[open-science] A new collaborative editor for open science

Heather Morrison Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca
Sat Feb 11 21:17:39 UTC 2017

Open source software is an analogy that may work for some types of knowledge (especially computer software), but not all types of knowledge.

New knowledge builds on previous knowledge. This has always been the case, and still is the case even with All Rights Reserved copyright. Open licensing is not necessary and does not accomplish as much as making works free to read does.

Open licensing is not appropriate for all kinds of knowledge. Personal stories, interviews and images are part of knowledge creation in many areas of scholarship. It may not be possible to gather such information under conditions requiring open license publishing. It is not unusual for researchers to have to work hard to gain the trust of research subjects, including addressing questions about how their information will be used. Here, a rigid approach to open leads to closure.

This is just one example, to avoid an overly long message. My key point is that software is software is software but research data is measurements of the physical world, a sensitive interview with a victim of genocide or torture, a work of art that invokes author moral rights that are really important to the author, data that belongs to third party organizations that can only be used and released by researchers under the third party's terms and conditions, and many more types of information important to building knowledge. One size does not fit all.


Heather Morrison

On the topic of Authorea: I assume that anything in Github (or Gitlab) is for computer programmers. I am not a programmer, therefore I am not going to Github to check it out. I mention this only in case the creators of Authorea are interested in attracting the attention of people like me. I know that not everything in Github is for programmers but that does not matter.

-------- Original message --------
From: Alexandre Hannud Abdo <abdo at member.fsf.org>
Date: 2017-02-11 2:29 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: open-science <open-science at lists.okfn.org>
Subject: Re: [open-science] A new collaborative editor for open science


Hi Heather, I often question myself on those terms. But then I recall that it's actually the opposite.

Being strict on the interfaces that let our work scale - that ultimately empowers even someone completely disconnected from working together - is actually the main thing that prevents our energy from being diverted in ways that promote no change. Those interfaces are the licenses, standards and participatory culture that define open.

What I recall is how all of FOSS thrived because of this strictness. By remaining strict even as Microsoft took over the world in the 80's, we came to see real change and, community wise, we even came to see "the impossible" which has been the 'open source' and the 'free software' folks to a large extent coming back together. All fo this thanks to remaining strict on those interfaces. It is not by accident that the GPL was called the constitution of FLOSS.

Would anyone say that devoting respect to a constitution is like following religious dogma?

The story is similar with Wikimedia, it's growth and influence over several institutions depends solidly on the rigour of these interfaces.


A different question, which I believe is what you're reasoning upon, is how this applies to the current US administration. And, going back to the overall discussion, to companies like Authorea.

On the USA's troll president, I can only say that if your vote counts or you live in that country, you should be putting medium-term goals into perspective, 'open science' being only one of those, and take to the streets to fight against fascism in the short term. That's an easy call, as you did put it. It doesn't change, however, the priorities and core values of the open science movement, which in the long run should enable a scientific environment where people like those who voted for the troll also feel included, and don't turn their backs on science so easily (thought I don't think it was that easily... but let's not divert).

Now, about Authorea, I believe the Github comparison is great, since that's a service that I avoid using for my research. Because Github is closed source, people will eventually find themselves stuck under proprietary lock-in, specially as webIDEs become more popular and as research code stops being an amateur endeavor. Meanwhile, we can and should promote more open alternatives like Gitlab, which is sufficiently open-source that if ever there is a problem we can fork on them. Believing the goals of these corporations won't conflict with the goals of science is ignoring the history of Open Access. I would hope we learn from our mistakes, not repeat them. So if Authorea is not open, let's call it not open. And if we find it useful, let's call it useful and not open - there is no contradiction in that. And then, even as some use it because of its usefulness, let's develop and prioritize open alternatives to it.


On Sat, Feb 11, 2017 at 7:07 AM, Richard Smith-Unna <rds45 at cam.ac.uk<mailto:rds45 at cam.ac.uk>> wrote:

To my mind Authorea is a tool for open science, whilst not necessarily being open itself. In the same way that github is a tool for open source. Authorea allows authors to collaborate openly and publish the resulting work openly. The must be a place for such services in a healthy open ecosystem.


On Fri, 10 Feb 2017, 23:25 Puneet Kishor, <punk.kish at gmail.com<mailto:punk.kish at gmail.com>> wrote:

> On Feb 10, 2017, at 8:51 PM, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk<mailto:pm286 at cam.ac.uk>> wrote:
> Authorea may be a useful collaborative tool and some of its practitioners may post OD-compliant material but this by itself does not guarantee Open Science by the Open Definitions.

Indeed, very true.

Nevertheless, Authorea may be a useful collaborative tool for some practitioners of open science. I hope Authorea folks are successful and make money so they not just survive but become better and continue to make it easy for such practitioners to practice open science.

Puneet Kishor
Just Another Creative Commoner
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