Thursday, May 03, 2012

article(s) post: on scientific rigour.

since a colleague of mine passed along this article to me on g+, i thought i'd share it too.
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The government has drafted in the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to help make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it.
A government source said that, in the longer term, Wales would help to set up the next generation of open-access platforms for British researchers. "He's also going to be advising us on the format in which academic papers should be published and data standards.One of the big opportunities is, right now, a journal article might be published but the underlying data isn'tand we want to move into a world where the data is published alongside an article in an open format, available free of charge."
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from "Wikipedia founder to help in government's research scheme"
@ (by alοk jha)
interestingly enough, the arχiv already has a bare-bones dataset support policy.  being a mathematician and a theorist, though, i've never made use of it.  besides, it seems subject to cancellation at any time .. \-:

one things comes to mind, though:
if all taxpayer-funded research became publicly available in the united states .. and in particular, to politicians and interest groups .. then i have a hard time believing that it will be left alone, and not used in some political shenanigans to shut down some perfectly good veins of academic inquiry.

imagine if a PI in a biology lab has to enter a political fight simply because some legislators are creationists (or their constituents are), think that the laboratory's agenda only furthers the theory of evolution, masterfully arrange control of the appropriate u.s. senate committee, and threaten to cut off the PI's funding.

likely such a scenario wouldn't come to pass, but still: i imagine [1] ..

i'm not saying that public access is a bad thing.  it might, however, open up new problems in place of the partially-solved ones.  it is clear that transparency is a different thing than surveillance, but both are practices to ensure that those under watch are on their best behavior.

besides, when has a change in society not caused more work for those involved? [2] (-:
nonetheless, this would be the sort of step that fosters greater transparency in research.  judging on their various movements that .. to put it mildly, are holding scientists to their word, maybe transparency is a partial solution for the alternative:
".. someone is going to check your work. A group of researchers have already begun what they’ve dubbed the Reproducibility Project which aims to replicate every study from those three journals for that one year. The project is part of Open Science Framework, a group interested in scientific values, and its stated mission is to “estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the scientific literature.” This is a more polite way of saying “We want to see how much of what gets published turns out to be bunk.”

~ from " Is Psychology About to Come Undone?"
@ the chronicle (by tοm bartlεtt)

sometimes i'm glad that i'm a theorist, and needn't suffer the gory mess that are experiments.  on the other hand, imagine if computer proof verification became streamlined and feasible for every mathematician:

barring small, easily-fixed gaps, i wonder how many proofs out there would actually satisfy an automated check?  i have a feeling that most working mathematicians take a lot of logical assumptions for granted.

after all, the proof of  1 + 1 = 2 supposedly takes 379 pages ..!

[1] suffice it to say that i am not a creationist: just not my thing, sorry.
[2] i had in mind the "broader impact" section of an NSF research proposal ..

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