New approaches to research on a networked planet
With the continuing spread of internet access into all corners of the world, new opportunities to work together without moving an inch are emerging all the time. For the scientific community, online innovations are changing working habits and advancing the progress of research every day. Leading the charge is the emergence of individual platforms for data storage and data retrieval (such as Zenodo and DataONE, among others), collaborative programming platforms (e.g. GitHub) and collaborative writing platforms (think Google Docs). There’s no doubt these innovations have changed how individual science projects are carried out, but what are the wider consequences for whole communities of researchers?
Over the last five years, I’ve been part of setting up a global community for early career researchers in the ecological sciences. Our ambition was clear: INNGE would focus on creating opportunities for early-career scientists to carry out collaborative and innovative activities through global communication and outreach. We also aimed to facilitate contributions from the entire scientific community on emerging topics, such as the interconnected challenges associated with achieving long-term sustainability of current human activities, evidence-based reform of university curricula, and increased adoption of open science practices. When we set up the International Network of Next Generation Ecologists (INNGE), we knew we had to capitalize on the advantages of the internet, but how to do this in a way that works for the scientific community was not always clear.
As an international research platform for global sustainability, Future Earth has the opportunity to capitalise on the opportunities provided by a networked planet. I wrote a blog post on some of these opportunities, here: http://www.futureearth.org/blog/2015-nov-9/harnessing-web-online-platforms-global-research-communities