Scientists from the 21st century

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 in Science by Astrid Pellieux

The way research is done has greatly evolved those last years. In the 21st century, scientists are more collaborative than ever. It includes more opening by contributing to the different components of the Open Science movement, but also more real-time collaboration through the social web. Those actions are not only aimed at the scientific community, but also at the public that is more and more involved by scientists trough crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. All this lead to what is called the Science 2.0.

Nowadays, thanks to the Open Science different components, scientists from the 21st century make their research results more rapidly accessible, reusable and transparent for everybody all around the world. With Open Access, scientific publications are made available with no cost and free of most usage restrictions (licensing and copyright). Tools such as open archives and repositories for self-archiving (green Open Access) are particularly well spreaded online for researchers. ArXiv, PubMed Central, HAL, TEL, etc. are good examples. Many search engines are dedicated to look for self-archived papers in those repositories. It’s particularly the case of Driver, BASE, or CORE. Open Access publishers also exist allowing researchers to freely share their papers in online Open Access Journals (Gold Open Access). PLOS, PeerJ, eLife, F1000Research, etc. are some well-known examples. Generally indexed in academic databases and search engines, Open Access papers can be search with tools such as Google Scholar or PubMed.

With the other components of the Open Science movement, Open Data and Open Source, scientists also freely share all kind of materials used in a study. Dryad and Figshare are well known as data sharing platforms. Some like GitHub are more dedicated to the sharing of computational data such as source codes. With all those tools, 21st century researchers provide more transparency and feasibility to their research work. They contribute to a more efficient growth of Science.

Graduated cylinders and beaker filled with chemical compounds-Flickr
Graduated cylinders and beaker filled with chemical compounds by Horia Varlan, Flickr. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Real-time collaboration and communication is also an important practice in the 21st century. Many and various tools exist to bring researchers from around the world in a collaborative way. For example, Open Lab Notebooks allow researchers to directly deposit online the results of experiments currently being done. OpenWetWare, MyExperiment or UsefulChem are some good examples. Scientific blogs can have the same role. Aggregators of scientific blogs such as ScienceSeeker or ResearchBlogging provide good results. Scientific social networks, such as or ResearchGate, also provide a privileged place for researchers to share on scientific topics. Non-specialized social networks like Facebook or Twitter are also powerful services for scientists that, in addition to share with peers, can share with the public. Finally, social bookmarking platforms like Mendeley and Zotero are powerful tools to store and share scientific information in the form of web bookmarks and/or literature references.

This social activity online lead to new process in scientific peer-review. On some platforms cite above, people can leave a comment contributing to the assessment of research and to new models of peer-review. In addition, services specifically dedicated to new peer-review process such as Peer Evaluation or PubPeer also develop to contribute to the new peer-review models: open peer-reviewed and post peer-review.

Finally, in the 21st century, scientists request more contribution from the public. Known as crowdsourcing or citizen science, it provides with the advance of technologies more opportunities for the public to involve itself in gathering and/or analyzing scientific results. This might be done through different tools such as internet website like Zooniverse, mobile apps, or serious games like Foldit. The public is also now mobilized in the funding of research. The research crowdfunding are possible through online platforms such as Microryza which are only dedicated to research funding. Other like Kickstarter or KissKissBankBank are not dedicated to research funding, but might also propose science related projects.

To conclude, a 21st century researcher is a scientist that contributes to make science more open, transparent and accessible for everybody around the world. By that, both scientists and citizens can contribute to the growth of science and to a deep integration of science into the society.