international environment.

Volume 8 • Issue 04 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Social technologies and socialization of research

by Jos Leijten

Whether we like it or not, and how many difficulties this may pose, scientific research and technology are becoming the “property” of everybody and increasingly will become subject of public guidance and political decision making. Socialization happens because what people think, want and do has become central to the development of science and technology. Socialization of research is simply happening because it is the development characteristic of a society in which knowledge is becoming the main driving force. And just like in agricultural or industrial societies in the past it leads to (re-)invent the institutions and mechanisms which allow the knowledge society to function properly. This note will further explore the developments contributing to the socialization of research and their impact on research and research institutes. It will focus more on technologies than on science per se, because applications and usage will become the main drivers.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Science and technology: socialising what for whom?

by Sally Wyatt

In the Handbook on the socialisation of scientific and technological research, edited by Wiebe Bijker and Luciano d’Andrea, ‘socialisation’ is used to both describe and prescribe the ways in which science and technology are used in society. In this comment, ‘socialisation’ is discussed from two other points of view. First, the ways in which science and technology are sometimes used to organize, structure and dominate the social are identified. Second, drawing on Merton’s norms of science, an argument is made against over-socialising science and in favour of acknowledging and preserving the ‘special’ nature of science, for its own sake and because, at its best, science can offer an alternative model for other social activities.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Technoscience, technological cultures and socialisation

by Erik Aarden

Technoscience is deeply linked to national cultures across terrains as diverse as medicine, agricultural biotechnologies, ICTs, energy technologies, etc. Understanding the cultural dimension of technoscience is vital for the project of socialisation. This project should be embedded in technological and political cultures, taking variation in cultural approaches to technoscience, national identity and political decision-making seriously. Socialisation of science and technology in Europe should therefore approach socio-technical developments in a way that allows for the emergence of controversies and alternative scenarios and their resolution. Only when we take the links between technological cultures, liberal democracy and technoscience seriously we will be able to confront some of today's most pressing and complex problems.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Public scientific communication: reflections on the public and its participation forms

by Peter Sekloča and Ernest Ženko

Scientific communication also pertains to the domain of society, where the formation of public opinion about science and technology is taking place. Concerning this process, two main points are exposed in the commentary. The first is a proposition on how the public as a social category may be conceptualized, and the second is the extent of the participation of members of the public in strengthening socialization and democratization practices in new, highly complex, contexts of scientific research. The public is conceptualized to include all citizens no matter their professional origin, including scientists, which promotes the idea of openness and equality of the public sphere where scientific issues are discussed. To be democratic in its practical-political setting, such a conception needs to deal with the problems of participation in a highly mediatized world, where not every member of the public could be included into scientific research. The author thus reflects on the mechanisms which would enable the formation of public forums where the trust of influential public actors as stakeholders of research can be tested.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009