Thursday, February 19 ScienceBlogger Bora Zivkovic from A Blog Around the Clock gave a presentation on open science as part of a panel discussion at Columbia University in New York City. The event, titled "Open Science: Good for Research, Good for Researchers?" was organized by the Scholarly Communication Program and also featured presentations by Jean-Claude Bradley of Drexel University, and Barry Canton of Gingko BioWorks and OpenWetWare.
For those who have read Bora's many posts here on ScienceBlogs promoting the open science movement, it was obvious before he even uttered a word that open science is both "good for research" and "good for researchers," and he presented convincing arguments to make his case.
Throughout history, he explained, the dissemination of scientific knowledge has been intimately intertwined with the quest for power. In the first "wave" of revolution in scientific communication, figures like Issac Newton—who used their wealth and social status to publish scientific books as a monument to their intellect—were in competition with proponents of scientific journals, which allowed a wider and more diverse array of individuals to achieve fame in science.
"The whole movement of journals was a small number of people having a vision and pushing for it really hard," Bora explained.
The vision eventually broke through and became the norm, as scientific careers are now based primarily on publishing through journals, whereas books are merely a side product. But now, Bora said, we are amidst a second wave of revolution in science communication, where another force is pulling journals out of their position of prominence: The Internet. "It's changing everything we do when it comes to science, not just how we publish it."
According to Bora, every revolution in technology expands the proportion of information that becomes sharable. And though scientific journals once served a great purpose, they now effectively limit shared knowledge because they depend on costly resources to produce. With the Internet, ideas about science and research can be shared through every step of the scientific process in a way that is cheap and accessible.
While data used to be kept in notebooks, it can now be published directly onto the web so data sets can be analyzed and shared by anyone, not just the individuals in close proximity to the lab where the data was collected. "You can't put video on paper, but you can put it on the web," Bora said, pointing out that this makes it possible for scientists to learn techniques that may not have been communicated as effectively through written descriptions.
But the best part, according to Bora, is that while journals have to be printed using expensive resources, open science methods via the web can be free so that anybody can have access. "Now that is really democratizing," he said, reminding the audience that you don't have to be at a prestigious university to enter the world of elite science; you can be wherever you want as long as you are smart and have ideas.
Video footage of the event will soon be available on the Scholarly Communication Program website's past events page.