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Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  588 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In Reinventing Discovery, Michael Nielsen argues that we are living at the dawn of the most dramatic change in science in more than 300 years. This change is being driven by powerful new cognitive tools, enabled by the internet, which are greatly accelerating scientific discovery. There are many books about how the internet is changing business or the workplace or governme ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published October 23rd 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Courtney Johnston
An important book, which lost its (tenuous from the start) grip on me on page 78.

Nielsen is an advocate for open science, and in this book he draws a picture of science standing at the threshold of its most important advance since the establishment of the Royal Society and the first norms of scientific publishing and data-sharing. The amplifying power of internet, he argues offers new opportunities for collaboration and sharing. The challenge is to move the bulk of the scientific community away
Jovany Agathe
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 nec ...more
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-general
This book is about how we can/should do science from now on. It promotes Open Science approach, which is based on the ideas of sharing data in an open source fashion, using the network to focus the attention of experts, benefiting from intelligent amplification tools, and etc.

I think it is a must-read book for professional scientists and a good book for science enthusiasts. It is generally written very well. The downside is that at points it becomes repetitive and loses its fast pace. Even thoug
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you were one of the many people who excitedly picked up a copy of "wisdom of crowds" only to be disappointed when you realized that the passion with which the author wrote was matched only by the confirmation bias that accompanied it, then you will be extremely happy about this book. It's too looks at the role of collaboration in generating a finished product, but unlike wisdom of crowds, it is a solidly researched contribution to the field of network research.

The author looks at both the val
Apr 06, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: pop-sci
After reading the review in Science, I'd like to take a peek at this book myself. ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"In the most successful online collaborations this use of microexpertise approaches an ideal in which collaboration routinely locates ... people with just the right microexpertise for the occasion. In particular, as creative collaboration is scaled up, problems can be exposed to people with a greater and greater range of expertise... Instead of being an occasional fortuitous coincidence, serendipity becomes commonplace. The collaboration achieves a kind of designed serendipity..." (27)

"In this c
Matthewmartinmurray murray
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lots of fun to read. I started off really enthusiastic about this. Then it got to be a little bit repetitive by repeating its themes and same 3-4 examples too many times. Its still very interesting to learn about collective intelligence. The thesis of the book is to encourage science to take on a new paradigm of open source data collection and shared results. Seems to be a little idealistic but it makes a pretty good point of how fast innovation could advance if everybody is directed in a simila ...more
Feb 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Michael Nielsen presents how Internet enhances our knowledge and problem-solving skills. He provides examples how (and when) a well-done collective intelligence can outsmart the most capable minds and be used in the leading edge of science and technology.

Moreover, the book not only contains examples, but has a visionary part - it shows an already started path to science more open among scientists and also inviting amateurs for their meaningful contribution. If you are interested in the future of
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Decent discussion about the open science and how to approach it given the constraints, for example, faced by the career demands of the scientists. In times I had the feeling that the writing was a bit sloppy and repetitive, but this was easy enough book to read and a useful way to start discussion for real.
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
a masterpiece from a master
Stephan Rasp
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nielsen’s book echoes my frustration with academia. He argues that the current state of academic science is untenable (it is!). An absolute must-read for any scientist.
Lisa Kucharski
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this, it covers the groundwork of science being practiced in a different manner than in the past... some examples are the FoldIt and Zooniverse efforts where data is analyzed by citizen scientists and data used by scientists... but also engages non-scientists to discuss the work as well.

He covers some great ground where open data, involvement of the public, and a forum that encourages use and discussion amongst both highly studied scientists and laymen. Of course there are only a
Keith Elliston
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I read this book expecting a thoughtful discussion of how we can use crowdsourcing and networking to improve life science. What I read was a very poorly edited book (so many typos that I stopped counting) that tries to apply analogies from mathematics to biological science that simply do not work. As many have said in science, ideas are a dime a dozen, its really a matter of doing the work to produce new science. The challenge in the empirical world of science are not so much the generation of n ...more
Emil Petersen
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a nice introduction to the way relative recent technologies (basically the internet) afford a better way to collaborate and do science. Roughly, in today's research environment, the rewarded behavior is to publish frequently. The problem with this is, among other things, that time spent developing collective tools or time spent making discoveries and the associated work/data available, does not really advance personal publication. Think of it in terms of game theory: the people who selfi ...more
Antony Mayfield
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book has an incredibly strong start – I was enthralled by its description of attention architecture, especially. The second third has a lot of detail about some interesting open science projects and then it moved to something of a polemic. An update would be very welcome as it is a few years old now and countless things have moved on in this field. If it were updated, I think the sections of the conclusion encouraging scientists to blog, share data etc might usefully be expanded to a section ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
From browsing the clear and lively Reinventing Discovery you might not guess that Michael Nielsen is a physicist and well-known contributor to quantum computation theory. However, if you delve into the book, you'll soon detect the careful thinking patterns of a trained analyst or scientist. Nielsen put his scientific career on the back burner in 2008 to focus on bringing about a revolution in how science is carried out ( This book is one fruit of his new ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Mostly focused on Open Science and Citizen Science, gave me better idea of what the vision of Open Science looks like and what was its history and perhaps also what to prioritise in open science (e.g. open data much more important then open access to papers; need to acknowledging alternative scientific outputs aside from papers as outputs worth recongnition).

Interesting but not that full of new ideas and concepts as I hoped, also the title is a bit misleading I think
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is a great book - he talks about science and gives many excellent cases for the open science initiative.
However, sometimes the author details too much about some things - he uses a whole page for some things that could be said in 2 sentences.
Anyway, would recommend!
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
everyone should read this book, which is not a book, it is an injection of power that opens your mind. I am not joking, if the meaning of this reading was grasped and applied in all sciences and in the social, in politics and in the economy, in school and in medicine, we had a better world
Nikolay Theosom
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
quite re-iterative and doesn't really offer anything beyond repeating mass media news ...more
Adam Catto
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply wonderful. If you care at all about the progress of science, technology, or humanity, then read this book ASAP.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
This book campaigns for open science: a scientific culture in which data and ideas are shared more freely, with the goal of facilitating large-scale collaborations among people with diverse scientific backgrounds (including people without formal scientific training). A key idea is that oftentimes a large scientific task can be divided into smaller, modular, specialized tasks. These tasks can then be taken on by experts in specific areas, thus joining the knowledge of many individuals into a larg ...more
An enjoyable read. Nielsen looks at ways of doing science in new ways leveraging groups and openness. The keys to success that he outlines;

- Tapping micro expertise (e.g. Innocentive)
- Modularizing collaborations
- encourage small contributions
- build a rich community of past data and debate (i.e., design for "reuse") (e.g., Polymath)
- dynamical division of labor
- use signaling cues (e.g., scores) to direct attention. This works best if it can be computed immediately.
- users have to have a shared
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reinventing Discovery (2011) by Michael Nielsen is a book that looks at how the Internet and advances in computing technology is changing and will change the way that science is done.

Nielsen starts by looking at the Polymath Project, a blog set up by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medalist, where math problems have been solved at amazing speed. He goes on to mention the Galaxy Zoo and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey where amateurs can do valuable work in identifying galaxies and can do it with remarkable spe
Rhodes Hileman
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very engaging read and an important effort describing science done in online communities. Nielsen compares our situation today with that in the 17th century when scientific results first began to be shared widely through publication.

Today the opportunity, and challenge, is to share science earlier, when thought and experiment are still formative, doing science cooperatively, engaging many minds with the problem at hand, and thus finding results often much faster than with older methods. Examp
Kurtis Baute
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
The way that scientific discoveries are made is changing, with new online tools allowing for more people to be involved in evaluating more data, in more of an open environment. This is a real science revolution, and it is happening very quietly, and very slowly, right now! Nielsen has written a sort of manifesto-meets-introductory-textbook on this big and banging thematic change in the way we learn about the natural world. Some critique this book for being too much like a textbook, but I found t ...more
Pam Frost Gorder
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"How the Internet is transforming science"

This review is for the Audible version...

If you laid out the books "The Tipping Point," "We Are Anonymous" and "Freakonomics," this book would neatly fill the empty space among them. While "Reinventing Discovery" details specific examples of how the Internet is enabling new forms of scientific collaboration today, it draws attention to the cultural aspects of our networked existence, and this is where I found the book most interesting. With so many peopl
M. Mangan
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: academics, scientists, science-interested public
This was a comprehensive look at the possible ways for science to evolve from the current "ivory tower" perspective. Nielsen offers several examples of projects that have succeeded in making real discoveries and/or accomplishments using crowdsourcing and open science strategies. He also illustrates examples that didn't succeed, which are useful to know. While acknowledging barriers that are currently hindering more of these types of projects, he offers potential ways around the barriers as well. ...more
Apr 11, 2012 added it
Eh, well, it was *OK*. I found the yay Internet! breathlessness a bit annoying (OMG this is going to change the way we do science!). But it was useful for me to learn about initiatives like the Polymath project and the Galaxy Zoo; and it was interesting to hear the thinking about where and where this sort of massive collaboration could work (and where it might fail). The notion of a shared praxis is one potentially useful takeaway. Some hopeful notes for the future, nothing too surprising if you ...more
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Podcast on the book at the Carnegie Council 1 4 Feb 18, 2012 01:00PM  

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