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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Can Collaborative Science Cure Cancer?



I am thrilled beyond belief at this morning's 11:30 a.m. post in the New Scientist. (I love Slashdot!)

This new open source software allows the natural language used in experiments to be "translated" into language that computers can understand.

The new tool could revolutionise the way scientific papers are written and help scientists make creative leaps, researchers say...
"If lots of scientific papers were written in this way you could very quickly see whether an experiment has contradictions or agreements with other work," King told New Scientist. "It would also allow much more sophisticated search engines to find what you're looking for."
The thing that thrills me is that so much pure research has traditionally occured in isolated microsmic organizations. This tool, EXPO, will truly allow scientists to collaborate and cooperate like never before. If it works as intended, I think it could help laser focus and accelerate pure research.

I have a feeling that this tool will bring some scientists into uncomfortable territory. However, if the true aim is to get an answer (Particularly in the areas of cancer, AIDS research, etc.), I hope that scientists should be willing to do what it takes to accelerate finding their answers.

Previously, the answer of many scientists was to move closer together so that "think tank" environments of shared discussion and collegiality emerged. I hope with such tools that it will do for the scientific world what blogging is doing for education! It will mean a scientist who lives in a remote byway can contribute equally with a peer at a major university.

More reasons to teach collaboration to our students

I keep telling my students that their future is in collaborating around the world through the use of wikis and other collaborative software. It is vital that we teach students what it means to collaborate and work with others around the world. (And to allow them to use these tools is vital...even to finding a cure for cancer it seems!)

Information literacy and an online code of ethics are more important than ever. (See David Warlick's Code of Ethics, it is in a word document and I will be using it next year)

Teachers must model effective collaboration as they collaborate effectively with colleagues both at their school, within their district, within their state, and around the world.

We have got a lot to do to prepare students for their future! We have a lot that needs to be done! (This is why such useful collaborative tools must not become software non grata in schools!)

Here is my question to you: Are you collaborating? Have you joined in a wiki or a collaborative project with others? Are you learning about the power of so you can teach it to others?

How can you start to collaborate?

You can join in the discussion at supportblogging. You can help me configure my computer lab. (E-mail me for an invitation.) You can create a wiki and collaborate with others on a project that you are doing for your district or organization.

If you are reading blogs and even blogging, that is a start. Joining a wiki or using open source software to collaborate (writely.com) are the next step. Why don't you step out and join the conversation this summer? Invite others to participate in a project with you!

An effective educator can no longer be a stingy island of information but must work to encourage, help, and teach others.

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