Diane Rhoten, a program director at the NY-based Social Science Research Council (SSRC), has written an interesting article titled “The Dawn of Networked Science” in the Chronicle of Higher Education (7 September 2007). The article is worth reading as it attempts to highlight the enhanced role of multi-sited networks of scientists and engineers in innovative research versus a relatively fixed (in geographic terms) cluster of scholars. She posits that we are shifting, in Western countries at least, and albeit unevenly, from “Big Science” via “Team Science” to “Networked Science”. As Rhoten puts it:
the rise of the virtual and the return of the individual are what most set the new way of doing science apart from its predecessors. Big Science was centralized and geographically concentrated, and Team Science is decentralized and geographically distributed. But both are organized around brick-and-mortar institutions, and both are essentially closed loops, with participation limited to and defined by programs or teams.
Networked Science is a more loosely coupled and open system. In it, geographic location, institutional affiliation, and even professional reputation are becoming less relevant, while technological connection, personal motivation, and informal interaction are increasingly important.
This is an issue that universities, funding agencies, and disciplinary-based organizations are just starting to grapple with.