Partially Attended

an irregularly updated blog by Ian Mulvany

open science

Mon Jul 14, 2008

529 Words

I just posted the below as a comment on a blog, but it was good so I thoughtI'd repost here

What is open science and what is the system? Well I am sure that there aremany viewpoints on this, so I am going to just put forward one here.

At a fundamental level 'the system' is how we ascribe credit toparticipation in science. The credit is converted to grant money, thedollars keep the food on the plate. The decision makers for the grantsgenerally lie at national funding level. These people are busy and have alot of applications to process, but that is not to say that they aredisinterested in the state of the scientific funding ecosystem. However aslong as there are too many decisions and not enough time then metrics suchas a measure based on journal related factors will dominate. If it is easyto measure and to see how credit can be assigned for contributions that lieoutside the traditional publication at the end of the research cycle then Iam confident that such criteria will be taken into account, but it is veryearly days at the moment and I don't think we can expect to see an overnightrapid transition, especially when the tools for measuring such contributionsare in their infancy.

What is open science, and why might it be important to funding agencies tosee it being utilized? Again, just one viewpoint. Well, there is a lot ofdata out there, and I expect that a lot of good science could be done onsecond hand data. This is already common in Astronomy. This should help toutilize efficiencies of scale. In addition with better information aboutwhat is happening, and more eyeballs working together, the amount ofredundant work can hopefully be minimized. As the open source adage goes,with many eyeballs all bugs are shallow.

There are also a lot of published papers out there, and the scaling time foran individual to get to the data resource that they need is only going toget longer when there is more information to process. I recall hearing thatin 2005 something along the lines of 600,000 people graduated in China witha degree in engineering. If you talk to any academic journal editor most ofthem will tell you that the rate of submission of papers from the pool ofChinese scientists is growing year on year.

I see a function of open science as being a way to help the flow ofinformation in an open system that maximizes the efficiency for the rightpiece of information to get to the right person, whether that be a piece ofdata for analysis, a protocol for an experiment or a contact for acollaboration.

We have a prerogative to make this happen as a consequence of excess ofinformation that we are faced with.

There is however the very important need to be able to credit people whoparticipate in an open way. As someone working for an academic publisher Ifeel that part of my job to help create systems that can help to moreaccurately measure broader contributions to the scientific enterprise. As Isaid earlier, these systems are in their infancy, but it is a very excitingtime to be involved with this.

tags: science, science2.0, open science

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