UBC microbiologist examines the role of social media in the scientific process

Is the blogosphere changing the face of science? Dr. Rosie Redfield, a microbiologist from the University of British Columbia and a passionate advocate for making science more open to the public, thinks so.  She will outline her perspective in a public talk entitled ‘#arseniclife and Open Science’ as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series on Thursday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.

photo by John Roth

In December 2010, NASA-funded researchers reported finding bacteria whose DNA contained arsenic in place of phosphorus. The initial media storm was followed by events that were very unusual for science: a twitter-fueled blast of scientific criticism; open blogging about ongoing research progress and problems, and public posting of a scientific manuscript before it had been peer reviewed and formally published.  Dr. Redfield will talk about the science itself (the scientific motivation for the original paper, and the problems with the research it described) and about how social media are changing the way scientists communicate.  

Dr. Redfield is a game changer in her views about public access to tax-payer supported scientific research. She challenges the notion that this research should be only available in journals largely inaccessible to the general public and that the peer-review process should only involve a select few.   Dr. Redfield is promoting ‘open science’ by way of example.  She maintains a number of blogs including one which outlines the details of her daily research activities. As a result of her efforts, the journal Nature named her as one of “the 10 people who mattered this year” in the world of science.

“Now that we’re all online, published papers are also being discussed more publicly, in blogs and other places,” explains Redfield.  “Such discussions are extraordinarily valuable for the progress of science — they’re written public evaluations, drawn from a wide range of expertise, and usually greatly enriched by comments from and links [to] other researchers.”

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Starbucks Coffee, Sweet Caroline’s Bakery, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the door. For advanced tickets and more information, visit the Okanagan Science Centre at http://www.okscience.ca or call (250) 545-3644.

For more information, contact:

Carl Doige, Okanagan College (250) 545-7291 ext. 2286

Sandi Dixon, Okanagan Science Centre (250) 545-3644

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