Academics Tout Social Networks, Micro-blogging As Superior Research Formats

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Scholars are using Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, Skype, Wikipedia, and Twitter more than traditional methods to conduct research and solve problems

Many of today's most compelling new questions are still tackled with old institutional models; it's ironic that religion has had its Reformation but that the role of a research university would be recognizable to a medieval monk

A diverse worldwide group of university researchers and scholars are pioneering a new model for cutting edge research based on social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies rather than the traditional publish-or-perish model.

Led by theorists at Oxford, Princeton, the University of Witwatersrand, Osaka University and other institutions, the group is developing their ideas on a wiki sponsored by the World Mind Network called http://anewparadigmforresearch.wetpaint.com. The moderator is Irina Higgins of the Oxford Foundation for Theoretical Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence. The public is welcome to contribute.

They take inspiration from statements such as this, from MIT's Neil Gershenfeld: "Many of today's most compelling new questions are still tackled with old institutional models; it's ironic that religion has had its Reformation but that the role of a research university would be recognizable to a medieval monk"

Today, scholars all over the world can connect instantaneously. Theories can be developed, refined, and adjusted at the speed of light. Thousands can devote their unique niche talents to a problem that would take a small group of researchers at one institute years to solve. The species is approaching the kind of efficiency that previously was only seen in one integrated biological brain; as Alex Pentland has said, "The nervous system of the human race has come alive"

Says Larrry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia: "I believe that researchers are drawn to the wiki model because they naturally love several ideas suggested by the model; working closely with large numbers of their colleagues spread over the world; updating shared knowledge on the fly and avoiding costly duplication of labor; presenting knowledge systematically and in all its glorious complexity, and providing clear and compelling free access to important knowledge of their fields to a world that, in many cases, desperately needs such access"

Participation from everyone is welcome.

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John Toomey
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