Paul Allen

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen makes the case for broader sharing of scientific data — an “open science” model — in a newly published opinion piece (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal, drawing from the experiences of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

Allen explains that the institute initially considered charging for access to its online database, before deciding to make the research freely available, with no registration required and a terms-of-use agreement “about 10% as long as the one governing iTunes,” as Allen puts it.

The piece is also interesting from a historical perspective, given Microsoft’s intense focus on protecting its intellectual property, and its longtime aversion to open-source software, even though that stance has since softened in many respects.

Allen writes of the Brain Institute, “Most important, we generate data for the purpose of sharing it. Since opening shop in 2003, we’ve had 23 public releases, or about three per year. We don’t wait to analyze our raw data and publish in the literature. We pour it onto the public website as soon as it passes our quality control checks. Our goal is to speed others’ discoveries as much as to springboard our own future research.”

He concludes with a call for foundations and funders of scientific research to help promote open science by asking about the researchers’ policies and practices on sharing data before writing a check.

Update: Try searching for “Paul Allen Open Science” in Google News for a free pass to read the full piece behind the Wall Street Journal firewall.

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  • Guest

    I’d like to see some wider sharing of this article as I share Dr. Allen’s views on paying for information.

  • Stevenej

    So, if he’s all open like, why did he publish this in a subscription paper, when he could have published it in PLOS or Archivx and raised the visibility of those journals?

    Or maybe he just wants the public to pay for his hobby?

    • Anonymous

      Because he’s trying to reach a certain audience, and it’s the audience that reads the Journal, not the audience that reads ArchivX.

      Also, note that WSJ Opinion stuff does not get hidden behind a pay wall; it’s always freely available.

      • Todd Bishop

        Hmm, do you have a link to a full version of the Allen piece that isn’t behind a paywall? I wasn’t able to find one going through the WSJ site.

        • Anonymous

          Typically they put it in front of the paywall after 24-48 hrs.

          I agree with the point that the WSJ audience is going to be more influential than the choir that already believes.

        • Anonymous

          I was a little off; Evidently, commentaries seem to be the one part of the Opinion Journal that aren’t free when they first come out.  

          However, it’s still easy to get through to most WSJ articles with a quick workaround: copy 10 or so consecutive words from the part of the story you do see, go to google and search for those words, and 95% of the time, at or near the top of the results will be a link to the full article, so you can click to it. (assuming you haven’t read the full article before)

  • Dawn Taht

    maybe he would like to sign a deal to cross license my information in exchange for access to his & IV’s patents

  • Ramy Nassar

    It’s definitely something that is gaining traction and momentum. Should take a look at this recently posted TED talk from TEDxWaterloo with a speaker taking Open Science to practice and advocating for wider adoption.,Ramy

  • Vladimir Vukicevic

    Open Science is already emerging as a mainstream concept within the actual scientific communities from around the world – i.e. on the ground level, where it matters most.

    Just take a look at the #SciFund challenge on RocketHub – where 50 scientists have raised over $60,000 from over 1,000 separate individuals for various scientific projects:

    With coverage in Forbes, Scientific American, and Nature – not only is this the first time that science is actually being funded by the people, but it’s also creating a new level of transparency and participation – i.e. Open Science.

  • Martin B.

    The Mendeley Binary Battle is another exciting contest that just announced its winners today – some really great apps in there and it’s certainly not going to stop just there!

  • Lucian Armasu

    Isn’t he the same guy who started a lawsuit against Google, Apple, Microsoft and other companies over patents from 40 years ago?

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