Q&A in this week’s Nature – one or two (minor) clarifications
So a bit of a first for me. I can vaguely claim to have contributed to two things into the print version of Nature this week. Strictly speaking my involvement in the first, the ‘From the Blogosphere‘ piece on the Science Blogging Challenge, was really restricted to discussing the idea (originally from Richard Grant I believe) and now a bit of cheerleading and ultimately some judging. The second item though I can claim some credit for in as much as it is a Q&A with myself and Jean-Claude Bradley that was done when we visited Nature Publishing Group in London a few weeks back.
It is great that a journal like Nature views the ideas of data publication, open notebook science, and open science in general as worthy of featuring. This is not an isolated instance either, as we can point to the good work of the Web Publishing Group, in developing useful resources such as Nature Precedings, as well as previous features in the print edition such as the Horizons article (there is also another version on Nature Precedings) written by Peter Murray-Rust. One thing I have heard said many times in recent months is that while people who advocate open science may not agree with everything NPG with respect to copyright and access, people are impressed and encouraged by the degree of engagement that they maintain with the community.
I did however just want to clarify one or two of the things I apparently said. I am not claiming that I didn’t say those things – the interview was recorded after all – but just that on paper they don’t really quite match what I think I meant to say. Quoting from the article:
CN-Most publishers regard what we do as the equivalent of presenting at a conference, or a preprint. That hasn’t been tested across a wide range of publishers, and there’s at least one — the American Chemical Society — that doesn’t allow prepublication in any form whatsoever.
That sounds a little more extreme than what I meant to say – there are a number of publishers that don’t allow submission of material that has appeared online as a pre-print and the ACS has said that they regard online publication as equivalent to a pre-print. I don’t have any particular sympathy for the ACS but I think they probably do allow publication of material that was presented at ACS conferences.
CN-Open notebooks are practical but tough at the moment. My feeling is that the tools are not yet easy enough to use. But I would say that a larger proportion of people will be publishing electronically and openly in ten years.
Here I think what I said is too conservative on one point and possibly not conservative enough on the other. I did put my neck out and say that I think the majority of scientists will be using electronic lab notebooks of one sort or another in ten years. Funder data sharing policies will drive a much greater volume of material online post publication (hopefully with higher quality description) and this may become the majority of all research data. I think that more people will be making more material available openly as it is produced as well but I doubt that this will be a majority of people in ten years – I hope for a sizeable and significant minority and that’s what we will continue to work towards.