Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The (Post)Digital Researcher

British Library I spent Monday at the British Library in a meeting arranged by Vitae, the RCUK funded career development organization for postdoctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes. We were talking about training the digital researcher, although to my surprise and delight, the conversation turned postdigital pretty quickly.

On 15th March 2010 Vitae and the BL will be running a joint event which aims to take on the daunting task of attempting to convince researchers of the value of social tools. Why daunting? Well although we'll only get the researchers who have not been prevented from attending by skeptical supervisors, I still expect to encounter a fair amount of doubt, which I did my best to point out yesterday, in part by tossing a copy of Communicating Chemistry. Nature Chemistry, 1 (9), 673-678 (01 December 2009) on to the table. I don't accept all the arguments in this paper that chemistry is a special case - every discipline claims special status, and while each has different circumstances, the problems are essentially cross-disciplinary, but it was useful to make the point at Monday's meeting.
Some chemists point out that academia produces two vital inputs for the chemical industry, trained PhD-level scientists and published scientific results, without proper compensation. Industrial researchers read the scientific literature but they publish only sparsely themselves, because their careers do not depend on it, and to keep their research strategies and goals secret from competitors. This may explain why some academic chemists are particularly sceptical of present proposals for open-access business models, as they feel that industry would profit inappropriately.
It'll be an interesting few months ahead while we plan out our strategy. Stay tuned for more details.