Open science link12 May 2011
David Dobbs writes about the structural barriers to more open science: “Free Science, One Paper at a Time”. Summing up a large collaboration on Alzheimer’s research, he writes:
The language used here everything entering the public domain, the dismantling of silos, the parking of egos and IP padlocks might have been lifted from an open-science manifesto. And even Big Science appreciated the outcome. To open-science advocates, this raises a good and somewhat obvious question: Why dont we do science like this all the time?
Part of the answer, strangely, is the very thing at the center of science: the paper. Once sciences main conduit, the paper has become its choke point.
He discusses a number of new initiatives to assess researchers’ activity in areas other than paper publishing, as well as strategies for post-publication review of research – the kinds of incentives and technologies that might ease the paper publication bottleneck.
Dobbs doesn’t explicitly mention the high pressure to cram significant results into a single high-profile publication. I find this pressure in paleoanthropology to be worse than most other factors. Researchers hold up results so that they will have enough to get that Science or Nature publication. And then, the results are reported in a highly obfuscated way, because they are tacked into a supplement without much editing or review. The paper itself is usually all conclusions and discussion, with no discussion of methods. This allows some research groups to claim that a Science or Nature publication isn’t a “real” publication of their results, because a more detailed monograph is necessary to report them fully.
In other words, it’s six different kinds of barrier to open science, all rolled up into one basic problem.