Duplicating effort

I saw a news story on The Scientist newsblog, about stem cell banks in particular the number of different stem cell banks both in the USA and elsewhere. Asking whether there was a point in duplicating effort, they concluded that there was some benefit but that the need for economies of scale and developing expertise meant there was a limit to how many stem cell banks would persist.
Another item from The Scientist community gave notice of a new forum to help scientists whose first language is not English. Fairly quickly a reply was posted pointing out that another couple of services aimed to provide similar assistance. So, more duplication of effort.
Then I saw a message on psci-com about a new website to track academics . Steffi Suhr posted a reply pointing out that it was a bit like some aspects of Facebook and Nature Network. I also pointed out the existence of services like Community of Science and Biomedexperts . Roddy Macleod listed still more:
MyNetResearch , ResearchGate , Academici , allResearchers , iBreadcrumbs , ResearcherID
It does seem we love to duplicate services, to start new things to do the same job as other things. I suppose it’s partly because setting something up is fun, partly because many of these services are not widely known about, partly because we all think we can do it better and partly because there are many different niches to be served.
But I can’t help wondering whether a bit of collaboration might sometimes be better than so much diversification.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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11 Responses to Duplicating effort

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    There seem to be lots of sites that provide (different!) unique personal IDs, as well as Researcher ID to which you link here. I was referred to Claim ID via someone at Nature Network, which I use as an open ID identifier, but not everywhere recognises it, and I have to log in all the time when I use it. A unique identifier seems to be a good idea, in principle, if everyone could actually manage to stick to just one and if all these systmes recognised it!

  2. Cath Ennis says:

    As a good evolutionary geneticist, I recognise that duplication leads to either the loss or the diversification of function in one of the redundant copies. This is A Good Thing, right?!

  3. Frank Norman says:

    I guess that must be right, Cath. But it doesn’t feel right. It still seems like too much wasted effort.
    Maxine – I think the ID thing is just a part of it. It’s more about showing links and publications.

  4. Cath Ennis says:

    I guess that’s a feature of evolution… way more extinct species than extant ones!

  5. Martin Fenner says:

    The Science Blogging London conference had an unconference on a related topic: tracking conversations through the bloggosphere.
    In the last few months we have seen a lot of new Web 2.0 services for scientists (some of them mentioned in your post, more can be found here). I would guess that in the future we see both more integration but also consolidation of these services (meaning some of them will disappear). One reason I believe that is that I don’t see a clear business model for some of them.
    I personally would be very interested in a personal author ID. But I think that CrossRef is a better place for such a service than Thomson Reuters (ResearcherID).

  6. Frank Norman says:

    On you last point I agree totally, Martin. I suspect most authors will feel the same way.
    I agree re. business models too. I think it’s easier to start something up, with a bit of coding and interface design, than it is to devise a business model for success.
    Also some older services, like Community of Science, seem to have been slow to to move into the Web 2 world.

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    I think that last point is correct, Frank – Open Notebook science, wikis, web 2.0 “journals” and so on, have all faced issues with databases and indexers not quite catching on to the concept or knowing what to “call” these projects.

  8. Frank Norman says:

    Ironically, for a post that I titled “Duplicating effort”, it seems that I have myself been duplicating here. The creator of academia.edu has been busy for a few weeks publicising his site. The Chronicle of Higher Education covered it, with some online responders making similar points to me, and a lot more comments on the Chronicle Forums from whence it also found its way onto FriendFeed.
    It was also discussed briefly on Ars Technica
    That’ll teach me to do a bit more background checking in future.

  9. steffi suhr says:

    Frank, I did have to grin when you replied to that psci-com e-mail as well. Still wondering whether we’ll hear anything back – I was actually not being facetious!
    Concerning your background checks – of course there has been the long discussion on the beauty of having parallel conversations with different outcomes on Richard’s blog. Tracking them all – an thus being able to find out what other conclusions other people come to under different (or even the same) circumstances would be a big bonus in my mind, opening up different perspectives.
    Now, if I could just find the time to read everything I want to read!! Any good suggestions anyone?

  10. Maxine Clarke says:

    So we need to find ways to do two things at once?
    Doing the washing while answering email. Reading a book while on the exercise bike (as has been reported by a few bloggers recently).

  11. steffi suhr says:

    Or answering e-mail/reading blogs and drinking coffee… actually, I think it would have to be at least three things. You won’t like this Maxine, but I’ve recently started dreaming about having a long commute by train (instead of a drive with a daycare drop off – I could read on the train). Ah, the grass is always greener…