Open Science Now!

November 14, 2011

In this TED talk,

Michael Nielsen builds up the argument for Open Science.
He eloquently identifies the root of the problem:

“If you are a young researcher…
You may think that the […] Wiki is a wonderful idea, in principle,
but you also know that writing a single mediocre paper 
will do more for your career and your job prospects than 
a long series of brilliant contributions to such a site.”


Nielsen continues analyzing the misalignment between the goals
and principles of scientific research and the incentives and
reward structures used to motivate and evaluate scientists:

“…Scientist are not paid or rewarded for sharing data.
It is all about publishing papers.”


This statement illustrates the great irony of the problem:
That “Publishing” is what gets in the way of “Sharing”,
or to make it more evident, what is wrong with this situation is that:
“Publishing” gets in the way of making data “Public.”

“Publishing”, which should have been the mechanism for “making public” the information gathered during the scientific research process, is frequently the reason why scientists will NOT share information generously and efficiently. Scientists are motivated to keep information to themselves until they manage to exchange it for “productivity points” in the process of publishing papers in high reputation journals, or even in not-so-high-reputation ones.

Nielsen raise his concerns about the status quo:

  • “There is so much knowledge that is still locked up”
  • “Scientists hold the computer code they write”
  • “They hold their best ideas”


His talk concludes with raising our hopes by identifying the
mechanisms by which we could change the status quo:

“We would like to change the culture of science.
We want to change the values of individual scientists
so they start to feel it is part of their job to share their
data and share their best ideas”.


In particular, he makes the Economic connection with funding:

   “Any publicly funded science should be open science 

This is perfect timing to remind us that the Science and Technology Policy Office, the organization that advises the President of the United States on Science Policy matters, is asking for your feedback on whether Federally funded
research should result in Open Access papers, and Open Data sharing.

The two corresponding Requests for Information links are:

Public Access to Digital Data 
Resulting From Federally Funded Scientific Research

Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications
Resulting From Federally Funded Research

The deadline for responses is January 12, 2012.

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