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Science in the 21st Century

8 April 2008 6 Comments

Perimiter InstitutePerimeter Institute by hungryhungrypixels (Picture found by Zemanta).

Sabine Hossenfelder and Michael Nielsen of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics are organising a conference called ‘Science in the 21st Century‘ which was inspired in part by SciBarCamp. I am honoured, and not a little daunted, to have been asked to speak considering the star studded line up of speakers including, well lots of really interesting people, read the list. The meeting looks to be a really interesting mix of science, tools, and how these interact with people (and scientists). I’m looking forward to it.

I am currently trying to figure out how I can manage both to get to Ontario and be at the UK E-science All Hands Meeting as well. But in the meantime we have been asked to kick off the discussion and get some abstracts together. Here is a first draft and we will see how it evolves over time. Should I aim to be more controversial?

Science in the open or How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog

Vast sums of money, probably of the order of $US200 billion, are spent annually by national government agencies and charities on scientific research. Yet despite the sums invested and despite the requirement to demonstrate ‘Economic Impact’ rising up the political agenda very little critical analysis is made of the efficiency of scientific research in generating its desired outputs. A large proportion of all scientific research is never made public and the vast majority is not made available to other scientists in a timely manner.

The thesis of the ‘Open Science Movement’ is that by making data, results, and protocols freely available to the research community for use and re-use a step change in the efficiency of science practice can be achieved and there is a growing interest in some sectors of the academic research community in adopting more ‘open’ approaches to research practice. These range from publishing in the open access literature, through research discussions on message boards to discussing the details of their research on blogs. The logical extreme of these approaches is ‘Open Notebook Science‘; a term coined by Jean-Claude Bradley to describe making the researcher’s laboratory notebook freely available online. It is even possible to carry out the preparation of a research grant in public. While the application of Open Science approaches remains limited in academic research they nonetheless raise serious questions about the value of the current academic reward structure, and the future of both research publication and peer review, in their current form. Responses to the advocacy of ‘Open Science’ therefore, understandably, run the gamut from fanatical support, through amused tolerance, to derision and, in some cases, extreme hostility.

In this talk I will give practical examples of Open Science practice, and discuss the experience of adopting Open Science practices in my own research group and the state and usefulness of tools available to support these approaches with a focus on the tools being used within my group, being developed in collaboration with the Frey group at the University of Southampton, to support Open Notebook Science. I will also show that many of these ideas can be adopted and can enhance scientific research without, necessarily, adopting all of them all the time. While there is a need for trail blazers there are elements of these practices that can benefit any research operation.


  • Wow, that looks really fun! Good for you :)

    Yup, push the envelope. No one ever wished a controversial talk had been more boring!

  • Wow, that looks really fun! Good for you :)

    Yup, push the envelope. No one ever wished a controversial talk had been more boring!

  • Bee

    What a nice photo of Perimeter! Presently it’s all grey and muddy, not a single green leaf on the trees. September is a good time for a visit though. Looking forward to seeing you,

    B.

  • Bee

    What a nice photo of Perimeter! Presently it’s all grey and muddy, not a single green leaf on the trees. September is a good time for a visit though. Looking forward to seeing you,

    B.

  • Well I thought it looked nice. I shall look forward to sunny Ontario summer days.

  • Well I thought it looked nice. I shall look forward to sunny Ontario summer days.