Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sharing information with colleagues

Do academic scientists share information with their colleagues? Not necessarily from a survey of bio=scientists:
"“Every scientist knows that science advances only if knowledge is shared,” (Warnick and Wojick 2009). Science is a cumulative process, so its progress and benefits to society hinge critically on multiple scientists testing and building on each others’ work. However, the contribution to the “scientific commons” (Merton 1973) is challenged by individual scientists’ self-interest. While a scientist who shares her results during the research process provides the stepping stones for discovery by others, they may not acknowledge her contribution. Indeed, misappropriation of scientific research and increased reluctance to share information and materials is considered a major problem in science (Cohen and Walsh 2008, Couzin-Frankel and Grom 2009).................
the higher is the reward for solving the problem, the less willing are scientists to share information through conferences and working papers.
Our models emphasise very different aspects of sharing – with the sole exception of the competitive environment. This is important because it means that the important policy question is not “whether open science” is practiced, but rather is “how open science can be supported in different environments.” We find that in both models the competitive environments reduce the practice of open science. Note that competition increases with value of the returns, or prize, for scientific solutions. This means that introducing valuable prizes may induce scientists to increase their research efforts, but it also is likely to stifle their willingness to openly share – one-on-one or with everyone. It also supports recommendations such as that of Rennie et al. (1997) that papers should acknowledge the work that is done by all contributors, where a contributor is a person who "has added usefully to the work", because such acknowledgement would, to some extent, mitigate competition.

It is also important to realise that both the commercial and intellectual value of prizes may stifle the practice of open science. While concerns over open science have escalated as scientists recognise the commercial potential of their work, the dampening effect of competition on sharing need not depend on commercial value. Prizes that enhance scientific reputation also dampen the incentive to share. Indeed, for the bio-scientists in our sample, intellectual prizes, rather than patents or engagement with industry through consulting (which we would expect to be related to commercial potential), reduce the likelihood of one-to-one sharing. In contrast, patents and consulting both decrease the likelihood of general sharing by the bio-scientists in our sample. Similarly, scientists who consider their research to be applied are less likely to generally share.

These results suggest that increased government research funding is likely to promote information sharing. However, our analysis shows that this is only true to the extent that increased research funding relaxes competition. Increased funding makes it more likely that individual scientists working on a problem will receive funding, but it is also likely to draw more scientists to work on the problem."

In areas like mathematics where data sharing is not so significant, there re other problems. There is a tendency to pre-empt others by putting out sketchy papers and then trying for years to prove them.

No comments: