Jean-Claude Bradley of Drexel University came to Swarthmore College this Tuesday for a Sigma Xi Lecture on Open Notebook Science.
Open-Source Science is the idea that scientific research should be accessible to the entire world community. Currently, scientific progress and new advances can usually only be found in expensive journals.
Bradley argued that as science moves toward being more open, computers and machines will be able to perform more of the scientific process itself without humans—and this might allow more science to be released in a public open format. Most recently, the National Health Service has begun requiring research it funds to be released for free online.
At Drexel, Bradley has what he calls an open lab. He started by blogging about everything he does there, and has solicited comments from peers in the scientific community to help him with his research. He now has a Wiki, called UsefulChem that has all the experiments his lab has conducted. It functions as his students’ lab notebook and has all their information so that outside scientists can see the entire process of the experiments.
This method has many advantages. In his lecture, Bradley said that because of his strategy, “I can share my raw data with the world.” When everything is public, he explained, nothing can get lost. Although some scientists are worried about getting scooped since anyone can see their work, Bradley argued that open-notebook research makes finding collaborators easier, allows exchange for discussing vendor reliability and hypotheses, and allows undergraduates to see real research in action.