Sunday, May 06, 2007

More Talk on Open Notebooks

There is an editorial discussing Open Notebook Science in last week's Nature "Share your lab notes", repeated on one of the Nature blog Nautilus.

The article has stirred up some good discussion on a number of blogs, mainly on Bora's Blog Around the Clock and Pimm

Bjorn makes some pretty dire predictions about all this in a comment on Bora's blog:

In times of ever more limited funding and more and more competition, open science will not emerge. Researchers now have to fight not only for scientific results, but for their own livelihoods and that of their families.The more funding gets cut, the more it needs to be restricted on topics deemed important. More researchers will accumulate in such "hot areas", making them even more important. Nothing will be shared in such a situation, but instead you will see a rise in scientific misconduct

The ability to do science in a fully transparent and open format may be one of the most important functions of tenure at this time in scientific history. Because of that we can operate without reservation and avoid risking our livelihood.

If we do a good job the next wave of open researchers won't have to risk as much without the security of tenure.


At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isn't impossible for the dire predictions to come true, but I think there are pressures on funding sources that make it less likely then suggested. First, as the Nature editorial mentions, open science results in much stronger barriers to fraud or significant errors. Second, a lot of funding depends on tax money and there is an increasingly popular political stance that argues that taxpayer supported research should be significantly more open than it presently is. Perhaps most importantly, a lot of funding is tied to some practical result, such as curing a disease. In my travels I see evidence that there is some unease over how disconnected some research is from the stated practical goal. There are some disease foundations that are looking for concrete connections to clinical trial plans and not just the vague blather that is found in paper introductions. Bjorn is correct that present day scientific incentives put major obstacles in the way of open science, but you can also argue that they also put major obstacles in the way of achieving the kinds of things that funding sources are really after. If advocates demonstrate that open science is not just a pretty philosophy, but an effective, practical response to overcoming the barriers to wide, multidisciplinary collaborations necessary to attack important problems, then funding sources will start to change the incentives to favor open science.


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