Scientific data should be shared: an open letter to the ARC 2012-09-26


Use the link to access the open letter described in the following introduction: "Science (real science, not the summaries in popular books and the media) is needlessly closed to the outside world. Worse, it is closed within itself, with every lab its own silo, and little sharing of data or materials.  Top researchers work frantically behind the scenes, but only occasionally do they share their results, by describing selected experiments in publications. This way of working may have been sensible in the paper past, but as the digital age advances it should not be the way we work now.  Recently one of us (MT) directed a fully open project in which all data and ideas were shared online. People completely unknown to the existing team came to the project and helped.  Some were employed by corporate laboratories but nevertheless provided significant inputs free of charge. This should not be surprising, as it is in our nature to help others solve problems. It is also in our nature to compete, and the open nature of the project yielded competition that helped achieve a common end. On this playing field, the greatest expertise could win out.  In an ongoing project involving open source drug discovery, a scientific dispute was settled by a discussion between an undergraduate and a professor in public view – the very best kind of educational practice.

Elsewhere in the world, a Dutch schoolteacher discovered a mysterious astronomical object by participating in the open GalaxyZoo project and was included as an author on the resulting publication.  More recently a high school student was able to devise an algorithm for detecting pancreatic cancer by reading free online scientific journals.  Our desire to see science thrive outside its walled garden and in full view of the public motivated us to write an open letter to the new CEO of the Australian Research Council (ARC).  That letter is included in full below. If readers agree with the letter, we invite them to add their signature to it by clicking on the link at the bottom of the letter. If a more cooperative, open research culture was actively encouraged by funding agencies we believe science would be more efficient and powerful. The way the ARC evaluates scientists inadvertently fuels the secretive competition we scientists can get caught up in. We focus on competing for publications in prestigious journals. But the ARC can change its policies to lead us towards openness.  The ARC could make data sharing a condition of the grants it gives us."


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Date tagged:

09/26/2012, 11:14

Date published:

09/26/2012, 07:14