Data Debate: Is transparency bad for science?

The following post is by Eve Jackson who works for the Index on Censorship.

Is the push for openness helping or hindering science? Index on Censorship will be debating the question on Tuesday 6 December at 6.30pm at Imperial College London, with Sir Mark Walport (Director, Wellcome Trust), George Monbiot (columnist, the Guardian), Professor David Colquhoun (UCL) and Baroness Onora O’Neill (philosopher), chaired by Jo Glanville.

Increasingly it’s argued that scientific data should be made freely available to the public, that the science publishing model should be overhauled to enable free ‘open access’ to articles currently locked behind pay walls. It could also imply that researchers should offer up their data when it’s asked for, for example in Freedom of Information requests. Openness in science is on the government’s agenda too. Chancellor George Osborne is due to announce various open data initiatives tomorrow (29/11), including a new Open Data Institute.

It’s difficult to argue against the principles of openness and transparency. Both are usually seen as good in their own right, regardless of their application.

While advocating transparency and openness, however, it is critical to keep an eye on their effects. Index on Censorship has investigated the question of transparency in science in ‘Dark matter: what’s science got to hide?’, the latest issue of our magazine. The event is sponsored by SAGE and will launch the science issue. Tickets are free. You can register here or email eve[at]indexoncensorship[dot]org for more information.