“The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind” —David Hume

In a few short weeks, it will once again be time for the Open Science Summit (yay!!), a yearly event which brings together researchers, life science professionals, students, and science enthusiasts to discuss the future of open scientific discovery, publication, and collaboration.  

As many of you already know, I am a huge supporter of Open Science—open access to research publications, open sharing of new ideas, open access to scientific tools to allow for Citizen Scientists and DIYers and all Science 2.0 types to pursue the answers to scientific questions that they are curious about. I really believe that Open Science is the way of the future—to ensure that science and knowledge is accessible and available for everyone, not just those who can afford to pay for it. However,  as you can imagine, there are a lot of roadblocks that stand in the way of progress. We need more people pushing for this new model of academia and inquiry, or as Johnathan Eisen of PLoS One Biology calls it, a “new culture of science”.

Here’s the good news: I actually get a chance to attend the Open Science Summit this year in Mountain View! Woo Hoo!! In fact, I will even be doing a live demo that will be streamed from the web via a Google+ Hangout, so all of you can see how social media can help to advance Open Science and collaboration. (I know! Wicked excited!)


Here’s the bad news: I am short on the funds to be able to make this happen.  Being in the non-profit and freelance world, embracing this idea of radical openness, does not make me a whole lot of money to be able to attend things like this. It has to come out of my own pocket. So—I am shooting for another way to get there. And this is where you come in.

I need your help!

I am asking for my readers, followers, and circled contacts to please help me raise the money to cover the cost of attending this conference, by making a modest donation via paypal. I am looking to raise $1000 in the next 2 weeks. I know it's asking a lot, but California is REALLY far away from Florida, guys! It is super-expensive to travel that far. I really want to utilize this opportunity to attend this amazing conference, so I can continue to bring you even MORE science in the future, without it costing you a penny. This philosophy of radical openness and collaboration is so very dear to me, and it would mean the world for me to be able to attend in person and take part in the movement.

M.A. Greenstein, a.k.a. Dr G, from GGI (The George Greenstein Institute), has ever so generously offered to donate the first $50 to help finance this trip. (Isn't she awesome?!) So I only have $950 to go!

How to donate

Just click here: 

You can use a credit card, paypal balance, or even make a transfer from your bank account. No amount is too small; every dollar helps! 

You will be getting your money's worth, too, as I will be live-tweeting, live-blogging and vlogging the event. Not to mention, I'll be doing a LIVE demo over a Google+ Hangout (and also streamed from YouTube), to demonstrate the collaborative possibilities using open data sharing and development tools on the bleeding edge of technology. You even have a chance to participate yourself! Up to 10 people can join the video chat live, and people can switch in and out at any time during the demo, ask questions, say 'hello', whatever you want. 

Now, let me tell you a bit more about what Open Science is, and why it would mean so much to me to get to attend this conference....

What is 'Open Science'? 

Joseph Jackson, the Founder of the Open Science Summit, and Co-Founder of BioCurious, a Bay Area DIY biology lab for citizen scientists, describes it here (an excerpt): 

"By definition, to function, science is supposed to be Open. Indeed, science is arguably humanity's greatest achievement, our most successful, Open Process, for discovering the truths about our universe and then harnessing that knowledge for the benefit of all mankind. In contrast to other human processes (politics, which is an intrinsically contentious undertaking focused on controlling and distributing scarce resources), Science is supposed to be an objective, essentially collaborative endeavor, in which, even when competing, all participants are building on the efforts of one another to improve our collective understanding of reality. In practice, of course science has always been subject to manipulations, government or corporate agendas, distortions, human biases, and other messy realities.
"We have the chance to adopt new models and build new institutions better suited to conducting distributed, massively data driven, collaborative science in the 21st century. This means we have to change the incentive structures and reputation systems that govern science; moving away from old metrics like impact factor (which has a near death grip on scientist's career prospects) and toward new ways of measuring reputation that reward participation in other kinds of scientific activity that are new of critical importance (commenting on articles after publication,scientific blogging and communication to the public, data curation, and more)."

Why do I support Open Science? 

You've heard me refer to this idea of “radical openness”. I don’t just preach this concept—I practice it myself. Every article, blog post, or little snippet I write about is filtered through this primary mode of thought. 

I will quite often share brand new theories or ideas, prior to publication, just to get the conversation going while the idea is fresh and new. Why do I do this? Because I think in order to advance science to the highest degree, we need to be open with our discussions, our findings, and our evaluations. This makes progress faster. In an article I wrote last year about sharing science through stories, I explain what Open Science means to me personally, as a researcher and a writer: 

I spoke with other "seasoned" bloggers some time ago, discussing our individual purposes in blogging. I was told by some that I was crazy for unveiling my original ideas in a blog post, rather than saving them for an academic publication. I asked why this wasn't more common; his answer—fear of being scooped.
I see this in a different light. When I unleash my little nuggets of golden insights and fresh perspectives in my blog, is there a chance someone is going to come along, take my ideas, and publish a paper or design a study around them? Sure. In fact, in the year and a half I've been blogging, it has happened already. But I really don't care about that. So I get scooped. I want to get scooped. It tells me I'm on to something good.When someone takes my idea and publishes it, great! Then I can take that idea to the next level, and so on. Progress is made in the evolution of that idea. And that is the main point here. I'm in this game to spread ideas, not rack up publications, and the more people that get involved—the more progress that's made. 
Why hoard your ideas, locked away in a notebook, waiting for peer review, when you have an audience right here, waiting to hear what you have to say? When I make a new discovery or have an insight that helps to answer a problem that has not been answered before, I want to write about it. I don't want to wait months or years for peer review—I want to do it now, while I'm still wicked excited about it. Again, it comes down to why you are in this game in the first place. Not just as a writer, but as a scientist. I'm not doing this for prestige or awards, I'm in it for the pleasure of finding things out (as Feynman would say)—even more importantly, I'm in it for the joy of sharing those stories with the world. 

So that is my main personal motivation for supporting Open Science, but there are oodles of reasons why this is a good thing. For example...

Gamers as Citizen Scientists FTW! 

Remember hearing the story last week about the gamers that were able to solve the molecular puzzle of an AIDS-like protein structure, using a collaborative online game called "Fold It"? Gamers! Citizen science, people! This is what Open Science is all about. Don't limit access to scientific tools to just scientists—there are plenty of motivated, smart, and clever people who are able to make real contributions to science out there in the world, that aren't technically scientists. Why not let them help? Let's not hoard science. Science is for EVERYONE. 

The truth and beauty of science

Another reason to support Open Science: The pursuit of science for its truth and beauty, rather than the dollar value placed upon it. Do I think scientists need to be compensated for their efforts? Absolutely. But the market shouldn't be determining the direction of research or which results are reported, just to keep the money flowing. Things start to get real icky real fast. Not to mention, creativity suffers when all we are thinking about is where the next dollar is going to come from. In no way does this promote the type of environment to allow for the best creative scientific discovery.

In an article I wrote on this last year, I explained how good science can go bad:

"I am too young to remember a time when it was any different than it is now, but I know plenty of people who were working towards their degrees in the Universities before the 1980s; it was truly a different time for research. It used to be enough that a scientist had an interesting concept to study, a problem that was intriguing, a new idea that had never been explored. But maybe I have an over-romanticized view of what research should be—seeking knowledge for knowledge's sake. 

"It isn't like that any more. Now science is a business, one that has a market to feed, and those ideas which have no monetary market value are not ideas that we are encouraged to explore. Departments are funded by grants, grants which count on publications, publications that are printed in journals, which the public then purchases. This model worked for a while. But not any more. 

With the rise of the internet as a scientific tool, we are seeing this research/publishing model breaking down more and more every day. This old model didn't count on the lightning fast flow of information that is freely shared over the web, getting around the journal paywalls. Social media has become the Napster of academic articles; all it takes is a tweet, requesting a copy of an article, and it's delivered to your inbox in mere minutes. Some may say it's wrong to do this, but I say it's wrong to be restricted from using data in research just because you can't afford to buy it. Obviously the journals can't be making money this way, so why are we still pushing this model of research and publication?  
Universities still need to worry about how many publications they can crank out in one year, so that they can secure their funding for the years to come. This type of situation seems a bit icky to me, and creates an environment that lends itself to desperation and dishonesty, as scientists feel the pressure to produce—it becomes more about quantity than quality. When that becomes more commonplace, so do things like this, where post-docs are sabotaging grad student experiments, afraid of falling behind in the race to publish, afraid of losing their jobs. 

The culture of science, as it is today, needs to change. In fact, it is already changing, but the status quo is standing in the way of it flourishing. The Open Science movement is a huge step towards allowing individuals to come together for real progress. I have hope that in my lifetime, we will see a radical change in the way science is conducted, reported, and made available to the public. And I keep pushing for this every day.

So, I ask you—please help me to get to the Open Science Summit!

I appreciate any and all donations to help me in this endeavor. I know there isn't much time—only 2 weeks! But I have the most awesomesauciest followers, readers, and friends in the WORLD, and I know we can make this happen. I will be keeping everyone updated as to the progress towards my goal, as well as writing about themes related to Open Science in the days leading up to the conference. 

I want to also say thank you so much for being such a supportive group of people; I would not have the success I do today as a researcher or a writer without all of your contributions to the collective intelligence. Let's keep this collaboration going! Help send me to Mountain View! :)

*If you would like to make a donation to the Open Science Summit itself, you can go here to do that.  

P.S. I will be giving away (by random selection) any and all swag or perks I get as a conference attendee to those that contribute a donation.  You know you want some sciency swag!