21 Jun, 13 | by BMJ
The launch of Mozilla’s Science Lab last week is a departure from the kind of projects that the ‘open source‘ advocating organisation usually involves itself with. The initiative is designed to bridge the gap between the open web community and scientific researchers, so that they can share ideas, tools and best practices on how the web should be used to solve problems and improve research techniques.
Mozilla’s mission statement for the Science Lab puts forth the goal of increasing the adoption of the internet and related technologies within different branches of science.
Even though the web was invented by scientists, we still have not yet seen it change scientific practice to nearly the same extent as we’ve seen in other areas like media, education and business. For all of the incredible discoveries of the last century, science is still largely rooted in the ‘analog’ age. Credit systems in science are still largely based around “papers,” for example, and as a result researchers are often discouraged from sharing, learning, reusing, and adopting the type of open and collaborative learning that the web makes possible.
The aim of Science Lab is to challenge this status quo and make research faster, more agile and collaborative. Initially, the project will focus on bringing digital literacy to science through educating students and academics about the tools that are already at their disposal and teaching basic computing skills. Mostly, though, the project seems to want help start a conversation around how the approaches that built the open web can also help shape the future of science.
The initiative is obviously still in its infancy and Mozilla has not shared any concrete plans about how it aims to achieve these far-reaching goals or even which branches of scientific research it will target first. It has said, however, that it will start by “convening a broad conversation about open web approaches and skills training, working with existing tool developers and supporting a global community of researchers.”
I’m sure I won’t be the only one following the progress of Mozilla’s mammoth task to “help researchers around the world use the open web to shape science’s future” with interest.