The Future of Science is Open, Part 3: An Open Science World

The third of my columns on Open Science is now up at 3QuarksDaily. I’m not sure why I’m bothering to announce it here, since if you read me you certainly should read 3QD (and it’s not as though my teeny readership will register on the radar of a behemoth like 3QD). Still, for them as is interested:

In parts one and two, I talked about the scholarly practice of Open Access publishing, and about how the central concept of “openness”, or knowledge as a public good, is being incorporated into other aspects of science. I suggested that the overall practice (or philosophy, or movement) might be called Open Science, by which I mean the process of discovery at the intersection of Open Access (publishing), Open Data, Open Source (software), Open Standards and Open Licensing (those last two being another way of saying semantic web, or Web 2.0, or whatever the kids are calling it these days).
Here I want to move from ideas to applications, and take a look at what kinds of Open Science are already happening and where such efforts might lead. Open Science is very much in its infancy at the moment; we don’t know precisely what its maturity will look like, but we have good reason to think we’ll like it.

You can read the rest at 3QD; as always, I won’t repost and comments are off here so as not to split the conversation. In particular, please speak up if I’ve got something wrong, or missed something out.

Best. Conference. Ever.

NCSBClogo175.pngI’m back from the inaugural North Carolina Science Blogging Conference (see also here), and it was beyond awesome. I’ve been to rinky-dink Australian Society for Whatever conferences and I’ve been to Cold Spring Harbor Retroviruses (for non-scientist readers: be impressed, ‘k?), and I’ve never been to a better-organized conference, or one I enjoyed more.
I have notes from the various sessions I went to, and will post more later, but I also have an essay due at 3QD so for now I just want to say a huge

Thank You!

to Bora, Anton, Brian and Paul for making the conference happen, and doing such a superb job of it.

It’s here!

Open Laboratory cover image.jpg What’s here? Why, the first-ever Science Blogging Anthology, of course: 50 posts, plus a couple of bonus entries, chosen from the best of science blogging in 2006. There’s also a preface and introduction by the editor, Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around The Clock.
I was privileged to help Bora narrow the field from well over 200 posts, and many of my favorites made it into the final 50. As Bora intimates in his introduction, blogs are conversations and so they lose a certain liveliness when embalmed in a blook (blog + book; don’t blame me, I didn’t coin it!) like this. Nonetheless, there is some excellent writing in this thing, it is as perfect an introduction to science blogging as you’re likely to see offline, and it’s a fun read all on its own. True to the open nature of the original medium, you can of course surf over to Bora’s blog and find the anthology entries listed there. No one will mind if you do, but I hope you will also consider buying the blook — which, after all, unlike the internets, you can carry with you on the bus and leave on the break-room table at work (which is what I plan to do with my second copy). It’s priced at cost and any incidental proceeds will go towards next year’s edition.
Bravo, Bora!

Error notice.

I goofed. In my draft Open Data Addendum entry, I said:

Now remember that these highly unsatisfactory examples are drawn from the most prominent Open Access publishing houses, which might be expected to be much more supportive of Open Data than commercial publishers.

This implies, wrongly, that OA publishers are somehow not, or non-, commercial. I think BioMed Central, Hindawi and Medknow might all have something to say about that! As Peter Suber points out in his summary of OA developments in 2006:

Both the Hindawi and Medknow OA journal collections became profitable, an industry first. All the Hindawi OA journals use author-side fees and none of the Medknow journals do so. Together, therefore, they elegantly answered doubts about the business models for fee-based and no-fee OA journals.

It’s actually a fairly common FUD tactic from OA opponents to claim that OA journals will never realize profits or even support themselves (so OA is going to destroy all academic publishing and the world will end in flames, etc.). This is, of course, nonsense, and I’m sorry to have lent it unwitting support. I’ve changed “commercial” to “traditional” in the offending paragraph, and linked to this entry.

open science, data on blogs

Three things, file under “loosely related”:
1. If you read my RSS feed, ‘scuse the deluge; I went back and assigned a number of posts to the “open access/open science” category.
Speaking of old posts, here are two that never made it out of the “drafts” folder:
2. Peter Suber notices Jean-Claude Bradley’s chemistry data blog and points to an entry on JCB’s e-learning blog that I’ve been meaning to highlight:

I think that the part [of open access/open science] that we have yet to embrace is the posting of work fresh out of the test tube. As long as scientific research is published in an article format and its value is determined by a popularity contest of citations and peer-reviewed blessing, there will be little motivation to post work fresh out of the test tube. Especially when issues like competition and tenure are at stake.

The reality is that the impact of raw experimental data is usually unknowable at the time when it is generated. It may never be used by anyone (which is a guarantee if kept in a private lab notebook) or it may at some point answer a key question for an agent (human or otherwise) looking for a solution to an important problem.

My opinion at this point is that publishers or any kind of central repositories are not going to be as effective in communicating this kind of raw scientific data, unless it is readily available on the uberdatabases like Google or MSN. That’s why Blogger makes an optimal vehicle to communicate raw experimental data: no cost, no gatekeeper and anyone looking on an uberdatabase will find your stuff.

Update: in comments, Jean-Claude points out that in fact, blogs are better for reporting milestones, overviews and so on. For the fresh-out-of-the-test-tube stuff, he’s moved to a hosted wiki which provides version tracking with 3rd party timestamps. These features provide proof of priority, in case it is ever needed.
3. Blogging data/ideas: it’s not just for science. Here’s Rob Helpy-Chalk doing it in philosophy: I just had a think, and My presentation at the ISEE/IAEP.

OA/Open Science resolutions.

Taking my cue from Jonathan Eisen, herewith the things I plan to do this year to the benefit of Open Science:
1. Get my act together in the lab and publish some quality papers in OA journals, complete with Open Data (even if I have to cobble something together to provide the data).
One of the most important things researchers can do is to increase awareness of the issues by making OA-centric choices with their own work. Jonathan’s entry brings to mind the difference between what he — that’s Professor Eisen, with a CV as long’s your arm! — can do for OA, and what I can do. I think it could also be useful to have a lowly postdoc publicly choosing OA journals, refusing to deal with Elsevier, and so on. I’ve heard a number of colleagues say that such choices are the sort of thing they will put off “until after tenure” — and I suppose Jonathan has heard “well, it’s OK for you, you have a lab and tenure and so on, the risk is lower for you”. Thing is, I don’t think these choices add up to a risk. There are clear advantages to having my work available under Open Access conditions, and I think similar advantages will accrue as a result of my willingness to provide Open Data (and, when I can get colleagues to agree, Open Notebook access to my work). I think I’ve said this before, but I view it as a sort of experiment. My hypothesis is that Open Science will be good for my career, and there’s only one way to test it! (I know, no control, yadda yadda. Call it “money where my mouth is” if you prefer.)
The rest of these are swiped from Jonathan’s list, and from Peter Suber’s “what you can do” list:
2. Find an OA, OAI-PMH-compliant repository for my existing postprints and future pre/postprints. In the case of published papers, I think I can get ’em into ePrintsUQ (as discussed here). In the case of future papers, I’ve already made tentative contact with the relevant people where I work, and I’m going to try to get an IR up and running. Futher possibilities to discuss: everything on Peter Suber’s list for administrators.
3. Review papers for OA journals (or do anything else they ask me to, pretty much), but for non-OA journals, decline and explain. (One exception: the boss sometimes asks me to pre-review a paper he’s agreed to review, so as to speed up the process for him. I’ll do that no matter which journal it is.)
4. Find a way to work at least a quick push for OA/Open Science into every presentation.
5. At least ask the administrators of any conference or meeting I attend about providing Open Access to proceedings.
6. Discuss OA/Open Science with colleagues (note to self: avoid hectoring!).
7. Discuss OA/Open Science with everyone; use blog for same. As Jonathan notes, public support is going to be necessary to get mandates and such working.
8. Sign the BOAI (you can do this as an individual, whereas Bethesda is closed and Berlin only open to organizations).