Monday, October 10, 2011

What is open science?

We want to use this post to talk a little about why we started Open Science Kentucky. Let's call this our vision. You'll notice that our perspectives are distinct and not in complete agreement with one another! What we propose, first and foremost, is that rigorous discussion about this topic is needed. Please feel free to leave your perspective in the comments section. Cheers!

From Andrew:

To me, open science is the natural progression of information exchange in the digital age.

A variety of terms are used to describe open science, including open access, open data sharing, open peer review, open innovation, and open source. Each has a specific meaning and a very specific purpose. However, all reflect a call for efficiency, increased collaboration, greater transparency and accountability in research and publishing.

Open science is an exciting concept reflecting the enormous power of technology to solve problems. It emerged with the internet, with a pervasive understanding that great minds across the world working together can often solve problems individuals cannot. It identifies and accentuates the bonds tying research peers together in addressing increasingly consequential problems. It reflects the culture within which the world's youngest scientists were raised to excellence.

Open science begs researchers to consider new paradigms, to challenge their most fundamental understanding of scientific mores like data ownership, journal-based publishing, and even the scientific method. Such an idea troubles many historic institutions; progress has always done so. However, open science will ultimately benefit humanity; it will increase the speed of innovation, reward the highest-quality science, and allow the best solutions to emerge.

This change is inevitable. Establishing the rules of the road now will ensure the next generation of researchers is given a carefully considered, philosophically advanced system for innovation. A similarly historic shift occurred with the inception of the scientific method.

As scientists, we must begin this critical discussion.

From Adam:

The current model of manuscript peer review has not changed in hundreds of years. It has many documented flaws and yet there has not been any successful alternative to the model proposed. Open science is an attempt to unify the ideas below to shift the paradigm of the way that new knowledge is incorporated into the collective knowledge of the scientific community. The key components can be put into three different categories: transparency, equality, and open access. These will radically change the way that information is disseminated.

First, transparency in open science refers to the idea that the process through which new knowledge becomes accepted and “canonized” in journals needs to be subject to scrutiny. Open science proposes that this be accomplished by releasing the names and comments of reviewers, increasing the number of the reviewers that read and verify each article, and including the complete set of data points for each article. These things can be done easily with the new tools and capabilities that the internet and digital publishing allows.

Equality refers to the ideas that all manuscripts and ideas should be considered with equal objectivity. The existing problem is that barriers to entry to publishing can be prohibitive for some scientists. Some of these barriers are cost, negative results, naiveté to publishing, native language, variability in skill of the reviewer, and so forth. Again, we believe this problem can be solved with the use of the technology. Equality will allow new ideas and a more even playing field for ideas to be discussed. Equality also acknowledges the fact that anyone should be able to contribute significant ideas, regardless of his/her rank and status in academia.

Open access is the final concept. This principle describes the need for everyone to be able to access the newest discoveries in the shortest amount of time. Right now, most journals are controlled by publishing houses. For some reason, the scientific community still feels compelled to use this old outdated model for reporting its ideas and discoveries. The very idea that the discoveries that researchers and clinicians have made should then be, in essence, owned by the publishing houses seems utterly ridiculous. Open access will allow free publishing and free reading of novel ideas. It also allows for quicker dissemination of those ideas. The community should own these ideas and thus they should be published by the community. Again this is something that can be easily attained via the internet and digital publishing.

We will continue to discuss open science and how its effects will change the current paradigm. This new model will mean a completely new way of thinking through how we report and discuss our ideas. Through the principles of transparency, equality, and open access, we hope to achieve improved quality, increased efficiency, reduced redundancy, and the higher quality of life a better understanding of our natural world will bring.

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