Leo  Taylor

Socrates Club

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Can we make research information open source?

I often come across scientific research and papers with interesting conclusions and wonder what the source material is like. eg. The original fMRI scans. I have noticed that this information can be extremely difficult to get. I have made attempts with our local University and have even sat with the manager from a local medical facility that coordinates and operates MRI's. He mentioned that even with his seniority it is tough to get the research.

It seems that if this information was freely available then individuals such as philosophers, linguists, psychologists, doctors, researchers, etc could ask a question and then pour through mountains of Data to find an answer.

The way it appears to happen now, is that a group of individuals will have an idea, create an experiment, keep the data somewhat secretive and then reveal their conclusion. Perhaps good, perhaps bad, perhaps neither. BUT why not put that raw data online, or in an easily searchable database so that another researcher may come along and use the information.

The thought occurred that we need an open source database for grants and research. If you want $1 million dollars for your research then you may have it, BUT all raw data must go into this database so that it is open for everyone to use. That way another researcher can save a lot of time and money by not repeating a very expensive process. OR, perhaps come to another conclusion by comparing research across multiple experiments.

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    Gail .

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    Feb 6 2013: I share your frustration. Even US government sites now only allow access to abstracts and require payment for the details. This seems so unreasonable - especially in the age of the Internet. It is your government withholding important information from you - which sounds immoral to me, seeing as my tax dollars helped pay for it.

    But government aside, you have to take the idea down to its absolute core. We have a fiscal paradigm that is money-dependent. If you eliminate copyright and patent protection, you deprive people of a way to earn money. That is A SMALL PART of why our fiscal paradigm is so destructive to all of us. How much we could progress as a society if money were not the end-all-be-all god of our culture.
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    Feb 6 2013: In chatting with people from the grants program at our local University I was informed that much of the money is public money and the information is supposed to be more open. It just is not easy to access it.

    I understand taking the issue to the core and keeping money in the copyright programs etc. To that end, I thought about approaching it from the philanthropic point of view. Say, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet. If those individuals decided they would give millions of dollars in grants with the stipulation that the raw data was open source then perhaps we could all benefit. The researchers would get their due credit of course, and others would be helped by access to information they would not normally have.

    Say you are a researcher in Canada and would like fMRI scans of brains under a particular scenario. If you searched and found out that UC Berkley already collected the raw data, then you could download the images and data and add it to your own research.

    I am not sure this is currently being done.