Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reinventing Science - From Journals to Open Science

Michael Nielsen gives a very nice historical overview on the culture of sharing scientific information at his TED presentation in Waterloo.

As also stated here in the blog, the scientist are generally not rewarded by sharing their information openly. This seems to be a main inhibitor for data and ideas reaching their full potential. The systems financing scientists are simply not geared to welcome sharing discoveries openly. Scientists "jobs" are basically to mass produce articles in quantity as it is a demand in many universities - not to let their ideas have sex with others and advance knowledge faster. This is also turned by the Scientific American in an article from October.

One of my favorite references on the failure of the reward system is Daniel Pinks summarizing of 50 years of research on the subject. And the result is deafening: rewards impair the cognitive abilities! Or, a carrot on a stick makes you dumber. 

Nielsen excel in his talk by making a sucker punch to the sceptics when describing how one of the greatest human monuments, The Human Genome Project. This effort would have been an absolute failure had the idea of Open Science not eventually been forced upon the researchers by grant providers. Researchers were simply too busy "doing science" (publishing) to have time to upload genome sequences. These sequences now uploaded and publicly accessible are feeding hundreds of new science projects just by existing.

It takes bravery, especially by young scientists, to openly embrace and promote Open Science (flattered). But we have to if we are to change the rewarding system of scientists so the scientific community (an others) can benefit openly by the research.

And to those who have not read the previous posts on Open Science I answer "no" in advance to the inevitable referring to journals as already embodying Open Science. Peer reviewed journals are not "open" even when offering the "Open Access" option! Open Access is restricted by people having enough finances to publish for everybody to access the publication. And rarely data sets follow a publication. 

Lots of work to be done!

Michael Nielsen on Open Science and his book on the subject Reinventing Science:


David Jay said...

It seems like post-publication peer review is a strategic way to grow the open science movement. Researchers have far fewer disincentives to share their opinions on other people's work than they do their own research, and these systems fcan lay much of the social and technical groundwork for openning science more broadly.

Brian Lassen said...

Thank you David for your input!
I think the point about fewer disincentives for criticising other peoples work is a real insight. We (scientists) are but humans, and our integrity is what we are being weighed against. So, viewing the process as pre-publication is a good way to think about it. In the sense of intellectual property posting as openly is still proof of novelty.