Field of Science

Open Science round table at the ASM AGM

In a couple of hours I'll be introducing myself as part of the round table discussion on Open Science at this year's Annual General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. So I'd better figure out what I'm going to say in the 5 minutes I've been allocated.

The first thing to say (after my name) is that my role here is as a representative of the ordinary scientist.  I'm not a publisher or an editor or an expert in science communication. I don't have a big lab at a prestigious university.  My research is on an evolutionary question, lwhy bacteria exchange genes ("Do bacteria have sex?"), and most people think I'm wrong.

But why me and not some other ordinary scientist?  Probably because my lab is doing science in a more open way than most others.  This openness manifests itself in several ways: 
  • First, being as open as possible about what we've done.  This means publishing in open-access journals such as PLoS where that's reasonable, and paying large sums for open-access publication of the papers we publish in subscription-based journals.  It also means posting pdf copies of our papers on our web pages even where the copyright forms we signed say we mustn't.
  • Second, being as open as possible about what we're presently doing.  I have a research blog, where I write about the experiments and analyses  I'm doing (what I'm going to do today, the results of what I did yesterday).  I also write about the other aspects of doing science, but I try to stick to my own research-related experiences.  The other members of my lab have research blogs too.
  • Third, being as open as possible about what we're planning.  So I blog about the grant proposals I'm writing, and when I'm finished writing them I post them on our web pages at the same time that I submit them.
Why do I do this?  Partly from principle:  I think these are the right things to do.  The taxpayers deserve to see what they paid for, and science done openly is more likely to make a difference, and more likely to be good science.  And partly for practical reasons:  I find that writing about my research helps me think more clearly about it, both before I do it and when I'm thinking about what the results mean.  I love reading the blog posts of my lab members - maybe blogging also helps them think about their research, or maybe it just lets me see how smart they really are.  I also keep hoping that potential collaborators will read the proposals I've posted and then contact me.

Now, if I only had a printer in my hotel room I could take a copy of this post to the round table.  But I don't, so I'd better spend the next few minutes copying out the main points for my 5-minute introduction. 

1 comment:

  1. Rosie, your comments on open science here are timely for me. I have been peeking in on your blog from time to time for a while now, and it has finally inspired me to start my own. Please stop by when you have a chance:


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