August 21, 2008

Open Science [7:30 am]

A provocative look at the movement: Out in the open: Some scientists sharing results (pdf)

Openness has always been an integral part of science, with scientists presenting findings in journals or at conferences. But the open-science movement, with many of its leaders in the Boston area, encourages scientists to share techniques and even their work long before they are ready to present results, when they are devising research questions, running experiments, and analyzing data. In such open forums, the wisdom of the crowd could offer the ultimate form of peer review. And scientific information, they say, should be available without the hefty subscription fees charged by most journals.

It is an attempt to bring the kind of revolutionary and disruptive change to the laboratory that the Internet has already wrought on the music and print media industries. The idea is that opening up science could speed discoveries, increase collaboration, and transform the field in unforeseen ways.

On the other side are people who see the benefits of the status quo. For centuries, scientific discoveries have occurred at a steady clip, without the help of wikis or Web tools. Journals publish papers that have been scrutinized by specialists, ensuring that bad research doesnt mislead other scientists or the public.

Scientists who plunge into openness also risk giving a competing lab a leg up. [...]

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