Seven Predictions

In a tradition as old as blogs, I’m summarizing here what someone else wrote up and put on the internet. In my defense, it is pretty good stuff that certainly didn’t get enough attention from what I can tell. Hopefully this post will remedy the situation.

gadget graffiti

Only in New York: Go-Go-Gadget Graffiti! From Flickr by sabeth718

The piece I’m reporting on comes from the JISC organization. JISC (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee) is an organization in the UK whose role is to provide leadership in “Information and Communications Technology” for higher education institutions. They put out all kinds of great information on their website, including an online publication called JISC Inform.

In the most recent issue of JISC Inform, there is a piece on seven predictions for the future of research, fueled by the minds of Sarah Porter and Torsten Reimer. In my opinion, they are spot on in their predictions.  Researchers, librarians, funders, and journals alike would benefit from perusing their (now my) list:

1. Researchers will go mobile. These days, all data that is collected must either be born digital or converted to digital; why not make as much of it born digital as possible? That means taking mobile devices, like phones, tablets, and laptops, out into the field and using them to directly collect data. Go-Go-Gadget Scientist!

2. Lines between professionals, amateurs, and the public will blur. Citizen science (or PPSR) is on the rise, due to increased global connectivity and better quality control and assurance methods for data that the public collects. A great success story is the eBird: amateur birders have contributed important data to help answer research questions about topics like migration and range spread.  Crowd-sourcing some of the data collection or analysis is also becoming commonplace: check out Galaxy Zoo for a great example.

3. Researchers will fully embrace social media. Those that don’t are not likely to be as successful as their counterparts (take note, oceanographers). Blogs and other forms of rapid scientific communication are now ubiquitous, and the pace of academic publishing is speeding up.  Altmetrics will serve to quantify the effects of this participation so researchers can understand their impact.

4. Data-driven research will be embraced by all disciplines. Of course, there is plenty of data-driven research in fields like chemistry, astronomy, and ecology; this trend is alluding to a move in the humanities towards data-driven research. Ever heard of digital humanities? If not, you will soon.

5. Automation. With the deluge of data comes a need for better analytical tools.  Text analysis, cloud-based applications, and mining for data will become more automated and tools for researchers will continually improve to meet their increasing needs.

6. Increasing visualization and infographics. Humans are inherently visual; processing information in the form of a chart or graph typically is much easier than in a table or list.  The rise of visual websites such as Flowing Data, Information is Beautiful, and Daily Infographic, are all evidence of the shift. Want to start creating pretty things? Play around with visual.ly.

7. Researchers as data managers. That’s right: data management made the list (I swear I didn’t add it to synchronize with my drum beat about better data management). The authors says that data is at the heart of activities for researchers; they will need to be more involved in how these data are documented, collected, managed, and preserved. Mandates for data sharing are inevitable, and researchers would do themselves a favor by practicing good data stewardship now.

Read the full article from JISC here.

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One thought on “Seven Predictions

  1. Karthik Ram says:

    That means taking mobile devices, like phones, tablets, and laptops, out into the field and using them to directly collect data. Go-Go-Gadget Scientist!

    I strongly disagree. Unless these are explicit data-logging devices (such as soil moisture readers, ibuttons, camera traps with SD cards), then no. I absolutely do not think that any serious field scientist will risk collecting/entering primary data directly on to a digital device. I have far more backups and fail safes than anyone I know but the thought of losing months/years of field work because an app crashes, an API call didn’t go through, or for some stupid reason like forgetting to hit is simply soul crushing. Even in the Dropbox era, knowing there are hard copies (on top of electronic copies, and remote backups) is comforting.

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