Scientific Data Should Be Shared: An Open Letter To The ARC

Alex O. Holcombe and Matthew Todd | The Conversation | September 26, 2012

Science (real science, not the summaries in popular books and the media) is needlessly closed to the outside world. Worse, it is closed within itself, with every lab its own silo, and little sharing of data or materials. Top researchers work frantically behind the scenes, but only occasionally do they share their results, by describing selected experiments in publications. This way of working may have been sensible in the paper past, but as the digital age advances it should not be the way we work now.

Recently one of us (MT) directed a fully open project in which all data and ideas were shared online. People completely unknown to the existing team came to the project and helped. Some were employed by corporate laboratories but nevertheless provided significant inputs free of charge. This should not be surprising, as it is in our nature to help others solve problems. It is also in our nature to compete, and the open nature of the project yielded competition that helped achieve a common end. On this playing field, the greatest expertise could win out.