Dark Matter: What's science got to hide?  
Dec 13, 2011
Josh in FOI, Josh, Transparency

Billed as the "Data debate: Is transparency bad for science?" the event was held at Imperial College and the speakers were Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, George Monbiot, Guardian columnist , Baroness Onora O’Neill and David Colquhoun, UCL. Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, chaired the debate.

Josh and Richard Drake were in the gathered throng.

Only it was more a panel of agreement - data should be freely available and science should be transparent… well, yeah duh!

But an interesting fight developed between Onora O’Neill and George Monbiot. Onora questioned whether everyone was competent to see scientific data, seeming to introduce the idea that maybe data should be tailored to the competency of the receiver. This rightly outraged George who asked Onora whether she meant that data should only be available to someone deemed 'competent'. Onora denied that was what she said but explained herself by repeating the same idea. Not a good tactic. She might not have been saying what we thought she said but sadly we never found out what she actually meant. Maybe we can tease it out on a second listen.

In the discussion time Richard Drake read out the Phil Jones email about how much time the retired bloggers have to digest and dissect data - bloggers who, we now know, are a great deal more competent than the scientists who hold the data.

Sadly the debate was short - with more time we might have got more depth. Here is what should have been emphasised.

Open and transparent science should involve three things:

1. raw data
2. the code that processes it
3. the resultant data, including metadata, as used in published papers.

As David Colquhoun, the only real scientist there and brilliant throughout, said "Give them everything!"

Click the image for a slightly larger version.

All the cartoon notes from the evening are here and at Cartoons by Josh


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