In today's Huffington Post Science blog, Olivier Dumon, Elsevier's Managing Director of Academic and Government Markets, explores the ways scientists have collaborated before and after the emergence of online social networking — and the possibilities that lie ahead.
The basic premise of social networks — allowing users to build a custom group of friends and colleagues with whom you can choose to selectively interact — is its broad appeal. But this premise has, in fact, been around for many decades in science research. Contrary to the popular image of the lone scientist toiling away in an isolated lab, just about all scientific discovery is a collaborative effort that requires extensive networks of lab teams. Whereas 20 years ago these networks might have been confined geographically or within the same university system, today those networks are more likely to be virtual and global, especially since so much research is now cross-disciplinary.
In drawing the connection from past to present, Dumon describes how the ability to network online is affecting the 130-year-old peer review process.
Tracing the originals of social networking to the Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS) launched in 1978 by Ward Christensen, Dumon gives a capsule history of the popular social networks, such as MySpace, LiveJournal, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Reddit, and Facebook, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
He then highlights the social networks geared to scientists,such as Labroots, Quora, Research Gate, Mysciencework.com, and Mendeley, which became a part of Elsevier last year. He also points out the possibilities of virtual labs, "where colleagues around the world can build their own libraries of papers and collaborative groups."
Dumon concludes by looking into the future of scientific networking.