UBC scientist tackles social media

Rosie Redfiled, UBC microbiologist speaks about open science April 12 at Okanagan College Kalamalka campus

From hashtags to blogposts, social media is cracking scientific discourse wide open, and it’s about time, according to an advocate.

Rosie Redfield, a University of B.C. microbiologist, will speak about open science April 12 at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series at Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.

As her starting point, Redfield turns to the 2010 case of NASA-funded U.S. researchers who reported finding bacteria with DNA that contained arsenic in place of phosphorus.

The news prompted a media storm, including 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.

“Now that we’re all online, published papers are also being discussed more publicly, in blogs and other places,” said Redfield, who will review the science behind the study and how social media is changing the way scientists communicate.

“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.”

Redfield challenges the notion that 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.

The Science in Society Speaker Series is a joint project of the Okanagan Science Centre and Okanagan College.

Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the door. For advanced tickets and more information, go to www.okscience.ca or call 250-545-3644.