It's funny how things turn out in the blogosphere. I'd posted about how ludicrous copyright on dead scientists' work (Copyright madness - story 2) was and expected some comment from the librarian community. Silence (there's still time to comment!). I got a brief exclamation of horror from BlackKnight and to check that this wasn't spam visited his blog. and I saw the Green Fluorescent Wow! My comments about this example of immediate Open Notebook Science has turned into a thread on when and whether to publish results on blogs. Here's Black Knight:
16 August, 2007Whee. I checked Technorati this evening, as you do (seeing as the bastard spammers have destroyed the usefulness of trackbacks), and discovered that yesterday's post was spreading ripples in the blogospheric pond. It came first to the attention of Peter Murray-Rust, who has a thing (a good thing! — I hasten to add) about open access and open science in general, and thence to the open science community itself, in the shape of Cameron Neylon.
Funnily enough, Neil Saunders then picked it up from the OpenWetWare people, and I do some digging and find that not only did Neil do a DPhil but that he is now in Bostjan Kobe's lab. Bostjan is a long-time collaborator of my previous boss and from meeting him at Lorne he seems to have quite forgiven me for not going to work for him when I had the chance (or forgotten about it).
So, anyway, it turns out that I had previously made contact with OpenWetWare, and talked about them over a year ago. Which just goes to show that (a) it's a small world and (b) incest is more fun than you'd think.But all that is not really what I wanted to write about now. The OpenWetWare (have you any idea how difficult it is to type that?) project is a laudable effort to promote collaboration within the life sciences. And this is cool, but then I realize that the devil is in the details.
Share my methods? Yeah! Put in some technical detail? Yea–hang on.
For sure, the 'Green Fluorescent Wow!' experiment (HT to Peter) was pretty simple and straightforward: An easy cloning experiment with a slight cleverness in choice of reagents, no IP and nothing particularly smart. But I've got other experiments underway that are clever, and potentially very exciting.
So can I write on my weblog about them? And how much detail can I give? If I say "My protein seems to do something odd to cell-motility", is that an elegant sufficiency of detail? Surely people will get bored with generalizations, but am I right to worry, as one of our PIs does, that I might compromise my project by posting too much detail? Should I really be posting pictures of cells that are doing odd things?
It's not a case of "Can I trust you bastards not to steal my work?" but balancing the ideal of 'open source science' with the need to publish before anyone else. I have responsibilities — to the boss and to my cow-orkers —, but I also want to share the fun and joy and heartache of this vocation.
So it's all a little bit confusing, really. I want to bounce when experiments work, and scream and shout when I have a 'little technical difficulty'; but how much can I say without compromising stuff? Seriously, I have lots I want to write about, but am not sure whether I should.