I just published a video of A. Garrett Lisi from SciFoo 2008 with a short article. Lisi is an interesting guy, and while I’m a bit tounge-in-cheek about his personal story, I do find his extra-curricular activities interesting. In that article, I’m really just trying to say that we’re interested in the intersection of science and technology rather than dedicating a few obligatory paragraphs to the science itself. You can get that elsewhere. I’m not averse to explaining science over at O’Reilly, but do I think our primary mission is to focus on technology. I’m just not keen on adding yet another incomplete description of Lisi’s E8 theory to the mix.
I do think it is interesting to look at Open Source Science, Open Source Politics, Open Source XYZ as being influenced by Open Source Software as the first instance of open source culture. It is easy to just ride into the discussion of Open Source Science waving banners of freedom and transparency above all other concerns, but then you start having conversations with practicing scientists and you realize that they are navigating a minefield of competing constraints. For a scientist working in an institution that has perfected the practice of getting grants, what is the incentive to open up research? The analogy is Microsoft in 1995: they had little incentive to move toward a more open source model.
I’m convinced that Science will benefit from a more open, more accessible, more transparent approach than the current system of academic institutions and governments. I’m not convinced that the revolution is going to happen within the confines of the Academy. I think we’re going to see more Lisi’s on the horizon, and we’re going to see more collaboration on a neutral, open platform. On the other hand, I don’t ever see anything like ad-hoc open source collaboration building the Very Large Hadron Supercollider (the next collider in IL). The challenge for open-source Science is how to balance the ideas of transparency and openness with the need to support “Big Science”.
I think Google provides and interesting model in that they have built massive infrastructure founded upon an open source “ethic”. I’m not comparing Google’s infrastructure to a 17km ring in Geneva, but I do think that they’ve provided a good analogy. Who will be the Google for Science? Google?