Open science profile

1 minute read

The Boston Globe runs a piece on “open science” (big in the Boston area) and hits on an obvious problem:

Scientists who plunge into openness also risk giving a competing lab a leg up.
"Maybe somebody has discovered some interesting gene and doesn't want to blab to the whole world about why it's interesting," said Michael Laub, an assistant professor of biology at MIT. He says his lab is not overly secretive, but does not post "all the gory details of what someone is working on, because I don't want my grad students necessarily to be scooped by someone else."
More broadly, the entire system of credit in science is based on being the first to publish a finding in a reputable journal; there's no incentive to post on blogs or community websites. Scientists try to get their findings published in the top journals in their fields, and major scientific prizes are awarded to those who make breakthroughs.

I think that’s a pretty simplistic rendering of how scientific credit is assigned. It ignores all the factors that depend not on your results but on networking. Who you know may be vastly more important than what you do.

I think that if more researchers were independent (not tied to someone else’s lab) and if they spent less time grant-writing, we’d see more open collaborations. Right now the biggest barrier to openness is centralization.