NASIG 2011: Science Re-Imagined

Speaker: Adam Bly

Coming from the perspective of science having the potential to improve the state of the world. We are in a moment of discovery of things we have never seen before. We also have the capabilities to manipulate nature, and it is prompting a need for an ethical framework. And, science is being done in cultures that have a rich scientific history, but are not part of the Western traditions.

The amount of data we are now creating is producing a moment of incredible opportunity. Information scientists have the opportunity to influence the literacy of society so that we can take ownership of and understand the data created, particularly that data about ourselves.

Science has the potential to change the world but only if two conditions exist. We need to think of science literacy as something for every single person on this planet. The second condition is open science — science can’t be proprietary for a company or a country.

We need a new philosophy of scientific literacy. Science is not just about its output. It is a way of thinking. Science is a lens through which we can solve the world’s problems. Science must engage through culture and ideas.

Art has a role in exploring the possibilities of science. Take the book Flatland as an example of exploring something we have trouble understanding.

We didn’t grow up hating science because we didn’t know it was science. We were once all scientists by our actions and experimentation as children. It is when we associate it with exams and challenging tasks that we began to hate it.

The future of science is open, not because it should be, but because it needs to be in order for it to progress. Nature does not recognize our disciplines — everything is complex and connected. Science is not a closed system — 65% of scientists cite that literature has an influence on their work.

The web that was created by science is not ideal for science. It is disorganized, fragmented, and inefficient. Info is organized by disciplines, decisions are made by lagging indications, and innovations are driven to preserve a business model and not for research. Scientists deserve better, and society needs better.

Scientists aren’t waiting. They hack things. They fix things. They don’t wait on the product cycle.

Open science that could work is based in a digital core that does not rely on the limitations of paper with mandated free flow of information with subsidized peer review, open standards and interoperability, knowledge from information, and modern metrics.

The information of today is complex and vast, and we need a new way to visualize it. We are bringing design and computer science together. Visualizing.org hopes to connect open data with open design.

There is no such thing as “open access,” “open data,” or “open science” — we solve society’s problems with science as a tool and a lens. A 21st century renaissance is science integrated with and not standing in opposition to other forces.