Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Open science; Open for business?

OK, let's get started.

What is open science? Well, my personal take is this - the scientific process has four outputs;
  1. Methods/protocols that,
  2. Generate data that,
  3. Can be documented/published thereby,
  4. Contributing new insight/knowledge to the scientific corpus.
I define 'open science' as any of the above that is made for free for the use of anyone with few if any restrictions. For example,
  1. Methods => Open source
  2. Data => Open data
  3. Documentation => Open access
  4. Knowledge => Open innovation (although formally open innovation can include patented/licensed ideas)
In the context of publicly-funded science I assert that the 'value' created by open scientific output generally exceeds that of its closed counterparts, although I'll leave the argument itself for a later post. And a truism - this value will never be realised unless it is actively extracted, in the same way a field crop withers and dies unless harvested. 

Unfortunately, it is the very process of extracting value from open science, the business of open science, the trade in open science, that is widely ignored by the scientific community. Indeed, the assumption that peer reviewed publication is the only scientific currency was the premise of this Guardian piece - 'Why won't Open Science work?'. 

So - do we need a new way of dealing in the existing currency, epitomised by open access publishing? Or do we need a new currency, nano-publications perhaps? Whichever, (and I'm desperately clutching for an appropriate idiom), where there's value, human nature will eek it out, come what may.

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