New Einsteins Will Share (Wall Street Journal)

October 31, 2011

We live in interesting times, when it is the Wall Street Journal,
the one that have to remind scientist that Sharing information is
fundamental for promoting the progress of science and technology.


In the article:

 “The New Einsteins Will Be Scientists Who Share”
“From cancer to cosmology, researchers could race ahead by working together—online and in the open

Michael Nielsen introduces his argument with a recapitulation of
the Polymath project, and continue with several examples on how
the public sharing of scientific information accelerates the process
of discovery.

Some remarkable excerpts:

“These projects use online tools as cognitive tools to amplify our
collective intelligence. The tools are a way of connecting the right
people to the right problems at the right time, activating what would
otherwise be latent expertise.”

Or in Economic terms: achieve an efficient allocation of human
resources to problems for which they are uniquely qualified and

“Networked science has the potential to speed up dramatically
the rate of discovery across all of science. We may well see
the day-to-day process of scientific research change more
fundamentally over the next few decades than over the past
three centuries.”

But,… the article points out:

“Despite the value of open data, most labs make no systematic
effort to share data with other scientists.”

Why don’t scientist share?, will ask the surprised economist,
who by professional training will hate to find that there is
waste and inefficiency in any economic network…

and the answer that emerges is:

“If you’re a scientist applying for a job or a grant, the biggest
factor determining your success will be your record of
scientific publications. If that record is stellar, you’ll do well.
If not, you’ll have a problem. So you devote your working
hours to tasks that will lead to papers in scientific journals.”


Nielsen, rightfully identified the source of the problem:

Even if scientists believe in the value of contributing,
they know that writing a single mediocre paper will do
far more for their careers. The incentives are all wrong.”


and even better, he points us in the right direction:

“If networked science is to reach its potential, scientists
will have to embrace and reward the open sharing
all forms of scientific knowledge,
not just traditional journal publication.

Networked science must be open science.”

and identify the actors that are essential for transforming
the situation:

“A good start would be for government grant agencies (like the
National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)
to work with scientists to develop requirements for the open sharing
of knowledge that is discovered with public support.

The scientific community itself also has to do its part:

…We have to overthrow the idea that it’s a diversion from “real”
work when scientists conduct
high-quality research in the open.

and masterfully adds:

      “Publicly funded science should be open science.”


The full article is available online at:

Excellent reading for anyone involved in the process
of scientific research.

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