Early Career Psychologist

Conducting science in the time of the Internet

The Internet abounds with tools for scientists including ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

By Diann Gaalema, PhD, and Adriana Falco, PhD

Science and the Internet are now so inextricably linked that it is hard to remember a time when the two did not have some reliance on each other. Of course, the Internet is full of tools for the scientist, but to a certain extent, the Internet needs science too. Multitudes of stories with science content, of which psychology seems to be a favorite, bounce around blogs, bulletin boards and Facebook pages. These stories are accessible for everyone, as well they should be. But, this has largely changed the face of psychology and other sciences. Today, a scientist is not only accountable to him/herself and his/her peers, but to the entire blogosphere. If a scientist makes a major mistake or an excessive claim, the entire world quickly rings with the news. However, discoveries are equally heralded in social media with major developments being on the tips of the tongues of the masses.

The Internet also abounds with tools for the scientist. A website created by scientists for scientists, ResearchGate) has taken off in popularity in recent years. This site allows a scientist to upload publications to be shared with the larger scientific community, connect with other colleagues and ask questions (or answer questions) about topics across fields of research. As use of this site increases within the scientific community, the website has improved the quality and span of the bulletin boards and makes large numbers of scientific articles available for download without fees, as they have been posted by the original authors. This increases the use of the Internet in making journal articles available without subscription fees.

Another tool in the scientist's Internet lexicon is Google's addition of Google Scholar which allows one to search for a wide variety of published material, including conference materials, schedule alerts for keywords in one's areas of interest and make use of Google's own index of ranking the quality of scientific journals. Perhaps, Google Scholar is made more salient today by arguments that it may be used to replace ISI citation ratings. A program, Publish or Perish uses Google Scholar instead of Web of Science to develop a citation index for a researcher's work. The author claims that one area that may be benefited by a change in methodology is the social sciences. The program can be downloaded for machines running Windows, Mac OS X or GNU/Linux.

As science and the Internet continue down the road together, science will be assisted in its goals through the use of the Internet. Science will benefit from newer and more useful tools using the Internet. In addition, increased scrutiny and understanding of science by the general public can only help its growth. Clearly, this is a win-win relationship.