Science 2.0 and Social Innovation

22. Mar. 2013

Editorial: Interview with Christian Voigt, Head of Technology & Knowledge


Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
(Some lines of the poem ‘The Rock’ by T.S Elliot in 1934)

Science 2.0 has changed the working conditions of many researchers. Beside specific academic networks, online collaboration tools and online bibliography services as well as social media in general have established new forms of production, evaluation and distribution of knowledge. Science 2.0 –  introduced in 2008 by Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland as an umbrella term – includes a wide variety of applications, which aim to simplify processes in science and research by the help of Web 2.0  and make them more simply, transparent or participatory.

Science and research increasingly use the new possibilities of Web 2.0.  How does science or research 2.0 differ from commercial fields?
Christian Voigt.: Web 2.0 represents a sort of change of version: In Web 1.0 there was a verifiable authorship, a central author or a community of authors, which produced and published content, similar to a book with static content. Web 2.0 provides an infrastructure, a framework for user input. Then the content feed takes place.  On the one hand the range of perspectives grows, on the other hand this can be also seen as a negative effect. You don’t know the author and the source of content. This analogy can also be applied to the field of research. Research is subject to powerful mechanisms of authorization and distribution, which means: who may publish when, where and how. With the help of Web 2.0, researchers can introduce ideas relatively independent of scientific publishers and leading magazines.

In the best case science and research 2.0 are open collaborative, participatory and mobile?
For example advanced features of distribution and new formats of publication are exciting aspects. This means, you can easily enrich the core content with further presentations, videos, audiocasts or records, spread the contributions in virtual networks and develop discussions around the data. So the publication becomes richer.

What are the limits of this new culture of feedback?
As researcher basically one should consider, when feedback is helpful.  For me, feedback has to do a lot with acceptance, but also with the creation of knowledge.  Sure, in some contexts it makes sense to exclude feedback options.  Finally one must be aware that a lot of research is funded by the public sector. In my opinion there is also a certain responsibility of institutions to enter a public dialogue with funding agencies. Dialogue means that feedback is desired. This certainly contributes to a more realistic attitude of researchers.  Especially for applied sciences this can be beneficial. In the field of basic research, this new culture of feedback is more contentious. For example populist attacks, which fall short and restrict the freedom of research could have negative effects.  In general, I assume that feedback provides useful input. A key question for me is:  Does my research get better, if I exchange knowledge and experience with potential beneficiaries? Working with feedback should not be a sacrifice for a scientist.

Which tools do you use in everyday life of research in the topical area Technology & Knowledge of ZSI?
Probably I am not a prototypical user of Web 2.0, but for some time I tweet and run a blog on which I try to host a more exhaustive discussion about my current research projects. Here readers find a different approach to my research. My tweets are primarily value statements, for example I read something interesting and share this information with my followers. For me Twitter is also a kind of bookmarking system.

Keyword bookmarking: Which bibliography management tools do you use?
I am currently working with EndNote , probably the pioneer tool, but I would like to change to Zotero. This requires some lead time, because the library and all data in the background must be transferred, which is probably not possible without losses. Attaching professional networks is one aspect that brings citation tools close to the field of research 2.0: In themselves these are production tools with which the work flow becomes faster and more efficient. But once references are public, they also become a starting point for other experts. Via these references you can be identified with the work of others, providing starting points for further exchange.

Which virtual networks do you use?
Mainly on Twitter and LinkedIn, in my experience the effort is the lowest there. I've tested other specific academic networks such as Mendeley , Academia or Researchgate . One should consider the added value. Research 2.0 must show clearly what it brings. Only an increased effort of data entry is certainly not helpful. The effort must have a positive effect on the work. For example, there is a new, interesting service for users of Academia. Since some time I receive mails with information on who and how many read my papers. That gives me an idea of what is relevant to people, sometimes with surprising insights. One aspect of this feedback culture is that you receive feedback as a researcher very quickly from the outside.

Which of the eight ongoing projects of the division Technology & Knowledge operates in the field of research 2.0?
No project deals explicitly with research 2.0. When it comes to understanding research as participatory projects, SOCIENTIZE  could be a good example. Here the public becomes part of the research as a provider of input to various issues. This concerns for example the measurement of temperature in the public space, e.g. heat islands in cities, which can then be monitored as units of streets.
A second aspect is the evaluation of raw data, which can be found also in informally written forums. The project of TEL-Map  starts here and searches for trends. Also TEL-Map works participatoryly. In addition to the analysis of top articles in specific journals, the project focuses on the analysis of blogs, where exchange works more informal and embraces more experimentation.  In my research papers I am used to present my hypotheses and my data and thesis which have been verified or not. Using a blog allows me as a researcher to experiment more creatively about future developments. 
We analyze this in the project on two levels. We ask: “Which are common concerns and fears?" Concerning the subject of technology and learning, you can quickly develop negative scenarios, for example the image of a "transparent student", who later may have difficulties to find a job, because of a negative grade, which was stored electronically and remains accessible. Data develops a new constant persistence caused by the possibilities of electronic storage.
TEL-Map aims to set trends regarding research efforts in the field of E-learning and tries to raise awareness of political decision makers for upcoming issues. The project supports with analysis, agenda setting, disagreement management, as well as road mapping.

For more than 20 years the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) is a pioneer in the field of social innovation and innovation research. In accordance with the claim of the ZSI I like to ask: All innovations are socially relevant?
Often innovation is seen equivalent with technical progress and technocratic change, without questioning the social dimension of innovation. Social innovation is then perceived as a side effect of innovation and not as an important aspect. ZSI focuses on the social dimension of innovation and supports the visibility and relevance of this fact. In the topical area of T&W we frequently work in projects with teams of hardcore technicians. This could work like this: Computer scientists develop their tools and methods and we research, how these innovations will affect – hopefully in a positive way - the life of users. When innovations are used in larger communities, this could lead to positive systemic change. For example: imagine a systemic change, how education is evaluated. This would be a social innovation.

Introducing Christian Voigt
Dr. Christian Voigt is a senior reseacher at the ZSI and became head of the topical area of Technology & Knowledge (T&W) in 2012 after eight years of successful research and teaching at the University of South Australia (AU) and Koblenz-Landau (DE). His main research interests focus on collaborative learning technologies and evaluation of software solutions for institutions in the public sector. More areas are socio-economic impact analysis of E-infrastructures. Christian Voigt is project manager of the EU projects Stellar (network of excellence in TEL) and TEL-Map (roadmapping the future of learning technologies).

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Tags: science communication, social sciences