We’re running a series of guest posts from the judges of the 2013 Chemistry World science communication competition. Here, Chemistry World editor Bibiana Campos-Seijo adds her thoughts on ‘openness in science’.

 

I’ve very much enjoyed reading the posts by my fellow judges. All interpret the theme of the competition in very different ways but one of the threads I picked up is that most focus how openness affects the relationship between the scientist and others – eg between the scientists and the publishers of information – with Philip Ball calling for a preprint server for chemical papers to encourage debate, engagement and the swift dissemination of information – or between scientists and the media with Adam Hart-Davis drawing on his own experience.  

I input ‘openness in science’ into a Google search (most people would never admit to doing this but it helps me focus, refine and polish my thoughts and ideas when I can’t find a way to articulate them appropriately and/or swiftly) and that same thread continues with small variations.

One of the top results is a study launched in 2011 by the Royal Society titled ‘Science as a public enterprise: opening up scientific information’. Its focus was to determine how the sharing of scientific information should best be managed to improve the quality of research and build public trust. The report concerns openness in relation to the interaction between the scientist and others, in this case the public.

Another result that caught my eye was a document titled ‘The value of openness in scientific problem solving’. The focus in this case was information sharing between different scientists and the role that collaborations have in the scientific process. The theme once more is openness in relation to the interactions among scientists.

What strikes me is that there is very little mention of openness in relation to the individual. For me, openness is all about the person and is an attitude that is at the core of what makes a scientist. How s/he then chooses to interact or share with others is somewhat secondary and in many cases is done via pre-existing routes (eg publishing, scientific conferences, etc). Openness and an open mind are vital to understand the scientific process and the challenges it brings, to foster innovation and to embrace and implement new discoveries and technology as they come along. Of course, it is also about being open to discussion and challenges by others but openness at the level of the individual is, in my view, vital to the definition of a scientist.

Obviously there is no right or wrong answer and openness is all of the above. However you choose to interpret it, we are looking forward to receiving your entry and are very excited to be supporting this competition once again.

 

Bibiana Campos Seijo is the editor of Chemistry World and magazines publisher for the Royal Society of Chemistry. After completing a PhD in chemistry, she ran her own e-learning business before moving into publishing first as a technical editor for the European Respiratory Society and then managing a portfolio of pharmaceutical titles at Advanstar Communications. In 2009, she moved to the Royal Society of Chemistry to lead the Magazines team.

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