August 31, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
Perhaps by now you’re aware: I’m a scientist. The meaning of that word, though, is broader than most people recognize immediately. True, I went through years of education and training, internships and research experience in laboratories across the country, working for and with some of the most well-credentialed, well-qualified and well-published scientists alive today. But that didn’t make me a scientist. I’ve been a scientist since the first time I was able to form both a question and a way of answering it – the first time my curiosity got the better of me and actually compelled me to search for a solution. That curiosity is what makes scientists, not degrees, manuscripts or expensive equipment. Chances are, you’re a bit of a scientist in your own right. It might seem corny to think that way, but consider for a moment the well-known scientists from history. What was Newton, Hooke or Mendel? What made Darwin special? Did they spend years working towards PhDs, and even more years applying for grants? Or did they merely go boldly into the vast unknown territories of their worlds? What’s to stop you from doing the same?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t as simple as “nothing”. Unfortunately, modern science has progressed down a twisted road of bureaucracy, poor communication, short-sightedness, high expense, exclusivity, privacy and secrecy. These are not principles by which science has brought us into this modern age; these hardly seem like principles to carry us into a bright future.
I think that if most people understood the genuine state of science today, they’d be revolted. The vision that most people rightfully carry about science and innovation includes creativity and boldness – boundary-pushing and outside-the-box thinking. That vision involves communicating, sharing and collaborating with others – both the benefactors of knowledge, and those who can help knowledge evolve. It’s a vision I carried for many years before discovering harsh truths about how science is done in the mainstream today. It’s a vision I still happen to carry, despite having been immersed in cruel disillusionment. A guy can dream, right?
I have a dream that one day, discoveries will be shared; that knowledge will be an orchard from which we can all enjoy the bounty of fruits; in which we can all plant seeds; in which we can all tend the grove for each other, ourselves and for our children who we can teach to do the same. Today’s project is made by, of and for people who share that dream.
Since 2010, the Open Science Summit has been a meeting place and breeding ground for an ongoing discussion of what the scientific process should strive to be. A conference of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, philosophers and students, the annual Summit has served to expand and evolve the pursuit of a better science through a better scientific infrastructure; a better scientific community. This year, the Open Science Summit hopes to return with a bigger community than ever before, and it’s asking you and I to join in the conversation.
A courageous contingent of early adopters is dragging institutional science into the 21st century. Every year, the Open Science Summit serves as a meeting place for brave innovators and visionaries, but the movement is neither the beginning nor the end of the movement. Our webseries hopes to extend and grow the Summit’s conversations by bringing them online and available for free to the public.
Presentations and interviews with attendees, presenters and leaders in science will go beyond the Summit and invite you to participate in the process – sharing your thoughts and extending the conversation.
Knowledge cannot be a commodity – priced to buy and sell – kept behind locked doors with pay-to-know access limitations. Discovery should beget discovery. Humanity has stood for millennia on the shoulders of last generation’s giants. We have only recently begun to charge rent for standing room on our shoulders today. It’s time to reconsider the bottom line; to extend our view beyond the profit margins of patents and paywalls. The conversation is worth having, and the Summit is an important (perhaps even a necessary) event to organize that conversation and those that follow it. It’s a place for minds to gather and meet and connect, inspire one another and grow. It’s a place I’m looking forward to being, and a conversation I’m looking forward to being a part of. I hope to see you there.