This page is for general comments on the S.C.I.En.C.E. philosophy. For comments on specific proposals, please either join and make revisions yourself, or comment on the 'Discussion' tab...

Posted by Jean-Claude Bradley, 12/26/07
I don't know if I was blind yesterday but I swear I could not find the 'leave a comment' option yesterday. Anyway it popped right up today so I'm leaving my message.

First, let me say that it is very encouragin g to see you get involved in this Open Science initiative . Taking some form of action requires time and you risk "putting yourself out there" but that is the only practical way forward.

From what I understand your main focus is on finding ways to fund these more "Open Science" projects.

As I am sure you're aware, that has been an issue for my UsefulChem group. We're trying some more convention al approaches right now but I certainly would like to see how your ideas will blossom to help scientists who really do value transparen cy in research as an important component of actually getting science done efficientl y.

Posted by Noam Harel, 12/26/07
Thanks JCB. Your vision is intact. This comment widget wasn't there yesterday. The 2 posts below were simply transferre d from email.

I'm still working on getting the site up, as well as reading more from you and Bora and others in the Open Science movement. More to come...Like this comment? [yes] [no] (Score: 0 by 0)

Posted by Erik C. Gunther, PhD, 12/24/07 2:38pm
Dr. Harel,

My already substantial admiration of you has elevated even further with the advent of your visionary SCIEnCE initiative. What a fascinating plan for
diminishing the institutionalized dysfunction of scientific funding, cloistered experiment execution, and cutthroat publication. If it catches on, it will inevitably accelerate the pace and improve the quality of scientific progress, while simultaneously introducing greater fairness and opportunity overall.

Comments in no particular order of emphasis:

The website look is excellent and delivery professional in tone and content.

My first critical thought was that the site could be overrun by dilettantism, a possibility you bring up in a FAQ and attempt to deal with by requiring
registration. How about having a 2-tiered system of access, similar to websites that allow access to a portion of their content only to registered users? Maybe each topic/idea could have two sections that would both be visible to all, the inner circle with write privilege only for official scientists and the second tier for everyone. There could also be a "check the box" for scientists potentially interested in doing bench work collaboratively on the idea in question. This would allow scientists the option of simply making intellectual contributions without implying the willingness to devote other resources. Credit scoring could be graduated accordingly.

There appears to be a contradiction in that idea submissions are supposed to be distant from one's work, but also intended to be followed up by the idea submitter (in cooperation with other interested parties). You're probably trying to avoid fear of disclosure of a current project/grant material. However, most researchers are very focused on their own sub-specialty and best able to contribute narrowly. Ultimately, it would be hoped the SCIEnCE system would be a very active and current forum for scientific practice, so maybe you could omit the suggestion that the ideas submitted be at all distant from the collaborator's expertise.

Open project management will be difficult when the project is distributed. I fear that without someone riding herd, projects of large size will suffer from dropped balls, with no hands-on recourse. This may be no more of a problem than with current lab-centered projects, I don't know.

You speak in the first person throughout the site, except one instance where you refer to "we". Your initiative would be perhaps taken most seriously if you recruited some august members to the SCIEnCE committee. Then you could say "we" throughout, and with added authority. Maybe the similarly minded scientists you already cite, as well as others (the editors of PLOS?) would be candidates for recruitment. I'd recruit one at a time to give the greatest weight to each solicitation.

Calling your journal SCIEnCE will run into copyright/trademark issues. How about something that implies the open collaborative nature more evidently. SCIEnCE mind? SCIEnCE hive? synerSCIEnCE? Metamind?

You might make more clear just how you envision collecting and distributing grant money. Also, I question the restriction that a lab publishing work done on grants that still suffer from the secrecy/competition-dependent mode of funding will automatically lose SCIEnCE funding. This puts researchers in an untenable position and will retard the adoption of your system. Also, how will you police this?

The key to adoption of your system is funding, of course. I'd suggest talking with any private or public funding people you can. Networking will be essential to building support and involvement in SCIEnCE. If you actually have some funding commitment, or get the NIH to study the progress of the initiative as it develops with the idea of possibly supporting it if it becomes evidently tenable, you have a clearer path towards meaningful adoption of SCIEnCE in the scientific community.

I heartily laud your effort to instill greater cooperation in the institution of
science!! I believe it is possible with attention to a system structure that
elicits it, and I believe your vision could lead to such a system. You go,

Happy Festivus,


Posted by Noam Harel, 12/26/07, 2:58pm
Thank you so much Gunther.
Yes, becoming overrun by pseudoscientists with an agenda will be a concern. I don't have the programming skills to think about how to install a two-tier system, but the goal will be for other web/science experts to kind of take this over...

I totally agree with your point about encouraging scientists to post projects OUTside of their field. I need to re-clarify/de-emphasize that point - it was actually just a suggestion for those who are afraid to divulge and get scooped by being early contributors to the site. If this thing were to ever catch on, then yes, the whole purpose is to basically make everyone's lab/ideas online (in their own fields).

Yes, projects distributed among multiple labs will surely have some problems to work out. Egos will of course always be a problem no matter what. But I don't necessarily think most projects will be 'large'-er than current intralab projects. It's really meant to just divide labor among experts (eg surgery vs cell culture vs ephys) AND to reproduce/reconcile data among more than one lab BEFORE publishing...

SCIEnCE is meant to be a 'we' thing. Recruiting more august members of the science blogosphere is absolutely the plan. I am still working on a couple of initial 'proposals', which I would like to have ready before trying to recruit JC Bradley, Bora Z., et al.
As for the copyright on "SCIENCE", it's a beautiful coincidence. I would be overjoyed if AAAS sued. Talk about free advertising! Of course the name WOULD have to be changed, but only after a bunch of (likely favorable) publicity...

You make a great point about the envisioned 'enforcement' of openness likely discouraging labs from holding grants from both SCIEnCE and other sources. I guess I had envisioned a lab agreeing to share ALL ideas/etc to be eligible for SCIEnCE funding, but maybe it should just be on the projects which SCIEnCE actually funds. The policing will have to be via some sort of committee that compares labs' publications/posters to what's been (or not been) posted to the website...this would all have been signed in writing by the lab before receiving the grant $$ in the first place.