The future of science communication

FORCE2018 will examine how we tell science stories, and how it can be done differently

How can we best communicate and benefit from a growing mountain of scientific data? More than 250 delegates from a multitude of disciplines will take part in a three-day conference in Montreal, Oct.10-12, to discuss just that.

The conference is called FORCE2018, an acronym for the Future of Research Communication and E-Scholarship. During the conference, delegates will discuss ways of stimulating knowledge sharing, delivering research data using the latest technology, and bringing added value to initial research findings.

The conference is organized by FORCE11, a grass-roots community of scholars, archivists, librarians, publishers and research funders that first sprouted in 2011 at meetings in San Diego, California, and in Dagstuhl, Germany. Their initial goal was to outline a manifesto for expanding the communication of research findings beyond the standard format of PDF files to include the more sophisticated means available to digital and internet technology.

Subsequent FORCE11 conferences were held in Amsterdam, Oxford (2015), Portland (2016) and Berlin (2017). The size of the Montreal conference speaks to a growing community of individuals who realize the significance of FORCE11’s goals.

“The way we communicate our data is extremely important for the research community. It has a huge implication in terms of what and how we are doing it. So it’s critical that scientists dedicate part of their activity to think about how and what should be published,” says Jean-Baptiste Poline, a member of FORCE11’s local organizing committee, a principal investigator at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) and the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health. The Neuro is also a sponsor of FORCE2018.

FORCE11 is guided by two goals. The first is the modernization of scientific publishing. Although FORCE11 still considers printed peer-review scientific journals to be useful, it believes that the limitations of printed-format research prevent data from being spread as widely and efficiently as possible. FORCE11 touts the potential of digital technology networks capable of storing data— workflows, statistics and related commentary— and transmitting it instantly around the world.

The second goal of FORCE11 is to find new ways to assess the impact of scientific data. The old way of judging impact by counting the number of times a research paper is cited can be misleading. New technologies are needed to measure the overall downstream impact of scientific scholarship across a variety of disciplines.

“Often today the ‘marketing’ (of research) is left to the scientific journal---maybe a review or a blurb that stimulates additional citations,” says Naser Muja, executive director of the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform at The Neuro. “But we don’t always get the full engagement of the entire scientific community or additional stakeholders —businesses, start ups, and entrepreneurs. Broader communication and greater visibility means broader dissemination like a small fire that gathers power and grows.”

Open science, which The Neuro adopted as institutional policy in 2016, will be a major topic for discussion. Under the open science concept, researchers agree to forego patenting their findings and to make virtually all their research data freely available to the international scientific community. The Neuro has created MNI Open Research, a publishing platform that allows data, findings and methods from its researchers to be quickly and easily used by others in their own efforts to understand neurological diseases.

“Open science is very active in mathematics, astronomy, computer science and code sharing,” observes Dr. Muja. “Sharing data from studies that involve human participants may have ethical and legal constraints. Neuroscience and psychiatry are gradually opening up.”

The success of open science depends on making data both accessible and comprehensible to researchers everywhere. The Ludmer Centre was established at The Neuro as a data-gathering and storage facility that is fully committed to Open science principles.

Open science has a strong following in FORCE11. Dr. Poline, who is recognized as a world authority on the practices of open science, notes that all the McGill members of the local FORCE2018 committee, which he chairs, are actively promoting open science.

“Not everything at FORCE11 is about open science, but there’s still a strong overlap.”

The FORCE2018 conference will be held on Oct.11-12 at the New Residence Conference Centre at McGill University, and the pre-conference workshops will be held on Oct. 10 at Concordia University’s Webster Library.

To register or to find information about invited speakers or specific workshops, click here. 

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The Montreal Neurological Institute & Hospital is a McGill University research and teaching institute; delivering the highest quality of care to patients, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. The MNI is proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.