Abstract (500 words max) for a putative article on user-led science (due for submission no later than June 1, 2009; for discussion, please use this friendfeed thread):

Title: A Friend in Feed is a Co-author Indeed: The social aggregator as a tool for user-led collaborative science

Authors (in alphabetical order by surname):
Brembs, Björn, Free University, Berlin, ed.nilreb-uf|sbmerb.b#ed.nilreb-uf|sbmerb.b
Mietchen, Daniel, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, ed.anej-inu|nehcteim.leinad#ed.anej-inu|nehcteim.leinad
Neylon, Cameron, Science and Technology Facilities Council, ku.ca.cfts|nolyen.noremac#ku.ca.cfts|nolyen.noremac
Pikas, Christina K., College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, ude.dmu|sakipc#ude.dmu|sakipc
Steel, Graham, Patient Advocate, Scotland, moc.liamg|7mahargleets#moc.liamg|7mahargleets
Todd, Matthew H., University of Sydney, ua.ude.dysu.mehc|ddot.m#ua.ude.dysu.mehc|ddot.m

The diffusion and adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by scientists has not had a uniform impact across scientific fields. Larger collaborations across time zones and shared instruments are two examples of successes, but peripherality still exists. That is, scientists at smaller, less wealthy institutions, or with a focus peripheral to the one of their institutions (this is often the case with emerging research fields) have less access to colleagues, information, and tools needed to participate equally in scientific collaboration. Social computing technologies in concert with open access and open science have the potential to lessen this peripherality effect and further, to enable greater participation of citizen scientists. This paper will discuss one social computing technology, the social aggregator (exemplified by the application FriendFeed), provide examples of how this tool has been used successfully in science, and highlight the implications for broader participation in creating new scientific knowledge.

Social computing technologies are also called social software, read/write web, and web 2.0. They enable users to create and share content on the web without requiring them to know web programming or to purchase services. Common examples include wikis, blogs, and social networking sites. Blogs permit collaborations to extend far beyond the principal researcher's acquaintances, thereby allowing, at least in principle, to draw upon the wisdom of the masses. Wikis provide an environment in which knowledge can be structured, shared and continuously updated in a collaborative manner. Microblogging tools allow to exchange short pieces of information, e.g. during a talk, with collaborators that are not physically present at the event but follow it online. Social networking sites provide a range of such tools according to the preferences of their community. Finally, social aggregators, which consolidate updates from social media and social networking websites, allow users to collaborate in adding content to these different sites directly, leave comments and maintain discussions.

These interactions represent the next level of collaboration in science, considerably widening participation in the production of scientific knowledge. We illustrate this with examples of how the social aggregator FriendFeed has enabled new collaborations amongst researchers, or accelerated existing ones. We highlight examples where discussions between scientists have been enhanced by wider dissemination across scientific fields or to non-professional scientists. Several features of social aggregators permit a more effective interaction of researchers than other online tools (e.g. alerting colleagues to posts through 'liking' the post, and real-time updates of comments on a post). Our experiences illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of collaborating in this way, and we analyze what the profile of participants tells us about Friendfeed's current impact on the democratization of research. We propose a list of desirable features for future aggregator sites and comment on how the wider adoption of such sites may influence the way in which we conduct large-scale collaborative science. Looking forward, we examine how the characteristics of these sites will influence the ability of researchers and the general public to communicate directly on the conduct and direction of research projects.

Examples here: -AL added our grant efforts to the spreadsheets - BB

  • Something generic about social networking and why it should offer good stuff for science research
  • Comment on many sites being developed and deployed, most with limited success
  • Comment on user-generated content and also that ff is meta - it allows users to comment on, share, etc., comment created in other places on the web
  • Maybe something about ad hoc, as needed, wider distribution than mailing lists (which are used in some areas of science and not others, see Talja & ?
  • Specific example of friendfeed and how it has been used, list:
    • Scientific collaborations
    • science politics and opinion forming (e.g., publishing reform, authorID)
    • avantgarde of ideas (what science is all about!)
  • Discussion of technical features that seem to be strong (e.g. "like" feature, login requirement as troll barrier)
  • social features and community building that have led to strong community etc (examples of handling disagreements?)
  • Main points summary and pointers for future (rapid research cycle, instant feedback, etc etc.

some citation ideas for when we get to that stage (when abstract is accepted?) (scientists using ICTs for distributed collaboration)