Thursday, August 9, 2012

Open Science? Open Research!

I must admit that my "science" days, at least as far as biology, chemistry and physics go, are far behind me.  Interesting topics, but I prefer thinking (and dabbling) in other topics; thus this week's topic on #ioe12 wasn't that interesting, at least as far as the video and the readings go. The presenter (Michael Nielsen, on the TED video)  did say something that I've often suspected about academia: people don't share their data, they treat it as "their data" because the name of the game is publish or perish.

It didn't surprise me that the core problem of the polymath project (was this a pun btw?) was solved by means of massive mathematical problem solving. We can indeed (as Michael says) use the internet to build tools that amplify our collective intelligence to solve problems. I think that this is an important undertaking, especially given how many smart people there are out there that solve problems every day, that could work together to thrust us (as a species) forward.

That said, what if you have competing interests.  For example, how does one tenure-track faculty member; or a new faculty member looking for a tenure-track job (or a secure job that pays more than the peanuts that adjuncts get) show that he has contributed to these massive projects and that this contribution has helped the project forward?  How does this person get credit on a resume or CV, and how does that help them get or retain a job?

A common mentre has been "wait until tenure to do the cool (or useful) things," but that is too long!  At our school (as far as I know) your tenure review is in 7 years after you get hired.  Seven years after that you can go up for a full Professor rank. Fourteen years is too long to wait to participate in open research.  Seven years is too long to participate in open research!  How will institutions reconcile the need to collaborate and augment our collective intelligence to solve problems and gain new understanding with the existing rubrics for what "faculty output" means?

Open Research (using this term more broadly since it can encompass other types of research) is important for all of our disciplines.  At the very least it means that we aren't in an echo chamber with others of similar mindset.  It allows for diverse views, knowledge and life experiences to come into the mix and provide fertile ground for new, previously unimagined, outcomes.

What do you think?

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