Openness is scary

I published my research plan along with my CV yesterday on this blog (here). I downloaded the document in PDF format to Google Drive and shared the link. It was scary.

Even though I am currently working for a governmental initiative designed to increase openness in science (Open Science and Research Initiative) I don’ t have a crystal clear idea on how to go about conducting an open research process. But that’s what I’m determined to do, so I guess I will just have to invent as I go along, at least until I come across with others doing the same thing (I already know some in the fields of natural science and digital humanities, but none in social sciences, studying a contemporary subject). One of the things that I will have to decide as my research progresses is how much of my data will I open and to what degree. There will probably be at least something left unopened, since an important part of my data will be transcripts of interviews, and I will have to respect the wishes of my interviewees. One of the first things I’m going to do as I start my research full-on in May, is a research data management plan.

What is so scary about this, then, telling in a blog about what you do? That should be normal in research, right? Well, there is public and then there is open. Your stuff is public when someone can see it. It becomes open only when anyone can see it, and not only see, but also use it. And that is scary. First of all, someone could steal my text or my ideas. I don’t think that is very likely, though. My research has absolutely no commercial potential, and if someone should plagiarize my text they would get caught quite quickly, because the subject is so specific. And you can be plagiarized even if you don’t do open research. Actually the openness might save you from plagiarism. There would be no contest about who came up with the idea first or who’s text it was originally, since after publishing it openly I would very easily prove it was me. The second fear is much scarier and, I think, more real; that of being ridiculed, even harassed and / or having my work and even my person heavily and possibly unjustly criticized. But I think that genuine and consistent openness and honesty can be a remedy to that too. I guess I will just have to wait and see.

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