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Open science – just do it

The idea of open science means different things to different people, but primarily it is about community, the scientific community and beyond. At a time when commercial publishers are coming under increasing pressure there are boycotts and rebellions and the new wave of open access publishers are incrementally filling the widening gaps, the whole 300-year old concepts that underpin modern science are being disrupted. The concepts from social media and citizen journalism are spilling over into science and the concepts of peer review, reproducibility and how we train the next generation of scientists are all being shaken up.

There are obstacles to full-scale adoption, not least the fact that 300 years of tradition are not quietly overturned despite the desires of those who have laid bare the flaws. While many scientists recognise the benefits, there are concerns that these new forms of publication and education can take a lot more time and effort and at a time when economic strife is a seriously limiting factor (as it always was), the inclination to overturn the system may be there but the power…the money…to do so may be absent. Then there are the concerns regarding whether one’s output might be used without citation.

Again, it’s an old issue, couched in modern terms. Creative Commons licensing exists and some are willing to share their rights and go copy left with or without attribution or credit, others are not. Perhaps one of the most important issues that has been with us throughout human history is that one may expend energy and reap none of the rewards. Indeed, competitors may gain advantage from one’s efforts. Many of us are all for altruism, but generally not if it leads to our own personal demise.

Peter Kraker and Günter Beham of Graz University of Technology, Austria, Derick Leony of Carlos III University of Madrid, Spain and Wolfgang Reinhardt of the University of Paderborn, Germany, writing in the IJTEL make the case for open science in technology enhanced learning. In their view, “Open science means opening up the research process by making all of its outcomes, and the way in which these outcomes were achieved, publicly available on the World Wide Web.” I assume they actually mean the wider Internet, given that many of the tools available may not necessarily be part of the Web, but you get the idea. They suggests that adopting open science could bring together disparate communities as well as leading to open methodology so that researchers in the field can work with the materials and tools made available and reproduce (or not, as the case may be) research results.

Of course, concepts are one thing. The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. But, what is now needed for open science to progress are evangelists, people to spread the good word and to share the benefits and actually the disadvantages too. To bring the community together and to find a way forward, not only in TEL and TEL research but in the wider realm of science. “It is crucial to make the research community aware…and to support researchers in use and re-use of the available data and other [resources],” the team concludes.

Research Blogging Icon Peter Kraker, Derick Leony, Wolfgang Reinhardt, & Günter Beham (2012). The case for an open science in technology enhanced learning Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, 3 (6), 643-654

 

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