Tuesday, July 31, 2012

7 Habits of the Open Scientist

Science has always been based on a fundamental culture of openness.  The scientific community rewards individuals for sharing their discoveries through perpetual attribution, and the community benefits by through the ability to build on discoveries made by individuals.  Furthermore, scientific discoveries are not generally accepted until they have been verified or reproduced independently, which requires open communication.


Historically, openness simply meant publishing one's methods and results in the scientific literature.  This enabled scientists all over the world to learn about essential advances made by their colleagues, modulo a few barriers.  One needed to have access to expensive library collections, to spend substantial time and effort searching the literature, and to wait while research conducted by other groups was refereed, published, and distributed.


Nowadays it is possible to practice a fundamentally more open kind of research -- one in which we have immediate, free, indexed, universal access to scientific discoveries.  The new vision of open science is painted in lucid tones in Michael Nielsen's Reinventing Discovery.  After reading Nielsen's book, I was hungry to begin practicing open science, but not exactly sure where to start.  Here are seven ways I'm aware of.  Each will be the subject of a longer forthcoming post.


I believe that every scientist has a moral imperative to adopt the first two:


1. Freely accessible publications.  At a minimum, make sure that everyone is allowed to read your research.

2. Reproducible research.  Release your code and data so  that anyone who wants to can verify or build directly on your work.


The remaining five are marks of a truly open scientist:


3. Pre-publication dissemination of research.  Just because peer-review and journals take time, that doesn't mean you need to embargo your audience.

4. Open collaboration through social media.  Find the person who knows that one thing you need, through new scientific networking tools -- and share your own expertise where it's needed most.

5. Live open science.  Tell people about your marvelous discoveries -- as you make them.

6. Open expository writing.  Teach others about the field you work in through a blog or online book.

7.  Open bibliographies and reviews.  Let your colleagues know what you're reading, and what you've learned from it.



    Bravo Dave, you are spot-on with everything (including your assessment of Gold vs. Green OA).

    But could I suggest that your first moral imperative be called "making your publication open access" rather than "open access publishing" because it's a sure as that night follows day that it you call it "open access publishing" then it will be assumed that what you mean is Gold OA, not Green OA.

    Publishing is publishing, and open access to publishing is open access to publishing. Green and Gold are the way to provide OA, one of them at no extra cost at all, while subscriptions are still paying for publication, the other at considerable extra cost.

    "Hybrid-Gold" subscription journals that offer the Gold OA as an extra feature to pay for, as in buying a car, are the most straightforward example of the absurdity of paying pre-emptively for Gold OA instead of providing Green OA for free.


    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Stevan. I agree completely, and I've modified the wording so that it doesn't suggest Gold OA specifically.