Science 2.0: How Tools are Changing Computational Scientific Research

Technology has a history of sweeping scientific enterprise: from Vannevar Bush’s first analog PDE calculators at MIT in the 30′s through the differential analyzers of the 50′s and 60′s to today’s unfinished transition that will end with computation as absolutely central to scientific enterprise. Now computational tools play not only the traditional role of helping scientific discovery, but of facilitating it. On July 26 I’ll be talking about changes to the scientific method that computation has brought — does reproducibility matter? is computation creating a third branch of the scientific method? — at Science 2.0 in Toronto. The conference focuses on how the Internet is changing the process of doing science: how we share code and data, and how we use new communication technologies for collaboration and work tracking. Here’s the abstract for my talk and the URL:

How Computational Science is Changing the Scientific Method

As computation becomes more pervasive in scientific research, it seems to have become a mode of discovery in itself, a “third branch” of the scientific method. Greater computation also facilitates transparency in research through the unprecedented ease of communication of the associated code and data, but typically code and data are not made available and we are missing a crucial opportunity to control for error, the central motivation of the scientific method, through reproducibility. In this talk I explore these two changes to the scientific method and present possible ways to bring reproducibility into today’ scientific endeavor. I propose a licensing structure for all components of the research, called the “Reproducible Research Standard”, to align intellectual property law with longstanding communitarian scientific norms and encourage greater error control and verifiability in computational science.

http://softwarecarpentry.wordpress.com/guests/

3 Responses to “Science 2.0: How Tools are Changing Computational Scientific Research”


  • Fernando Espinoza

    I have a question:
    Why do you repeatedly use the term ‘scientific method’?
    There are several national organizations that have explicitly advocated against such characterization of scientific practice. They cite among the reasons for their objections, the incorrect perception its use gives many students that there is a single way to do science, and this is problematic. I have to continually remind my students that there is a methodology to scientific practice, but no single method as such. There are enough misconceptions out there about science, using ‘method’ just contributes to the problem.

  • Great post but the link for “Reproducible Research Standard” was wrong. It should be: http://www.ijclp.net/issue_13.html.

  • Thanks for David for the correction to the link. Fernando, I use the term scientific method to denote activity that furthers scientific understanding, and not every behavior does this so it’s a useful, and important, distinction.

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