18 November 2014

Towards an open (data) science culture

Last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of ATLAS computing at Chilton where RAL is located. (The anniversary was actually earlier, we just celebrated it now.)

While much of the event was about the computing and had lots of really interesting talks (which should appear on the Chilton site), let's highlight a data talk by Professor Jeremy Frey. If you remember the faster than light neutrinos, Jeremy praised CERN for making the data available early, even with caveats and doubts about the preliminary results.  The idea is to get your data out, so it people can have a look at it and comment. Even if the preliminary results are wrong and neutrinos are not faster than light, what matters is that the data comes out and people can look at it. And most importantly, that it will not negatively impact people's careers for publishing it.On the contrary, Jeremy is absolutely right to point out that it should be good for people's careers to make data available (with suitable caveats).

But what would an "open science" data model look like?  Suddenly you would get a lot more data flying around, instead of (or in addition to) preprints and random emails and word of mouth. Perhaps it will work a bit like open source, which is supposed to be "given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow."  With open source, you sometimes see code which isn't quite ready for production, but at least you can look at the code and figure out whether it will work, and maybe adapt it.

While we are on the subject of open stuff, the code that simulates science and analyses data is also important. Please consider signing the SSI petition.