I declare my science offically open! Mostly

I’ve been keeping an open lab notebook since late last year, recording my laboratory and related scientific activities. Partly because I believe strongly in the philosophy of openness in science, as in software, and partly because I feel like airing my dirty laundry in public will force me to be a better and more rigourous scientist and ultimately do better work.

I’ve been finding my feet over the past few months – in what format do I put data up, what are sensible (semantic, consistent) names for entries in the notebook, at what level of detail should each individual entry occur, how much descriptive / explanatory writing should accompany raw data / observations? I’m not sure I’m quite there with the answers to those questions yet, but I’m getting there. Also, I wasn’t sure how recording everything online would fit in my working day – would I manage to get round to recording everything I did, or would some things get missed? So far it’s been pretty successful.

As it’s all been going quite well I thought I’d ‘fess up to my PI that I’ve been promiscuously sharing our precious research willy nilly all over the internet (I really should have told him up front but I didn’t want to make a big thing out of it and then it not come to anything). He was fine (he’s pretty chilled out, and we’re not exactly working in a commercially sensitive or massively competitive field), and actually quite supportive of the idea. Phew.

SO now that it’s official I thought I’d put an Open Notebook Science banner on my notebook. This involves making a ‘claim’ as to the degree of openness – does absolutely everything I ever do go up immediately, or is it just some of my stuff, after some period of time. It’s my intention to be fully open, and to put everything up immediately. However, as I’m still getting going with the whole enterprise I’ve decided to go, rather conservatively, you may argue, for claiming ‘some content, immediately’. I.e. you can’t absolutely guarantee that if it’s not in the lab book it hasn’t been done. It’s not the ideal, and my intention is to change to a fully open claim soon, but this is a step in the right direction.

SCI Seclected Content - Immediate

My open notebook claim. Click the image to go to the Open Notebook Science claims page to find out what it's all about


11 thoughts on “I declare my science offically open! Mostly

  1. Jeanne Garbarino

    You are both brave and forward thinking. Immediate access to your raw work certainly keeps you at your best – an example I wish I could follow. I’m not sure my boss – like many PIs out there – would be so cool with that, even though he has a hugely collaborative spirit. I hope this type of mentality changes though!

    By the way, have you seen the Figure Share program on Science3.0?

    Thanks for “sharing!”
    – Jeanne

    1. martwine Post author

      Thanks Jeanne! It really depends on your subject area as to how risky putting it all out there might be, I guess.

      I have seen FigShare – I was one of the first people to upload test images I think. Will certainly use it for figures when I come to put any in the notebook in future.

  2. Sjurdur Hammer

    silly question, but doesn’t an open notebook leave you vulnerable for data theft of some sort? Couldnt some deviant just take your method, raw data and publish it before you?

    1. martwine Post author

      Well, yes. Although it would be pretty clear plagiarism, what with my timestamping of it publicly on the internet. Bottom line for me is that the interesting data is the spatio-temporal variability of marine biogeochemical parameters. So if you weren’t there e.g. in the North Sea (where I’m off on Saturday) when I was, you’d be hard pressed to convincingly rip off my data.

      I dunno – I may be wrong and that future Nature paper(!) might get scooped – it remains to be seen.

    1. martwine Post author

      Jean-Claude, thank YOU for formalising the definitions of Open Notebook Science and for making me think about exactly what I’m doing – to what extent I can really call myself ‘open’. Also thanks for the nice logos!

  3. Jean-Claude Bradley

    Andrew Lang and Shirley Wu designed the logos on the ONSclaims page.
    As for trying to figure out how much to share, I think most of the Open Science community are of the mind that some sharing is better than the current minimum requirements. I think your use of Google Spreadsheets to share raw data is particularly important. It will be interesting to see if you end up sharing more or if you find you have to pull back (both have happened).

  4. Ben Godfrey

    Well done for making such a bold commitment to open research. Being explicit about the level of openness and the regularity of publishing is really great too.

    As more research is published openly, a network effect will emerge. In open source software we commonly see many projects initially duplicating effort. There was no good open Python web framework, so lots of different groups started building their own (Django, CherryPy, web.py, Pylons). Over time, one becomes a leader (e.g. Django, or Git in the distributed version control category). This works because successive projects learn the lessons of the early experiments (Darcs has faults which Git addresses). The quality emerges from a marketplace of projects both competing for adoption and sharing ideas and implementations.

  5. martwine Post author

    Thanks for your comments everyone. Sorry I didn’t get back to you all. Have been really busy with preparing to go and then going to sea. Still there, somewhere off the Suffolk coast at the moment. Bit of a lull right now. Need to go though, as I have to be up at 4am (it’s 10pm now). Ouch.


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