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Disagreement, throwing back and forth of arguments is good news stuff – in television, newspapers, radio etc. But also on blogs can it be fun to follow – and actually blogs are a perfect medium for this, due to the interactive premises of the blog, with linking, comments function and the ability to share blog posts through other social media.

An interesting discussion I came across is on whether or not scientific social networks are of any use to scientists.

In the Huffington Post’s Science section, Mark Drapeau in February 2012 argued for why Social Networks for Scientists Won’t Work. One of his arguments was that there is no incentive for scientists to use social networks, as what makes a difference for their academic careers it to be published in peer-reviewed journals. He argues that reinventing social networks specifically for scientists is not the way forward and is in no way groundbreaking inventions. For this, he uses the example of the scientific social network ResearchGate and compares it with earlier failed scientific social networks like Labmeeting.

In addition to a discussion in the comments section of Mark Drapeau’s blog post, it triggered a response by the writters at Comprendia, a bioscience consulting group. In a post from March 2012 entitled What Is A Scientific Social Network? 6 Thriving and Inspiring Examples they argued against Mark Drapeau, claiming that social media may be of great interest for researchers to engage in, and present six examples which can be used to understand scientific social communities. Their main argument is that:

“The value of social networks for scientists lies in faster access to information relevant to their research and the communities that are made more available by new tools.”

Although not against these new scientific social networks, they agree with Mark Drapeau, that recreating a new science version of Facebook is not necessarily the way forward:

“Here at Comprendia, we’ve never advocated that Facebook should be recreated for scientists, as there are 700,000+ life science graduates in the US already using the application (according to the Facebook advertising application.), and they are likely already connected there to lab mates and colleagues.”

Having read both blog post, I am however not so sure if they are that much in opposition to each other. They both seem to be clear on the fact that scientists are already on Facebook, LinkedIn where they can connect, share ideas etc. Mark Drapeau seems only opposed to reinventing the same social networks for scientists exclusive, not in opposition to online social networking. The writers at Comprendia argues for the value of social networks in general, highlighting the strengths in allowing scientist to have much faster access to information relevant to their research and the ability to connect with other researchers here and now and not having to wait for the next international conference to discuss their research. Comprendia suggests that we adjust our definition of scientific social networks to understand the next steps towards helping scientists use them to thrive, but comes with no suggestion. What is the definition now and what would the like to see changed? I lack that from the blog post.

Something I do find interesting in Comprendia’s blog post is the argument that for the new generation of scientists social networks is already an integrated element in their lives. They are already connected to lab mates and colleagues and using social media for academic purposes would not be foreign to them. I think Comprendia have a very good point here; that there maybe a generation difference. And maybe the need for a new definition of scientific social networks is not as relevant for the younger generation, because it is already an integrate part of their lives.