Peer-to-Peer

Scientific discourse 2.0: Second Life

Stephen T Huang, Maged N Kamel Boulos and Robert P Dellavalle write an article in the June issue of EMBO Reports (9, 496-499; 2008) with the title: Scientific discourse 2.0. Will your next poster session be in Second Life?

From the article:

Certainly, peer-reviewed literature and scientific meetings in the physical world will remain the main modes of distributing scientific information and informal communication. Yet, communication through virtual-world technology might become a useful supplement to the traditional discourse. The particular strengths of this technology include: its potential to share, review and comment on information, both with the public and one’s peers; options that allow users to create and develop unique objects, and presentations to educate and inform others and to display data; and, last but not least, the time and cost of bringing people together within and across disciplines can be reduced.

As with any new technology, there are issues that could have an impact on the usefulness of online communication and its acceptance within the scientific community. Scientists who rely on peer-reviewed data for their work might find Web 2.0’s lack of proofreading unacceptable to document research findings. However, we should explore the existing and potential applications of virtual communication for unique ways to discuss ideas, answer questions, educate and debate. Our ability to understand what we can accomplish in online worlds depends on our collective experience with the technology. The more scientists and clinicians who work with and comprehend the applications of virtual worlds for their respective research fields, the sooner we will realize how this technology can be best applied. The next step is to invite ourselves into these online realms, experiment with what they have to offer, and see where our exploration and creativity takes us.

(Stephen T. Huang is at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, USA; Maged N. Kamel Boulos is at the University of Plymouth, UK; Robert P. Dellavalle is at the Denver Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center and the University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA.)

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