Open science interview

1 minute read

NPR’s Science Friday interviewed open science advocate Michael Nielsen last week: “Can science be done without secrecy?” I like the headline.

FLATOW: Why are scientists the last ones to get in on this?
NIELSEN: Well, it's kind of funny. I mean, they certainly helped bring us the Web back in the early '90s. Unfortunately, they're pretty bought into doing things in the standard way, the way they've done them for centuries, which is you do your work in the lab, you get all your results, you write them up in a paper and possibly several years later, it all appears for your colleagues to digest at that point.
And, you know, that's a great system if you're back in the 1600 or 1700s, but today we've got better tools, but people still haven't adopted them.

It’s a long, thoughtful interview. I want to point to a later part also:

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Is it - do you find that there is resistance to the way - to changing the way, the old way, of things being done? Are older scientists resistant to change and becoming part of this process?
NIELSEN: I'm not so sure I'd say resistance so much as it's just difficult to see how to cause a large-scale change. How do you get everybody simultaneously to adopt the new way of doing things? And so some people will kind of throw up their hands and say, well, it just can't be done. Probably the people actually get that the most from, scientists who are sort of in their mid-career. They're doing post docs or they're at the end of their graduate studies. And while they're subject to the system, they don't really feel like there's very much they can do to change it. When I talk to younger scientists, they're often very enthusiastic. And sometimes, when I talk to much more senior scientists, because they feel like they have some power to actually change the system, they can actually be quite enthusiastic.

Some thoughts on this later. For now, let me point again to my “Public interests in data from federally funded research.”