Toward a global platform for open science
September 8th, 2008 by dwentworth
Watching the new video about the NeuroCommons project, I was struck by how many different elements are necessary for making knowledge from one domain in science interoperable — or “remixable” — with knowledge from another.
In a recent piece on open science, Era of Scientific Secrecy Near End (LiveScience, Sept. 2), Cameron Neylon articulates the vision of a global platform to do just that, built using design principles from open source software:
“Making things more open leads to more innovation and more economic activity, and so the technology that underlies the Web makes it possible to share in a way that was never really possible before, while at same time it also means that [the] kinds of models and results generated are much more rich,” he said.
This is the open source approach to software development, as opposed to commercial closed source approaches, Neylon said. The internals are protected by developers and lawyers, but the platform is available for the public to build on in very creative ways.
“Science was always about mashing up, taking one result and applying it to your [work] in a different way,” Neylon said. “The question is ‘Can we make that as effective [for] samples [of] data and analysis as it [is] for a map and set of addresses for a coffee shop?’ That is the vision.”
That’s a vision Science Commons shares. The past ten years have brought the rise of a robust infrastructure for sharing and remixing cultural content, and thanks to the emergence of innovative tools like Google Maps, more people are grasping the power of open systems for connecting information from disparate sources to make it more useful. Yet we remain in the early stages of building an open infrastructure for science that would make it easy to integrate and make sense of research and data from different sources.
The NeuroCommons is our effort to jumpstart the process, with the goal of making all scientific research materials — research articles, annotations, data, physical materials — as available and as useable as they can be. If you’re new to the project, we hope you’ll take a look at the video and let us know what you think.