Many things have happened in the last few weeks that, to me, all seem to circle around this word. Two events stood out because, in a way, they seemed to be exact opposites.
There is Wikileaks of course, and the controversy surrounding it.
And there’s Nature Network and the background discussions on facebook I’ve been involved in (Richard mentioned this before).
Wikileaks is ruthlessly open in its aim to “publish material of ethical, political and historical significance […], thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices” [sic].
At the same time, NN – in a rather surprising move – chose to lock down the blogs of the first group of people who, after demanding more information on the plans NPG has with its blogging platform and who were openly (and persistently) critical of the network and its policies and who, finally, decided to open an independent network here on OT. I don’t want to repeat what others have said about this already (and more eloquently), but it did strike me as a little strange when, a few days later, Nature announced the opening of its workbench for “the community to develop customized applications (“widgets”) to search, discover and share scientific information” and assured everyone in what high regard they hold bloggers. It seems a little strange not to share information with those concerned while, at the same time, asking people to provide content and input.
Oh well – I guess every big organization or company chooses how open or not it is going to be. Being very open can have all kinds of consequences, sometimes also of the unwanted variety… Anyway.
Deciding on the right degree of openness can be tricky. In our personal lives, it intuitively makes sense that some information is just not to be shared, and that we should and cannot always be ruthlessly open. I will leave examples up to everyone’s imagination and will only say that there are things I don’t tell my husband, and I am sure there are things he doesn’t tell me (I am still convinced that he *must* agree my butt looks too big in those jeans).
I work for the European XFEL, an international research facility under construction in Hamburg, Germany – as you might imagine this involves a lot of committee meetings, careful negotiations with present and future partners, and laborious development of policies that everyone can agree to… all of which has to happen in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust. This is of course not unusual: for example, the German public corporate governance codex (which is applied for companies the German federal government holds shares in) mandates in paragraph 3.5 that discussions during meetings of the “supervisory body” of such companies must be held confidential to ensure that deliberations are open. Is that contradictory? No, it’s not, it makes a lot of sense: in certain situations, truly open discussions – which are necessary to come to common conclusions and decide on the next steps – can only happen in a “protected” atmosphere.
Now, concerning this shiny new blog (thanks Richard!) – if NN locks my best friends out of their blogs, I’m not hanging around there either. I’m just slower on the uptake. I decided to stick with the old title, at least until I can think of something better. “Science behind the Scenes” is not about the spilling of beans of any kind, as the title might imply – it was and is about people in science and those behind it… (and some other stuff). This new blog is my early Christmas present, which I have just opened.
So, welcome to my new home! And please bear with me while I work on getting comfy here, which includes getting around to adding all those shiny plugins and whatnots.