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Why Open Science/Research Won't Work (at Least for Now), First Part of a Long Series

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First what is Open Science/Research? Have you ever heard of it (no, that’s not for the Life Scientists room on FriendFeed)? Haven’t you? I thought of it.

As a “lay open scientist/researcher”, I decided to enter the belly of the beast, and the easiest way to do that was googling. Nice. Open and science returned me 98,500,000 links. Looks good. “Open science” returned a “mere” 200,000. What is the first search result? This one. Looks exactly what I needed. Let’s check the about page …

The OpenScience project is dedicated to writing and releasing free and Open Source scientific software. We are a group of scientists, mathematicians and engineers who want to encourage a collaborative environment in which science can be pursued by anyone who is inspired to discover something new about the natural world.

Ah, open source software. Nope, not what I wanted (yes, I want open source software especially in science, but it’s not what I want right now).

Let’s check the second search result: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_research. Wikipedia, nice, good (second) place to start. OK, some definitions

the central theme of open research is to make clear accounts of the methodology, along with data and results extracted therefrom, freely available via the internet. This permits a massively distributed collaboration.

Great. But, even though the Wikipedia entry is open and anyone can edit it and add information, it’s not enough to feed my will to learn about open science. Knowing a bit about Wikipedia (remember I am a lay open scientist here and computers are not my forte), I go to the external links section and get the first one: OpenResearch.org. Yes! that’s what I was looking for.

OpenResearch.org is a “a semantic Wiki aiming to collect scientific meta-data such as about calls for papers, tools, journals etc.” Great … wait what? A semantic what to collect what? I don’t know nothing (yes, double negative, my native language is no English, but I guess you guessed that, right?) about wikis, there’s Wikipedia, but wiki?

I go to the page and I don’t know where to start. There are so many links, so many pages, and I don’t know how to navigate this messy webpage and I don’t have time to learn. Let’s get the second link on Open Research entry on Wikipedia: Philoptima, Open Research Marketplace & Community. Just a sec, isn’t Open Research to be open to anyone interested, why do we need a market place for it? Ok, maybe I try some other time, because now I have to get back to do some research so I can get it in the open …

I think you guessed what is the moral of the story: there is no central repository of information about open research. I have to dig deeper, waste time, and if I already have a constrained schedule, I won’t do that. If I didn’t know the open science advocates, I will never have heard of some of their sites. Don’t expect a large group of people to make a huge effort to learn about it, what do they have to do to join the “next revolution”, how to navigate an horrible wiki user interface (much less learn how to edit it). And don’t let me started on collaborating online, sharing files, connecting to other computers, etc, etc (that’s another post).

I’m not here to suggest anything to the open scientists, just point out what is wrong and why it will be a failure for some time to come. I may be wrong, but that’s easier than being right.Technorati Tags: open science, open research, failure, series, long, wiki?