Why I love open source, and wish science worked this way

Yesterday, I got bored and hastily hacked together a script to scrape word frequencies from Reddit and make word clouds out of them. Of course, I included the source code on github so everyone else could use the script if they wanted to. Overnight, some people I’ve never met before found my repo, decided they loved it, improved my script 1000x, committed their changes to my github repo, then started promoting my github repo through venues I’d never even thought of.

Isn’t that amazing?

Just because I openly posted my code on the internet, a group of people came together to refine my work and make it better for everyone. In the end, I learned some new coding tricks, the code is reaching a broader audience of people that I’d never imagined, and everyone ended up with a better final product.

Wouldn’t it be nice if science worked this way?

Dr. Randy Olson is a Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he develops state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms with a focus on biomedical applications.

Posted in open science, philosophy, research Tagged with: ,
  • Chavoux

    I think science is kind of supposed to be like that… with the condition that everybody who contributes gets acknowledged?

  • Supposed to, maybe… but the fear of being scooped prevents most scientists from openly sharing their work until it’s been published. It’s pretty rare to see anyone openly share their research for all to see as they work on it. As I alluded to in this blog post, I think there’s a lot to be gained by openly sharing your research online: potential collaborators, improving your research, and making your research available and relevant to a broader community.

    Oftentimes even after the research has been published, most of it remains hidden behind paywalls. IMO, none of that is really conducive to scientific progress.