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Open science is the umbrella term of the movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society, amateur or professional. It encompasses practices such as publishing open research, campaigning for open access, encouraging scientists to practice open notebook science, and generally making it easier to publish and communicate scientific knowledge.
Open science began in the 1600s with the advent of the academic journal when the societal demand for access to scientific knowledge reached a point where it became necessary for groups of scientists to share resources with each other so that they could collectively do their work. In modern times there is debate about the extent to which scientific information should be shared. The conflict is between the desire of scientists to have access to shared resources versus the desire of individual entities to profit when other entities partake of their resources.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 3 Politics
- 4 Arguments against open science
- 5 Arguments for open science
- 6 Projects promoting open science
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 10 External links
Science is broadly understood as collecting, analyzing, publishing, reanalyzing, critiquing, and reusing data. Proponents of open science identify a number of barriers that impede or dissuade the broad dissemination of scientific data. These include financial paywalls of for-profit research publishers, restrictions on usage applied by publishers of data, poor formatting of data or use of proprietary software that makes it difficult to re-purpose, and cultural reluctance to publish data for fears of losing control of how the information is used.
Open science can often include aspects of the open source movement whereby modern science requires software in order to process data and information. Open research computation also addresses the problem of reproducibility of scientific results.
Matthew Todd's papers on the successful open science project in the synthesis of a drug for a neglected tropical disease argue that the openness of the project accelerated the research.
The widespread adoption of the institution of the scientific journal marks the beginning of the modern concept of open science. Before this time societies pressured scientists into secretive behaviors.
Before the advent of scientific journals scientists had little to gain and much to lose by publicizing scientific discoveries. Many scientists, including Galileo, Kepler, Isaac Newton, Christiaan Huygens and Robert Hooke, made claim to their discoveries by describing them in papers coded in anagrams or cyphers then distributing the coded text. Their intent was that they would develop their discovery into something on which they could profit, then reveal their discovery to prove it as their own when they were prepared to make some claim on it.
The system of not publicizing discoveries caused problems because it meant that discoveries were not shared quickly and it sometimes became difficult for the discoverer to prove priority. Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both claimed priority in discovering calculus. Newton's explanation was that he wrote about calculus in the 1660s and 70s, but never published until 1693. Leibniz published a treatise on calculus in 1684. Debates over priority are inherent in systems where science is not published openly, and this was problematic for scientists who wanted to benefit from priority.
These cases are representative of a system of aristocratic patronage in which scientists received funding to develop either immediately useful things or to entertain. In this sense, science gave prestige to the patron in the same way that funding artists, writers, architects, and philosophers did. Because of this, scientists were under pressure to satisfy the desires of their patrons, and discouraged from being open with research which would bring prestige to persons other than their patrons.
Emergence of academies and journals
Eventually the individual patronage system ceased to provide the scientific output which society began to demand. Single patrons could not sufficiently fund scientists, who had unstable careers and needed consistent funding. The development which changed this was a trend to pool research by multiple scientists into an academy funded by multiple patrons. In 1660 England established the Royal Society and in 1666 the French established the French Academy of Sciences. Between the 1660s and 1793, governments gave official recognition to 70 other scientific organizations modeled after those two academies. In 1665, Henry Oldenburg became the editor of the first scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which was the first academic journal devoted to science and the foundation for the growth of scientific publishing. By 1699 there were 30 scientific journals, and by 1790 there were 1052. Since then publishing has expanded at even greater rates.
Collaboration among academies
In modern times many academies have pressured researchers at publicly funded universities and research institutions to engage in a mix of sharing research and making some technological developments proprietary. Some research products have the potential to generate commercial revenue, and in hope of capitalizing on these products, many research institutions withhold information and technology which otherwise would lead to overall scientific advancement if other research institutions had access to these resources. It is difficult to predict the potential payouts of technology or to assess the costs of withholding it, but there is general agreement that the benefit to any single institution of holding technology is not as great as the cost of withholding it from all other research institutions.
In many places, governments fund some science research. Scientists often publish the results of their research by writing articles and donating them to be published in scholarly journals, which frequently are commercial. Public entities such as universities and libraries subscribe to these journals. Michael Eisen, a founder of the Public Library of Science, has described this system by saying that "taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results."
In December 2011 in the United States, legislators introduced a bill called the Research Works Act which would prohibit federal agencies from issuing grants with any provision requiring that articles reporting on taxpayer-funded research be published for free to the public online. Darrell Issa, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained the bill by saying that "Publicly funded research is and must continue to be absolutely available to the public. We must also protect the value added to publicly funded research by the private sector and ensure that there is still an active commercial and non-profit research community." In response to this bill there were protests from various researchers; among them was a boycott of commercial publisher Elsevier called The Cost of Knowledge.
Arguments against open science
People have proposed various arguments for keeping a certain amount of exclusivity in science.
- Too much unsorted information overwhelms scientists.
Some scientists find inspiration in their own thoughts by restricting the amount of information they get from others. Alexander Grothendieck has been cited as a scientist who wanted to learn with restricted influence when he said that he wanted to "reach out in (his) own way to the things (he) wished to learn, rather than relying on the notions of consensus."
- Science will be used for bad things.
In 2009 some people stole some scientists' email regarding climate research, starting the Climatic Research Unit email controversy. In 2011, Dutch researchers announced their intention to publish a research paper in the journal Science describing the creation of a strain of H5N1 influenza which can be easily passed between ferrets, the mammals which most closely mimic the human response to the flu. The announcement triggered a controversy in both political and scientific circles about the ethical implications of publishing scientific data which could be used to create biological weapons. These events are examples of how science data could potentially be misused.
- The public will misunderstand science data.
In 2009 NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft and promised that they would release collected data in June 2010. Later they decided to postpone release so that their scientists could look at it first. Their rationale was that non-scientists might unintentionally misinterpret the data, and NASA scientists thought it would be preferable for them to be familiar with the data in advance so that they could report on it with their level of accuracy.
- Increasing the scale of science will make verification of any discovery more difficult.
When more people report data it will take longer for anyone to consider all data, and perhaps more data of lower quality, before drawing any conclusion.
Arguments for open science
Some recent controversies around scientific publications illustrate the potential benefits of open science.
- Open access publication of research reports and data allow for more rigorous peer review.
An article published by a team of NASA astrobiologists in 2010 in Science reported a new bacterium known as GFAJ-1 that was purported to metabolize arsenic (unlike any previously known species of lifeform). This finding, along with NASA's claim that the paper "will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life", was roundly criticized within the scientific community. Much of the scientific commentary and critique around this issue took place in public forums, most notably on Twitter, where hundreds of scientists and non-scientists created a hashtag community around the hashtag #arseniclife. University of British Columbia astrobiologist Rosie Redfield, one of the most vocal critics of the NASA team's research, also submitted a draft of a research report of a study that she and colleagues conducted which contradicted the NASA team's findings in arXiv, an open research repository, and called for peer review of both their research and the NASA team's original paper on her lab's research blog.
Projects promoting open science
Big scientific projects are more likely to practice open science than small projects.
Open science projects
- Allen Brain Atlas
- Galaxy Zoo
- International HapMap Project
- Polymath Project
- Sloan Digital Sky Survey
- The Encyclopedia of Life
- The Budapest Open Access Initiative was a conference held in December 2001 at which dozens of research institutions committed to promote open access to information.
- The Cost of Knowledge
Organizations practicing or promoting open science
- Open Knowledge Foundation
- Allen Institute for Brain Science
- Public Library of Science
- Science Commons
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- Nielsen 2011, p. 198.
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- Suber, Peter (2012). Open access (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262517638.
- Open Science Group at the Open Knowledge Foundation
- a TED talk video by Michael Nielsen on open science
- Open Science a website dedicated to open science, open access and open data
- Open science and development goals: reshaping research questions & Open science and development: roundup and the way forward by OpenUCT Intiative