Go and ask your fellow postdoctoral researchers in the biology, chemistry, medicine,… fields what it is their main goal. I’m always getting the same answer: I’m developing a cure for cancer (replace cancer by your “favorite” disease”).

In fact, this is a big lie. Their primary goal is to get a permanent position in a university/research institution. As simple as that. If you want proof, just ask them if they release online all the info about the experiments they tried and that went wrong. The answer I always get is a variation of this one: “NO! There are other competing groups working with the same protein (or whatever), we have to be the firsts in publishing the results”, which “translated” means: “I hope they run into the same problems I’ve already been able to solve and this makes them waste a lot of time and (government) money trying to find the solution themselves which will give me time to finish by work, publish it before them and get all the credit”.

Am I criticizing my friends? Only for not being honest and accepting this fact, not so much for not willing to follow the open science principles. At the community level, their practices have a tremendous negative impact on the society but at the individual level, I completely understand them.

Asking my colleagues to change their approach when the government evaluation agencies have not yet changed theirs is not fair (and coming from somebody who already has a permanent position, even if my group indeed publishes all the software as open source,  would be hypocrite; If I were them I’d do exactly the same!). I cannot ask them to kill their research careers by risking their work not being recognized (according to current standards). This is especially important in the critical period of trying to get a permanent position. I do believe that people with a permanent position would be more open to these ideas (since they have less to lose) but we should not forget that we have many more temporal researchers than permanent ones!

Anyway, with this post, my intention was just to bring some attention to this unfortunate situation since I had the feeling that most people are not aware of how much of our resources are wasted because of evaluation policies that do not favor cooperation but competition among research groups.

If I’ve managed to get you a little bit more interested in the Open Research philosophy, can I suggest you to follow the work of Cameron Neylon? You’ll not regret it (at least I don’t since I saw him for the first time in Toronto, thanks to Greg Wilson).