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Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science Hardcover – Oct 23 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (Oct. 23 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148908
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.2 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 540 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #262,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


One of Financial Times ( non-fiction favourites in the Science category for 2011

A The Boston Globe (Anthony Doerr) Best Book in science for 2011

"[A] thought-provoking call to arms. . . . Reinventing Discovery will frame serious discussion and inspire wild, disruptive ideas for the next decade."--Chris Lintott, Nature

"[Nielsen's] easy-to-read and enthusiastic narrative integrates a set of ideas that could, indeed, revolutionize knowledge creation. Nielsen offers a set of fascinating examples to illustrate how rapidly emerging methods for innovation produce important discoveries. He goes further to suggest that these will change our concepts of how science gets done and what it means to be a scientist. However, there are substantial systemic and cultural barriers to fully realizing these new forms of cognition and collaboration. . . . With Reinventing Discovery, Nielsen provides an important foundation for moving forward."--Stephen M. Fiore, Science

"The lone white-coated scientist working late, eye pressed to the eyepiece? That trope is no more. Nowadays impressive science (in mathematics, genetics, astronomy) is being accomplished by crowds using the tools of the Internet. Nielsen believes that mass collaboration is the future of science, and his book may be the most interesting piece of nonfiction I read this year."--Anthony Doerr, Boston Globe

"In Reinventing Discovery [Nielsen] has provided the most compelling manifesto yet for the transformative power of networked science."--James Wilsdon, Financial Times

"In writing this book, Nielsen has created perhaps the most compelling and comprehensive case so far for a new approach to science in the Internet age . . . eloquent, thought-provoking and inspiring to read."--Timo Hannay, Nature Physics

"Presenting complex ideas clearly, Nielson explores in his first book how online collaborative tools, networked science, and open data policies are revolutionizing the process of discovery. He presents a clear vision of science's future and challenges us to bring it to fruition. . . . Both captivating and enlightening, this book is recommended for general readers or specialists interested in how online collaboration tools, open data policies, and networked science might benefit the future of science and humanity."--Jonathan Bodnar, Library Journal

"Reinventing Discovery is a survey, an analysis, a how-to, and a harbinger of greater things to come. Kudos to the author for picking a timely and relevant subject perhaps just on the edge of social consciousness and making a great story out of it."--Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books

"I highly recommend this book. It's engagingly and persuasively written, while still being measured in its approach to the subject. If you have any interest in the way science is done in the modern age, and how it will be done in the future, you should pick up a copy."--Chad Orzel, Uncertain Principles blog

"A must read. . . . Nielsen's book serves as a great starting point for any reader interested in scientific discoveries. And even for those who have thought about such issues already, the book will stimulate further thinking."--Joerg Heber, All That Matters blog

"Michael Nielsen makes the case for the wisdom of very smart crowds in an optimistic argument for the way a wired world can change the way science works. In all sorts of examples, from a Garry Kasparov v the world chess game, to mathematicians and astronomers combining to solve problems he shows how the internet can increase the size and speed of scientific collaboration."--Stephen Matchett, The Australian

"Nielsen asks scientists to reinvent what they do, for the good of science and the good of society. His call to arms is timely and important."--Jack Stilgoe, The Guardian

"A powerful plea for scientists to work together in new ways, using the full power of the internet and information technology. Nielsen attacks the possessive attitude to data that still pervades some fields of research and shows how much scientists can gain through more open, collaborative working--which may involve members of the public as well as those inside the academic tent."--Clive Cookson, Financial Times, Best of 2011

"Excellent. . . . Nielsen's ideas are built on a careful analysis of the past--from the anagrams of Galileo and Newton, to Henry Oldenburg and the invention of the scientific journal, to the invention of peer-review in mid-20th century, to the developments of the past couple of decades since the invention of the World Wide Web. It takes into account people and how they, being human, resist or accept new ways of doing old stuff. It points out the obstacles, and errors one can make in pushing for a more open and more collaborative research. But it also provides a blueprint for how to do it right. And this last thing is why YOU should buy this book and read it carefully--it gives you a cool-headed, calm, thoughtful analysis of the things that work. Use them."--Bora Zivkovic, Blog Around the Clock

"Reinventing Discovery will fire up scholars and scientists to make better use of the internet and join the open science movement. . . . His real contribution, however, is his informed discussion of the social pressures slowing this process of reinvention. . . . Nielsen offers keen insights into how legal, business and academic culture clashes with the pursuit of open science. Our pre-internet thinking is chasing short-term and narrow competitive benefits at the expense of the wider world."--Harold Thimbleby, Times Higher Education

"Nielsen has been advocating 'Open Science': the idea that science would progress faster and more efficiently if we took advantage of the internet and social communication to create collaborative projects that would have previously been impossible. In this book he lays out the case, peering into the future to unveil a dramatic new mode of learning about the universe."--Sean Carroll, Cosmic Variance blog, Discover Magazine

"Reinventing Discovery is an essential read for anyone wanting to take advantage of knowledge and networking available online."--Georgia Leaker, Cosmos magazine

"Nielsen's book is a thorough primer on what he calls 'networked science.'. . . We are in the midst of a revolution, Nielsen argues, in which networked science can solve problems at the limit of human understanding--and may even change the world. That claim may sound over the top, but Nielsen makes a compelling case in this self-described manifesto. With friendly, engaging writing, he describes specific approaches and characteristics that can make collaborations truly bloom."--Rachel Ehrenberg, Science News

"Nielsen likens today's resistance to online tools by scientists to the days of the anagram. The analogy may sound critical of our current scientific culture, but he's also saying that like Galileo and his peers, we're ready for revolutionary change. It's already happening, and Nielsen's book is rich with beautiful and surprising examples."--Daily Kos

"Quantum computation specialist Nielsen is an impassioned advocate for open science. In a modern networked world, how can science happen differently? Nielsen successfully communicates his vision in Reinventing Discovery. . . . Nielsen is frank about the challenges to open science, and he offers a plan for action."--Choice

"This book is suited to a wide audience: those interested in greater detail . . . can view the appendix, bibliographic essay, and references at the end of the book, but Nielsen has written the main text in an engaging narrative style. Suitable for communities served by academic, public, and perhaps secondary school libraries, Nielsen's work is enjoyable and compelling."--Lia Vella, Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship

"A worthy manifesto for an important cause."--Michael Gilding, Inside Story

"Reinventing Discovery provides an important first sketch of the rapidly emerging networked science and makes it clear that certain fields of discovery can take advantage of an unprecedented acceleration enabled by online networks."--Thomas Vogt, Physics Today

"Nielsen's book is an amazing collection of interesting examples, important protagonists and references. It makes illustrative comparisons to open source software development. With his easily readable, well explained and perfectly argued style, Nielsen manages to keep the reader interested in this rather dry philosophical topic throughout the whole book. . . . [T]he book provides a comprehensive overview of developments in open science and is more than worth the reading time for someone interested in the foundations of science."--Florian Fisch, Lab Times

"Although this book is written in the 'popular science' style, it is not as breathless as many comparable texts and it is written by a practising scientist with a widely cited output in the field of quantum computing. It is recommended reading for any academic pathologists."--Simon Cross, Bulletin of the Royal College of Pathologists

"Nielsen's book is timely and makes the case that scientists have the 'opportunity to change the way knowledge is constructed.' Librarians reading this book will find content that is familiar such as the discussions on open access, open data, and data citation initiatives. The take-away is that Nielsen, as a scientist, is addressing his peers on topics that are also important to librarians. Perhaps Nielsen's Reinventing Discovery: The Era of Networked Science will be the impetus for 'lighting an almighty fire under the scientific community' in creating an open scientific culture."--Barbara Losoff, portal: Libraries and the Academy

"This is a book for anyone who wants to understand how the online world is revolutionizing scientific discovery today--and why the revolution is just beginning."--World Book Industry

From the Back Cover

"[Reinventing Discovery] opens with a fantastic account of what we can learn about the future of science from explorations such as the Polymath Project and 'the greatest chess game in history,' Kasparov vs. the World. But what really distinguishes it is its nuanced, intelligent descriptions of just how these projects work, noticing what is important about them in a way that few popular summaries do. . . . Highly recommended!"--Tim O'Reilly, Founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media

"Anyone who has followed science in recent years has noticed something odd: science is less and less about a solitary scientist working alone in a lab. Scientists are working in networks, and those networks are gaining scope, speed, and power through the internet. Nonscientists have been getting in on the act, too, folding proteins and identifying galaxies. Michael Nielsen has been watching these developments too, but he's done much more: he's provided the best synthesis I've seen of this new kind of science, and he's also thought deeply about what it means for the future of how we understand the world. Reinventing Discovery is a delightfully written, thought-provoking book."--Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses and The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

"This is the book on how networks will drive a revolution in scientific discovery; definitely recommended."--Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation

"Science has always been a contact sport; the interaction of many minds is the engine of the discipline. Michael Nielsen has given us an unparalleled account of how new tools for collaboration are transforming scientific practice. Reinventing Discovery doesn't just help us understand how the sciences are changing, it shows us how we can participate in the change."--Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus

"This wonderful book is a pleasure to read. Michael Nielsen writes in an authoritative yet clear, concise, and accessible style, making an informative and compelling case for open, networked science and how to achieve it."--William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute

"In Reinventing Discovery, Michael Nielsen introduces us to the new world of the modern scientist, where the Web is amplifying communication and accelerating discovery in unexpected ways, making for extraordinary problem solving. This is a unique and valuable book."--Victoria Stodden, Columbia University

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful account of how the digital environment is changing how we work - in this case how science is done, and who can do science. The first half of the book is the best as it uses a number of case to illustrate Big Data projects and the positive potential of 'Big' open data. For anyone interested in the implications of open data this is a great resource. He elaborates how the digital environment allows us to connect the right person with the right knowledge to the right situation - helping to restructure expert/knowledge attention.

He provides the foundation - the cases for understanding that the wisdom of crowds is in fact a way of social computing.

The second half of the book is focused more on the policy implications necessary to democratize science, accelerate discovery, improve access to the results of science, reshape how we incentivize scientist to share their data to create open data and enable how new ways of asking questions and finding answers. He challenges the hold that old methods of science journals have and how it was once the key to spreading knowledge but has become a throttle today.

This is an important topic today - if only our politician understood these issues to help in shaping our 21st century infrastructure. Highly recommend this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author points to new approaches of creating knowledge based on open science and mass collaboration among researchers, including: real-time posting of ideas and lab results, software for tapping collective intelligence, crafting of data webs and open access to speed up the creation of new knowledge. The author illustrates these concepts with specific examples such as Polymath Project, Galaxy Zoo, HapMap, Genbank, Innocentive, PLoS, and Foldit. In the author's words, "the division of labor is changing, with some people specializing in building the experimental apparatus and collecting data, while others specialize in analyzing the data from those experiments.' The promise of this 'new era' of science is the potential for tackling both increasing complex problems and more elaborate models of explanation (i.e. behaviour of simulation models rather than single mathematical equations or universal laws).

Nielsen is critical of these approaches, noting they favor modular participation in fields of inquiry where a shared praxis exists, which facilitates a dynamic division of labor via manageable subtasks. The implication is that such approaches are more relevant for fields with a high degree of agreement on problems and methods (such as bioinformatics, chemistry, econometrics) and less immediately relevant for fields marked by pluralism (such as public policy). Additionally, the trends towards 'networked science' are countered the 'publish or perish' incentive: the competitive pressure on professional scientists to allocate their time to "the kinds of activities that lead to jobs, grants, and promotion".

Yet this book has two interrelated weaknesses.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xb2bed798) out of 5 stars 20 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2bf31f8) out of 5 stars A fascinating read and great introduction to the untapped power of open science Oct. 28 2011
By Steven J. Koch - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Nielsen's new book cover to cover on my flights to / from an Open Access Week event in Tucson this week and I give it my strongest recommendation for a pleasurable read about a crucial topic. I am a scientist and my students and I practice open science as much as possible--open notebook science, open protocols, open data, open proposals, etc. I have also seen the author, Michael Nielsen speak a couple times, and I have read many of his blog posts. So, before reading this book I didn't necessarily expect to learn much or certainly to be further convinced of the possibility of transforming science in this new era. From the moment I started reading, though, I was captivated. Many of the stories were not new to me (such as Galaxy Zoo or the polymath project), but I hadn't heard them in such detail before and I enjoyed learning a lot more about those successful crowd- or citizen-science projects. There were also many success and failure stories in open or collaborative science that I hadn't known about, such as the Microsoft-sponsored "Kasparov versus the world" chess event, or the research into how small groups can make bad decisions if the collaborative conditions aren't set up correctly. I learned a lot from these new stories, and remained captivated throughout.

In any of the topics that I am deeply familiar with, such as the current reward system for academic scientists (peer-reviewed publications are gold), I can say that Nielsen is spot-on and insightful. He ties together well all of the stories and descriptions of the scientific process and by the end, I think he's done a great job of convincing us all of his main point: We have a tremendous opportunity to transform and multiply the power of scientific research in the coming decades. But it won't happen automatically and there are some attitudes and policies that need to be changed to ensure we achieve this revolution. Nielsen gives concrete specific solutions to the barriers to the revolution. Furthermore, he gives advice to all of us as to what we can do as individuals to promote a change in science. My students and I in our teaching and research labs have taken the leap towards open science, and it has been tremendously rewarding. So I encourage you to read this book and to take your own small steps towards transforming science, whether you're a scientist, a fan of science, or an interested supporter of science (taxpayer!).

I rate this book 5 stars. Incidentally, I almost rated it with 4 stars because I was so frustrated at the black and white photos that I desperately wanted to see in color when I was on the plane! I realize this is a cost issue, but DARN! I was able to cancel this negative factor by adding in a bonus star for a truly excellent job Nielsen does with sourcing his information. He does such a good job that you can even read the "notes" section and understand what he's talking about and learn further information beyond the text. Kudos to Nielsen for an excellent book!
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2bf3444) out of 5 stars Most Compelling Manifesto yet for Open Science Oct. 25 2011
By Gholson Lyon - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read many books purchased at Amazon, but I have never written or submitted a review on any of them. This is the first book that I felt compelled on some level to comment on, as it really is the best manifesto for open science that I have read to date.

A "data web" or Wikipedia of science is a great idea. You cannot abolish journals in the next 10-20 years, given money and self-preservation issues for these journals. And, peer review is currently necessary to prevent bad apes from publishing crappy or fraudulent science, although maybe being able to comment and vote papers up or down Amazon-like could be made to work, as discussed in a recent blog by Joe Pickrell in regards to "Why publish science in peer-reviewed journals".

For now, it is a good idea to publish papers in Open Access journals which have a policy of publishing sound science with less emphasis on subjective measurements of importance. This way, anyone anywhere can read your paper and give you feedback and improve the overall project, so that your paper becomes an evolving piece of work. A scientific paper can and should be changed in Wikipedia style, with dated entries for changes made, so that the paper grows and changes with time. There are a couple of relatively new open access journals that could maybe support such a format, including Discovery Medicine and the Frontiers series of open-access journals.

I also think that scientists should deposit all data, analyses and conclusions onto a hopefully soon-to-be-created Wikipedia-based science portal, or maybe the Synapse Portal being created now by Sage Bionetworks. Give everyone on the planet who wants one a unique researcher ID.
You don't have to reveal your researcher ID to anyone else, other than your tenure committee, boss, or whomever else you want or need to impress, so you remain anonymous to most people, if that is what you prefer. Thus, you can get credit (also known as micro-attribution) for all the comments, criticisms, and anything else you contribute on the Wikipedia site or on journal sites with comments on certain papers. If your value system is also that you are doing science to improve humanity, cure a disease, or advance fundamental knowledge, then you'll just add such comments to the Wiki site and onto online comments for published papers because that is the just the right thing to do.

The fundamental power of humans to get stuff done collectively is so incredibly obvious with Wikipedia already, but this is illustrated in other ways in this book in regards to the whole experiment with Fold-It.

People just hanging out in their home, with basically no knowledge of biochemistry, are helping to figure out protein folding. Give people a chance to contribute and they will do so.

Anyway, this is a fantastic book, highly recommended that everyone read this book! The author has done an amazing job of synthesizing quite a bit of information in his "call-to-arms" for open science.

Gholson J. Lyon, M.D. Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Utah Foundation for Biomedical Research
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2bf3408) out of 5 stars The Easy Human Potential Availed in this Book is Staggering Jan. 22 2012
By Jeff Bennett - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book really lines up with where some of our brightest minds would be well placed. It centers on Science and Math disciplines, but its application goes for beyond.

I have long believed that decision making methodologies are one of the places where there is the most easy ground to gain. We mostly do not make good decisions, we have no effective methodology, our biases run amock, facts don't matter near as much as they should and most people don't know or couldn't care less what that means in terms of results.

This book made me think more about how online tools could shepherd decision making in certain situations where something called praxis (not theory or opinion) could be agreed upon. Where opinions rule, collaboration may actually produce "collective stupidity". Collective intelligence really requires and shared and agreed upon base of principles and facts that clearly can define right from wrong to a degree.

But where answers really exist, software and web technologies provide us many great opportunities to advance. We can fairly easily and effectively experiment our way to a set of such tools by measure of results and extend.

This idea lends itself to itself. Imagine and Open Source Web enabled Collaboration Tool Set that develops a tool people can use to improve the tools themselves and then be used for other efforts bringing back more ideas for tools that work. There is something wonderful, especially in software development, to using your own tools to do the work. Here that strategy might really pay dividends in a very leveraged way. Anyone knows of such an effort, please comment as I would love to help with it.

This book is very much about online collaboration. I was more interested in the general potential of the notion than the science. I found it easy enough to focus on the part that really was of interest to me. Some may not.

Terrific work by the author and I am especially grateful for the reference list in the back of the book. I will go through it in detail.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2bf3900) out of 5 stars A Good Example of How to Establish Group Work Jan. 8 2013
By Trurl - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The description of this book has been well covered in the other reviews. I want to share why I bought this book. I was looking for a book on how to build a group to work on projects such as starting a maker space. The only books I found were based more on the theory of creativity but nothing practical that showed how people would actually share information. I found this book on Audible and listened to the sample and instantly knew I had the right book.

This book was useful because it showed the way science should be shared and collaborated with. It had simple examples which throughout the book lead to profound thoughts on what collective intelligence and new computer technologies could mean to how the scientific community makes discoveries.

I focused on the citizen scientist who is using such things as Galaxy Zoo and the Foldit Gene video game. I think this all relates to a maker space because of the need to use modern computing to bring together a group of people with different creative talents. With different work schedules and commitments being able to share information between members could be augmented with practices described in this book. In fact I think the scientific community could learn from Makers as to how to share information. The entire maker space movement is based on sharing projects.

I did not build a maker space yet. But I find this book inspiring. I compare this book to others I looked at and the others are not very useful because the others are just theories of some unknown, unachievable level of creativity that is unreachable. This book was a good find. It puts the intangible into simple steps toward reaching total scientific openness and explains how that transparency will benefit everyone and shape discovery.

BTW, I have tried to build open source math problems on my personal website. I have the side, side, angle opposite, but not the Law of Cosines. I also tried to make a pattern of Prime numbers in a logarithmic spiral by means of a cubic equation. To say the least the math wasn't a success at least as far as participation. It was a success in feedback. I met some people to correspond math with. And also a lot of "you are an idiot" comments.

From my understanding of this book, a problem like a series in Prime numbers is only going to be solved by collective intelligence. The problem is deciding which information to use and organize. But people have a way of finding the information they need to make discoveries.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2bf3bf4) out of 5 stars Networked Science as Digital Collaboration Tools Continue to Mature Nov. 1 2012
By Getaneh Agegn Alemu - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Reinventing discovery: the new era of networked science is a critical examination of the potentials of digital technologies, especially of collaborations that happen via the web. In his thesis, Nielsen does not aim to introduce new set of technologies, instead he charts how existing platforms can be optimally utilised. He maintains that online collaboration, if used properly, has the potential to serve as an architecture of attention (identification of expertise so as not to re-invent the wheel), amplifies collective intelligence (not AI), and fosters innovation. He thus argues, the use of social media for serious scientific projects is not a "frivolous" waste of time. He argues that online collaboration could give scientists the leisure of reading conversations and ideas of others at their convenience hence augmenting face to face collaboration. He cites exemplary projects including mathematician Tim Gower's blog, Wikipedia, Intellopedia (the use of Wiki by US intelligence service), Galaxy Zoo (citizen science project for discovering new planets and stars), and many others, which he believes can pinpoint to what is bigger coming in the future as these technologies become more mature, stable and perfected.

Open science including open access to scholarly communication and open data web, the author, identifies are big steps towards the road to building scientific information commons. Guarding data to scientists heart is no more good for science, he maintains. The era of networked science, the author indicates, has the power to revolutionise science and digital collaboration is key to this revolution. 
Nielsen himself a physist has for long advocated for open access. I should add that networked science is best achieved through effective use of metadata.