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Reinventing Discovery

by Michael Nielsen on October 9, 2011

I’m very excited to say that my new book, “Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science”, has just been released!

The book is about networked science: the use of online tools to transform the way science is done. In the book I make the case that networked science has the potential to dramatically speed up the rate of scientific discovery, not just in one field, but across all of science. Furthermore, it won’t just speed up discovery, but will actually amplify our collective intelligence, expanding the range of scientific problems which can be attacked at all.

But, as I explain in the book, there are cultural obstacles that are blocking networked science from achieving its full potential. And so the book is also a manifesto, arguing that networked science must be open science if it is to realize its potential.

Making the change to open science is a big challenge. In my opinion it’s one of the biggest challenges our society faces, one that requires action on many fronts. One of those fronts is to make sure that everyone — including scientists, but also grant agencies, governments, libraries, and, especially, the general public -– understands how important the stakes are, and how urgent is the need for change. And so my big hope for this book is that it will help raise the profile of open science. I want open science to become a part of our general culture, a subject every educated layperson is familiar with, and has an opinion about. If we can cause that to happen, then I believe that a big and positive shift in the culture of science is inevitable. And that will benefit everyone.

The book is shipping in hardcover from, and should ship through other booksellers by October 21. Note that the Kindle edition isn’t out as I write, but should arrive by October 21. A few relevant links:

Two caveats. First, I’m occasionally asked if the book is being released under a Creative Commons license. I discussed this option at length with my publisher, who ultimately declined. A couple of people have said to me that they find this ironic. This isn’t so, since the book argues as a broad principle that publicly funded science should be open science; the book is neither publicly funded nor, strictly speaking, science. However, as a personal preference I’d still like to see it enter the commons sooner rather than later. After the paperback has been out for a while, I will approach my publisher again to see what can be done.

Second, the book is not meant to be a reference work on open science. Instead, I’ve highlighted a small set of focused examples, inevitably leaving many great open science projects out. I hope the people running those other projects can forgive me. My aim wasn’t to write a reference work, but rather to write the kind of book that people will enjoy reading, and which enthusiasts of open science can give to their friends and family to help explain what open science is all about, and why it matters so very much.

Let me conclude by quoting one of my favorite lines from Tolkien: “The praise of the praiseworthy is above all reward”. And so it gives me great delight to finish with quotes from a few of the endorsements and reviews the book has received:

Science has always been a contact sport; the interaction of many minds is the engine of the discipline. Michael Nielsen has given us an unparalleled account of how new tools for collaboration are transforming scientific practice. Reinventing Discovery doesn’t just help us understand how the sciences are changing, it shows us how we can participate in the change. - Clay Shirky

This is the book on how networks will drive a revolution in scientific discovery; definitely recommended. - Tyler Cowen

Anyone who has followed science in recent years has noticed something odd: science is less and less about a solitary scientist working alone in a lab. Scientists are working in networks, and those networks are gaining scope, speed, and power through the internet. Nonscientists have been getting in on the act, too, folding proteins and identifying galaxies. Michael Nielsen has been watching these developments too, but he’s done much more: he’s provided the best synthesis I’ve seen of this new kind of science, and he’s also thought deeply about what it means for the future of how we understand the world. Reinventing Discovery is a delightfully written, thought-provoking book. - Carl Zimmer

Reinventing Discovery will frame serious discussion and inspire wild, disruptive ideas for the next decade. - Chris Lintott in Nature

Nielsen has created perhaps the most compelling and comprehensive case so far for a new approach to science in the Internet age. - Timo Hannay in Nature Physics


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