From The Chronicle of Higher Education comes word that the National Institutes of Health issued a grant to a research group to develop what it is calling a “Facebook of Science.” I think the name is unfortunate because it prompts some questions that the article shows to misrepresent the project. The grant is intended to develop a tool to help scientists find colleagues in very specific subfields. In this proposed system, there would be a targeted search function, and potential colleagues identified in the search would come up with records showing their publication and other professional relationships with other scientists. This should make for a more systematic attempt to find colleagues, compared to walking down the hall or reviewing relevant literature to find possible names.
This is a lot more focused, organized, and useful than Facebook, which depends on its users to generate networks and would not necessarily be much better than the haphazard system of searching what you know. If done right, the kind of network analysis that would inform this project will be more systematic and effective than the brute force social networking of sites like Facebook. Please come up with a good name for the system before it gets improperly labeled as a Facebook for scientists (many of whom probably use the service).