Toward a More Open Scientific Culture

Posted on November 9, 2008  Comments (5)

Michael Nielsen wrote a great post, The Future of Science, which is also the topic of a book he is writing. He discusses how scientific advancement has often been delayed as those making discoveries did not share them openly. And how 300 years ago scientific journals and reward systems created ways for scientists to be rewarded for publication. And he continues with the need for the process to again change and promote more open sharing of scientific knowledge, which I agree with and have written about previously: Publishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science, Science Journal Publishers Stay Stupid, The Future of Scholarly Publication, etc..

Why were Hooke, Newton, and their contemporaries so secretive? In fact, up until this time discoveries were routinely kept secret.

This cultural transition was just beginning in the time of Hooke and Newton, but a little over a century later the great physicist Michael Faraday could advise a younger colleague to “Work. Finish. Publish.” The culture of science had changed so that a discovery not published in a scientific journal was not truly complete. Today, when a scientist applies for a job, the most important part of the application is their published scientific papers.

This has been a great advance. Now we need to continue that advance to use the internet to make that publication open and increase the advantage of shared knowledge to society.

The adoption of the journal system was achieved by subsidizing scientists who published their discoveries in journals. This same subsidy now inhibits the adoption of more effective technologies, because it continues to incentivize scientists to share their work in conventional journals, and not in more modern media.

This means: making many more types of content available than just scientific papers; allowing creative reuse and modification of existing work through more open licensing and community norms; making all information not just human readable but also machine readable; providing open APIs to enable the building of additional services on top of the scientific literature, and possibly even multiple layers of increasingly powerful services. Such extreme openness is the ultimate expression of the idea that others may build upon and extend the work of individual scientists in ways they themselves would never have conceived.

To create an open scientific culture that embraces new online tools, two challenging tasks must be achieved: (1) build superb online tools; and (2) cause the cultural changes necessary for those tools to be accepted.

I agree we need to take advantage of the new possibilities to advance the practice of science. His full post is well worth reading.

Related: Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingThe Future of Science is Open by Bill HookerDinosaurs Fight Against Open ScienceOpen Access Journal WarsI Support the Public Library of ScienceDoes the Data Deluge Make the Scientific Method Obsolete?

5 Responses to “Toward a More Open Scientific Culture”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Study on Citation of Open Access Papers v. Closed Access Papers
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    I remain a strong advocate for open science. The out of date model of publishing research in closed journals does not make sense…

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Open Science: Explaining Spontaneous Knotting
    March 4th, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

    “In October, two UCSD researchers published the first physical explanation of why knots seem to form magically, not just in strands of Christmas lights, but in pretty much anything stringy, from garden hoses to iPod earbud cords to DNA…”

  3. Curious Cat Science Blog » New Funding for arXiv Online Scientific Repository
    January 31st, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    arXiv will remain free for readers and submitters, but the Library has established a voluntary, collaborative business model to engage institutions that benefit most from arXiv…

  4. The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    April 28th, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    Larry Lessig speaks at CERN about the proper use of copyright and the moral case for open access…

  5. Heroin Use Spikes Among Those Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers | Addiction Rehab Centers Blog
    April 28th, 2015 @ 8:37 pm

    […] are published in a sad closed-science way even though funding was provided by National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institutes of […]

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