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Kicking off this year's Science Online London conference was keynote speaker Michael Nielsen (who will be speaking in Berlin on September 16!) on Open Science. Michael put the prolem of making science open in the context of a colective action problem. He cited and explained various examples where analogous problems have been solved previously, such as the move by Sweden to change driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right side of the road. He also explained the formation of unions and the regulation of common water resources.

The general conclusion was that similar problems have most often been solved by starting small, using social incentives and social psychology to first form small groups which then grow slowly and implementing monitoring, regulations and sanctions as they grow.

Michael made a pretty comelling case that the problem of making science open is less a technical problem, but rather a social problem and that there are many examples in history where similar problems have been overcome.

A less optimistic note came up in the Q&A when a person in the audience brought up a problem not explicitly mentioned in the talk: sabotage. There have been examples where outside interests have tried to work against collective action, e.g. in the union example. Open science fces similar threats from opposed parties such as corporate publishers and active action by journal publishers does indeed not seem unrealistic. Michael was slightly stumped by the comment but emphasized that this did not necessarily prevent collective action.
Posted on Friday 02 September 2011 - 11:20:36 comment: 0

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