I'm going to take advantage of my SMBE talk to proselytize for open science and research blogs.
The idea of open-access scientific publication is spreading. It's relatively easy for scientists to see the benefits of making the results of their research accessible to more people. But hardly anybody seems to consider the potential benefits of opening up the process of doing the science (as I'm trying to do with this blog). The reason is competition; most researchers are afraid that they'll be scooped if their competitors find out what they're doing.
Although competition can be a positive force in science, stimulating us to try to do better work than our competitors, I also think that the secrecy that arises from fear of competitors is also a very negative force. Competitors are all potential collaborators, and focus on competition shuts out the potential for collaboration. I was impressed by a NIH grant-writing workshop that told me that the first think NIH does when people call to ask about funding opportunities for a new line of investigation is to connect them with people doing related work, encouraging them to contact these as possible collaborators.
Of course it's easy for us, because we're working on a problem whose importance isn't widely recognized....
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