Royal Society to investigate open science

Open Science has been on my mind recently – so when I heard it mentioned on the radio as I was waking up this morning, at first I thought I might be dreaming! But no – it was indeed Prof Geoffrey Boulton talking about a working group set up by the Royal Society to look at “Science as a Public Enterprise”, which he’ll be chairing.

Prof Boulton said that scientists must find new ways of engaging with people and making science more open – so scientists’ data should be quickly and easily available both to other scientists and in the public domain. This is good news for those of us interested in opening access to the results of research. The Royal Society is here putting its weight behind “a presumption in favour of data sharing” .  Will this help change the hearts and minds of scientists who up to now have been sceptical about the open agenda?

The working group is calling for evidence from scientists, government bodies, business and industry and the general public. It will be interesting to see its recommendations.

The RCS is working with consultant Sarah Currier on our own study of open science and citizen science and we too should like to hear the views of anyone interested in this development in scientific communication.

Open science and citizen science: investigating the strategic issues

UPDATE 15 July 2011: The RCS Open Science Project Final Report (incl Executive Summary), plus a Briefing Paper on Open and Citizen Science, and link to YouTube videos of the project’s open and citizen science interviews are all available here. All produced by Sarah Currier.


My name is Sarah Currier and I’m working with the Research Communications Strategy Project this April and May to take a snapshot of current thinking and practice around open science and citizen science in the UK. We are particularly interested in strategic and policy issues, and the relationship between open science  and scholarly communications more generally. We’ll be providing a briefing document after the end of May 2011. This work was stimulated by the 2009 JISC consultative report Open science at web-scale: Optimising participation and predictive potential. Of the three aspects of open science covered in that report, we’re looking at the first two:

  • open science including open notebook science : making methodologies, data and results available on the Internet, through transparent working practices.
  • citizen science including volunteer computing : where volunteers who may not have scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation.

With such a short time-frame, we’re going straight to the horse’s mouth: we have seven interviews planned with key thinkers, practitioners and advocates of open science and citizen science. These will feed into our final briefing document; we’ll also be making video and audio clips of the interviews available on the CRC website.

In fact, we’ve already started; I had two very interesting conversations on Friday (April 29th) with open knowledge mavens Dr. Rufus Pollock, an economist, and Prof. Peter Murray-Rust, a chemist, both of whom are based at the University of Cambridge. Some sample clips from those interviews will be made available soon.

In the meantime, check out their Open Knowledge Foundation, and also the four Panton Principles for Open Data in Science, which were developed by Rufus and Peter along with well-known open science advocate Cameron Neylon of the STFC (whom we will also be interviewing) and John Wilbanks of the Science Commons. The Panton Principles were developed at The Panton Arms pub in Cambridge, where I ate a delicious lunch after interviewing Rufus and Peter. Here’s Prof. Peter Murray-Rust, in his Open Knowledge Foundation t-shirt, under the renowned Panton Arms sign:

Prof. Peter Murray-Rust outside the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Over the coming month I’ll also be interviewing open science practitioners and advocates Prof. Carole Goble (University of Manchester, School of Computer Science) and Prof. Jason Swedlow (University of Dundee, College of Life Sciences), and astronomy researchers with the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo, Dr. Chris Lintott and Steven Bamford.

You can get updates on this mini-project by following us on Twitter: @RCSOpenScience and you can keep an eye on the information we are pulling together on the project Netvibes site here. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed for the Open Science category here in this blog.