What are the advantages of open research?

Open research has the potential to take much of an age old system and modernize it to take advantage of the amazing technical tools that we now have available. To borrow a phrase from open source software development, “many eyes makes problems shallow.” The academic process as it exists is verified by a small number of researchers at the outset and vetted by a expert review before publication.

This process works well in a world of limited communications capabilities, but that’s not the world we’ve lived in for the last five years at least. If we design the proper tools, the whole bit can be under continual review. When I am interested in more depth than I get in a paper, the entire process could be preserved online. If an error makes it into publication, it can be corrected in place and authoritatively rather than piecemeal as is the case now.

This is no simple task, but it is achievable.

An advantage that I am most interested in at this point in my academic career (a jaded graduate student) is that of pedigree.

Degrees are used because when bringing a new individual onto a project, be it at a University or for a corporation, it is important to know that this person is not a dumbass. A degree, from an Associates to a Ph.D., represents to interested parties that a student has learned certain knowledge, has a familiarity with particular set of practices, and is capable of some degree of critical thinking.

Imagine a system where students are able to contribute to active research projects of interest. They develop a pedigree based on their activities as well as their course instructions. Individuals contribute to projects that are of interest to them and in return they not only get the enjoyment of contributing to a project of interest, they are also developing a pragmatic certification of their skills.

The question of an individual’s qualifications can be answered with much finer granularity. This offers the hope of not only producing higher quality research but offering people the opportunity to focus on the elements of the process that they find enjoyable and are skilled at while leaving the other aspects to other people.

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