The Scientific Community and Networked Learning

In the world of science, there are few instances where a breakthrough or novel discovery are accomplished solely by individuals; some could argue that there aren’t any in history! The identification of DNA, though credited primarily to Francis Crick and James Watson, was an accumulation of the ideas, theories and experiments of many accomplished researchers. Jean Brachet, Rosalyn Franklin, and Martha Chase all held a hand in our understanding of DNA today. Researchers in science and technology fields have always understood the value of collaborative learning; by using information already gathered from others, new ideas are generated, allowing bigger and better advances in the scientific community. Today, more research-intensive institutions of higher earning are adopting a similar approach. Guided by principles of “networked learning”, nations are adapting a global collaborative approach to research. An article by Yojana Sharma(posted here on the University World News)  discusses the rise of global science system. The story states that the number of manuscripts with international coauthors have risen from “16% to 22%” between 2003 and 2016. The number of citations from international sources have also risen. The expansion of science beyond national borders is extremely important for its growth. By adapting others’ viewpoints and motivations, we can solve problems using means far from the standard used in one’s own country. We can tap into resources never once thought of to advance our own understanding of the world around us. The networked learning approach in the scientific community also generates a sort of healthy competition. In order to access the breadth of knowledge provided by the global science system, nations must bring some of their own research to the table. Doing so encourages researchers to provide quality information in exchange for access to global innovations, creating a feedback loop.

As with most movements, there are some obstacles in the world of globalization of education. Political leaders have begun incorporating nativism and nationalism into their ideologies. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with believing in and supporting your country, when you begin to shut out any and all ideas that aren’t generated within your borders, you miss out on new ideas and techniques previously unknown. Restricting free exchange of information in today’s interconnected society is a grave mistake and can potentially lead to more oppressive regulations in a nation.

Collaborative learning is an absolute must for growth and development, particularly in the sciences. If we are to truly to improve the human condition, make advances in technology, and evolve beyond our current selves, we cannot isolate ourselves behind imaginary borders, but reach out to each other and progress as the human race. As always, these are my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours. Give the article a read and drop some comments and let me know what you think.

6 Replies to “The Scientific Community and Networked Learning”

  1. It is true that collaborative learning helps to improve science and expedites its evolution, but it can also foster weeds instead of germinations. The best examples are those with no merit becoming famous based on their extravagant posts followed by many people.

  2. Your observations on the power of networked learning are well taken. I would also say the field of social science benefits from collaboration across borders as well. In my specific field, career and technical education, we can learn much from other countries about different models that achieve goals similar to our own.

    I am curious about your comment of “closing” borders. I’ve read that we live in a time that is more connected and more open than any other point in history. Do you think the lines of communication are more restricted today than in the past? Maybe that varies from country to country? As an aside, I do totally agree with your premise that we need that openness to continue to grow all fields of study.

    1. Glad to hear your perspective from the social science side of things. And as far as the closing borders comment, I refer to governments and political figures such as the current US president and other leaders in certain countries. They maintain beliefs about foreign countries that are detrimental to growth. However,, I do agree that despite all that, we live in a very connected age.

  3. Hi Michael,

    I agree that without openness and desire to exchange collaboratively with our global colleagues, we would certainly miss out on opportunities to advance discourse and improve knowledge base within and across diverse disciplines. There is so much to gain when we work together and we are limited by what we can achieve when we silo ourselves. With this in mind, how do you think you will approach this issue with your students so that you can help instill values of collaboration and developing scientific partnerships?

    1. Hi Sarah. When I become a full-fledged educator, I’d love to connect with other departments and colleges at the university and do collaborative research. Maybe create intra-class groups and have them work on projects together as opposed to the traditional “one class, one project” approach. For example, my primary field is functional foods science, so I’d have the students in that class group with a chemist, microbiologist, agriculturalist, toxicologist, and business & economic student to design and pitch a new food product. Incorporate all aspects into the design and marketing of the product. I think collaborative projects like that would not only enhance the learning experience, but also help build networking skills.

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