Openness in Science

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The case for Open Science

1. Science is traditionally an open endeavour

"Openness is arguably the great strength of the scientific method. At its core is the principle that claims and the data that support them are placed before the community for examination and critique. Through open examination and critical analysis models can be refined, improved, or rejected. Conflicting data can be compared and the underlying experiments and methodology investigated to identify which, if any, is more reliable. While individuals may not always adhere to the highest standards, the community mechanisms of review, criticism, and integration have proved effective in developing coherent and useful models of the physical world around us. As Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics recently put it, “we argue in good faith from shared evidence to shared conclusions“. It is an open approach that drives science towards an understanding which, while never perfect, nevertheless enables the development of sophisticated technologies with practical applications."

2. The internet/web potentially increases the openness

The Internet and the World Wide Web provide the technical ability to share a much wider range of both the evidence and the argument and conclusions that drive modern research. Data, methodology, and interpretation can also be made available online at lower costs and with lower barriers to access than has traditionally been the case. Along with the ability to share and distribute traditional scientific literature, these new technologies also offer the potential for new approaches. Wikis and blogs enable geographically and temporally widespread collaborations, the traditional journal club can now span continents with online book marking tools such as Connotea and CiteULike, and the smallest details of what is happening in a laboratory can be shared via instant messaging applications such as Twitter.

3. This potential is under-used

The potential of online tools to revolutionise scientific communication and their ability to open up the details of the scientific enterprise so that a wider range of people can participate is clear. In practice, however, the reality has fallen far behind the potential. This is in part due to a need for tools that are specifically designed with scientific workflows in mind, partly due to the inertia of infrastructure providers with pre-Internet business models such as the traditional “subscriber pays” print literature and, to some extent, research funders. However it is predominantly due to cultural and social barriers within the scientific community. The prevailing culture of academic scientific research is one of possession - where control over data, methodological secrets, and exploitation of results are paramount. The tradition of Mertonian Science has receded, in some cases, so far that principled attempts to reframe an ethical view of modern science can seem charmingly naive.

4. An advocacy movement is needed

There is a growing community interested in adopting more open practices in their research, and increasingly this community is developing as a strong voice in discussions of science policy, funding, and publication." (


Open Science has three aspects:

Open Access publication, Open Data, and Open Process

Explained in part 2 of this article:


Generic, but more especially specific tools for open science are discussed here at