To a large extent, today’s science also takes place on the Internet, from electronic publishing to communication via e-mail. What impact will this have on working patterns, the structure of the academic world and the results of research?
E-mail, electronic publishing and online databases – the way we communicate has changed, as it has in the field of science and research. New developments continue to emerge: virtual workshops, hypertext, global databases based on networks and digital libraries are but a few examples.
Technology euphoria versus scepticism
The aim of the Cyberscience project is to anticipate future developments and to study the gradual changes in the scientific community which can already be seen today. The never-ending rapid technological progress forces not just our society but also scientists to deal with new questions. The almost euphoric praise of technology was met with even greater scepticism. Some scientists even refused to use computers altogether. It seemed necessary to look critically at the trends and to consider what they might lead to. In the tradition of technology assessment, we used an interdisciplinary approach as a basis.
The project, conducted between 2000 and 2002, was partly financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Its results included the book "Cyberscience. Research in the Age of the Internet" (Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2003), that discusses the different aspects of this issue on more than 600 pages. One of the final chapters is devoted to the question whether the new communication technologies will even affect the results of scientific research. The carefully phrased conclusion is that this is indeed likely. The topic of cyberscience was taken up again in the Interactive Science project [link].
A Post-Gutenberg Galaxy
At the time the study was conducted a number of developments were still only in an experimental stage. However, we already predicted that at least some of these possibilities would become common practice in the near future. This affected the publishing and library sector, as well as the scientific communication generally. In the US this development has been called the Post-Gutenberg Galaxy. It was even argued that we were on the brink of a fourth cognitive revolution after the invention of language, writing and printing.