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The truth…well most of the truth anyway

5 October 2010 One Comment
Notebook collection
Image by Dvortygirl via Flickr

I had a pretty ropey day today. Failing for 45 minutes to do some simple algebra. Transformation overnight that didn’t work…again…and just generally being a bit down what with the whole imploding British science funding situation. But in the midst of this we did one very cool and simple experiment, one that worked, and one that actually has some potentially really interesting implications.

The only things is…I can’t tell you about it. It’s not my project and the result is potentially patentable. At one level this is great…”Neylon in idea that might have practical application shock!”…but as a person who believes in the value of sharing results and information as fast as is practical it is frustrating. Jean-Claude when talking about Open Notebook Science has used a description which I think captures the value here. “If it’s not in the notebook it hasn’t been done”. I can’t really live up to that statement.

I don’t have any simple answers to this. The world is not a simple place to live in in practice. My job is fundamentally about collaborating and supporting other scientists. I enjoy this but it does mean that a lot of what I do is really other people’s projects – and mostly ones where I don’t control the publication schedule. The current arrangement of the international IP system effectively mandates secrecy for as long as can be managed, exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. The ONS badges developed by Jean-Claude, Andrew, and Shirley are great but they solve the communication problem, the one of explaining what I have done, not the philosophical one, that I can do what I feel I should. And for reasons too tedious to go into it’s not straightforward to put them on my notebook.

Like I say, life in the real world is complicated. As much as anything this is simply a marker to say that not everything I do is made public. I do what I can when I can, with what I can. But it’s a long way from perfect.

But hey, at least I had an idea that worked!

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