We need Open Scholars

Excerpt from a proposal and thoughtpiece by Gideon Burton:

The Open Scholar, as I’m defining this person, is not simply someone who agrees to allow free access and reuse of his or her traditional scholarly articles and books; no, the Open Scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it–at any stage of its development.

Those pursuing the Open Science model are on the vanguard of this effort, and I wish to give special mention of Jean-Claude Bradley and the Open Notebook approach he has used in the classroom. Give this podcast episode a listen (from IT Conversations) to catch the vision of this, or check out the lab notebooks from OpenWetWare (which is an Open Science portal for biology and biological engineering).

It’s like this: there is great value to others to see the methods used in pursuing knowledge, the various attempts in pursuing solutions (failures as much as successes), the data generated (especially beyond the subset of data used for drawing conclusions in the study at hand), and the various resources used to mount the investigation (whether that is lab equipment, social resources, bibliography, theory, or protocols). Again, there is great value in others being allowed to see this whole context of inquiry, not just the final outcome for the specific study at hand.

Let me give you an example. I met some people recently who are doing studies of tabacco harm reduction. In their research they have, of course, looked up any and all studies that have to do with tobacco harm. But it turns out a lot of studies exist that only bring up tobacco incidentally (such as studies of occupational hazards in general). Now, if these epidemiologists had had access to the data from the occupation hazards studies (including the statistical models for crunching the data), then they could have drawn additional value from the occupational hazards research.

That’s a simple example of how having open data is in fact provisioning for serendipity and how profoundly it respects the broader goals of knowledge building on knowledge. Traditional scholarship shuts down the many possible re-uses of scholarship by not keeping the processes and data open as part of the publication. It would be better to adopt the Open Science catchphrase, “no insider information.”

Because the Open Scholar reveals his or her processes, data, and procedures, this can bridge the great divide between research and teaching. Not only does the whole model invite collaboration (including drawing upon students and uncredentialed participants), but it allows the modeling of best practices that can help newcomers understand the whole field in question, not just the specifics of a given study.”

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