June 28, 2009

Open scientists have more and more early "Aha!" moments

Why I am an open scientist
The other day, I wrote about developing public understanding of science, now I came across the somehow interlinked concept of being an open scientist: scientists shall engage in making their work as transparent as possible. And no, not just writing about completed projects to peers and public, but about the scientific work in progress. For example, an experimentalist could keep a public lab notebook.

Challenges are to be discussed, but I immediately felt that the idea is straight forward and the rewards would outweigh risks. Traditionally, you had a lab notebook holding your unpublished work, until the data is transformed into results presented in a journal article. Nowadays that could be, and should be if possible, an open access journal, so why not starting with making also your lab notebook open. So far the straightforwardness: open access to information, maybe not entirely so, but at least during all stages to a certain degree. I guess, I do not need to mention the risks. What about the rewards?

What came as a reward into my mind was the early creation of "Aha!" moments. An "Aha!" moment or event indicates a change in the cognitive state. I first heard about this concept from Frank Ohl and Henning Scheich, former colleagues, but recently also found it in the Wall Street Journal: A Wandering Mind Heads Straight Toward Insight, which serves as a better introduction. These moments need an environment in which they can flourish. As far as my moments are concerned, they come—surprisingly—reliably but only if I write about my work with the reader in mind. Most of my articles changed quite dramatically in the process of writing, although I used to start writing, only when I thought the creative work is seemingly finished. I learned nothing could be more wrong. So for me being engaged in making my work more transparent by writing about it at an earlier stage, while it is still in progress, is nothing less than forcing insight.

1 comment:

  1. Markus - you are absolutely right - keeping an open notebook enables so many more aha moments because of how quickly people get feedback. Another reason it is a natural entry point for Open Science participation is that it requires very little additional effort - researchers have to keep a notebook anyway. One issue that does have to be considered is that it restricts the journals where the final articles can be sent for peer-review. Luckily we live in a time where there are several publishers who don't have a problem with that.