An open science abstract

I’ve been invited to give a talk soon on open science and bioinformatics, and this is my abstract. I wanted to get feedback as I think I might have polarised it too much from the outset, but I wanted to be intentionally critical of the status quo 🙂

Thoughts and comments are very welcome please! Thanks to the following for their input: Chris Cole, Richard Smith-Unna, Michael Markie, Torsten Seemann

Open science needs open scientists: an ever-increasing interdEpendence.

In recent years, scientific research has experienced an interesting juxtaposition. There is increasing pressure from funding bodies to make research data accessible. Researchers also need the increasingly sensational track records published in high-impact journals to ensure continued project support and/or tenure.

Pressure to release data by funders, whilst obviously a step in the right direction, represents a formidably large stick but a depressingly small carrot which results in simply another tedious hurdle to getting research published rather than a vehicle to get recognition. The constant push for papers in journals with perceived impact and prestige, whilst still seen as a key assessment mechanism for a researcher’s career, promotes a closed door approach and a touch of paranoia, with research becoming a competitive endeavour rather than a mutually beneficial collaborative one.

Thankfully, a new breed of researchers at all career stages, from graduate to PI, who can see these mutual benefits of sharing their work openly are becoming greater in number and more vocal by the day. Open source code, open data, powerful tools and infrastructure, social networks, and open access publishing all play a part in the ecosystems of the Open Science movement.



  1. Rob

    I like the abstract.

    You emphasise funding bodies who want data made accessible. I think getting access to paper data is an old problem, only made worse by many sciences become computational-based. Try requesting a particular bacterial strain or cell line, or ask for more detail on the protocol in the methods, from a paper author (not just glamour journals) – you could wait years, or forever.

    Science being “competitive” being a good or bad thing – I don’t know. I think competition motivates some people, but I’m not sure if it ends up in better or faster science ultimately. Ideally we’d be internationally cooperative for maximum efficiency and synergy.

    Any hint of who are “the new breed of researchers”? Is it young researcher? Is it only middle author bioinformatician types? Are there some already in influential positions of power? A hint of this in the last paragraph could be helpful.

    All the best!


    • Hey Torsten,

      I totally agree, and funders saying the “data needs to be made available” is surely a sensible start, but doesn’t necessarily go far enough. Dan Swan and Mick said as much on Twitter – the rules aren’t exactly set in stone, and don’t necessarily spill down to the level of being included in a publication (they might just be released in a zip on some web server running under a desk).

      Healthy competition is great, and it comes with respect for each other. Unhealthy competition is, well, unhealthy because those that strive to get ahead often become egotists and their collaborative nature is at best strained and at worst a facade. Again, I feel like I’m polarising rather than giving a broad view, but you get the idea…

      I initially used the phrase “young researcher” but I felt that unfair as it’s not just temporally young researchers, or “early career researchers” (I hate that phrase). Yes, I really think more bioinformaticians have more options to them when publishing nowadays. Who says the only way to get on a paper is middle authorship? Publish a pre-print on arXiv, or go straight for an openly reviewed paper on F1000. These are fantastic ways to get your research to a far broader audience. I’d also hope that more PIs are in on the benefits of open science – I guess it’s a matter of time, and hope that the current system doesn’t jade their view before they start mentoring.

      I was trying not to give too much away in the abstract, but I see your point!

      Thanks loads for the comments! 🙂

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