New Communication Paradigm for Science in the 21st Century

Author:  Christopher Chung
Institution:  Princeton University
Date:  May 2010

The development of networked computers has created unprecedented opportunities in science. From numerical simulations of quantum mechanics to international genomic databases, all corners of science have experienced new modes of operation and investigation. A rapid increase in computational power has been fused with the internet to generate new kinds of projects and consortiums. As much as the Printing Revolution brought the Science Revolution in 16th Century, the Digital Revolution has created the present Information Age, which could widen and accelerate the circulation of knowledge worldwide. Nonetheless, dissemination of new discoveries has been largely controlled by a traditional publication scheme, until recently. Generally, a traditional publication scheme has incurred not only financial charges to readers, but also a significant delay in delivering contents. This combination of high costs and delay in communication directly discouraged wide dissemination of new discoveries in its original format, equal access to educational resources, and alternative perspectives (Suber 2007).

In the educational sector, the internet has emerged as a superior medium for public resources. The U.S. National Library of Education and the National Library of Medicine have led free access online archives by starting Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Medline, respectively, in 1966. Since 1990s, pioneering universities started utilizing Usenet and the World Wide Web to deliver free and distance learning experience such as webcast.berkeley ( and MIT OpenCourseWare ( under a Creative Commons license. Today, online communications are not limited to major research universities, but also scientists wishing to maintain high quality blogs and podcasts that allow for criticisms, praises, and comments on recent papers, science policies, and academia. Furthermore, scientists have started to form various collectives or supported by media organizations, such as Discovery (, Seed (, and others. Scientific dialogues in the open cyberspace have allowed diverse perspectives to be delivered swiftly, widely, and directly without inflicting financial burdens on fellow researchers and the public.

Affordable high-speed networks have essentially created a new mode of communication with a low publishing cost, an immediate release of information, and a practically unlimited space. As exemplified by scientific resources available on the internet, this new communication mode, so-called open access paradigm, seems to triumph over a traditional publication scheme (Eysenbach 2006, Herb 2010). Open access paradigms have recently been introduced as a means to disseminate the latest discoveries and inventions (Harnad 2007). At the turn of the 21st century, the scientific community came together to form the Public Library of Science ( As a fierce advocate of open access scientific publications, the PLoS collection of journals embodies an alternative publication scheme with no cost or delay to worldwide readers (Brown et al., 2003). This movement has led many principal investigators to refuse to submit their manuscripts to closed-access journals, as well as similar initiatives around the world. Considering the Internet as the scientific knowledge base, the Berlin Declaration ( encourages scientists to go back to the root of academia; scholars seeking nature's truth and sharing new knowledge with the humanity.

We, at the Journal of Young Investigators (, have embraced new tools of science communication and have helped rising scientists reach a wider audience. Since its first publication in December 1998, JYI has maintained the open-access paradigm with original research manuscripts and talented volunteers around the world. The News and Feature Department and the Science Career Center regularly publish in-depth investigations of the latest innovations, columns on science, technology, and society, and interviews with world-renowned scientists. As much as the JYI staff enjoys an array of open-access journals, scientific magazines, and blogs, we hope that scholars of the future actively engage in this virtual scientific community.

From global collaborations to manuscript publications, new communication tools have permanently changed how scientific research is carried out and how scientists disseminate new ideas. It is now unambiguous that the transparent and comprehensive open-access paradigm is and will be the mode of scientific communication (Willinsky 2006). We welcome affordability and availability – free for everyone immediately – of scientific discoveries and resources. In the upcoming years for this new method to become "conventional" in our society, we encourage young and old investigators of science to consider the internet, not as a second class alternative to costly printed journals, but as the ideal platform for scientific discourses.


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