Open science and the economic collapse

My colleague is interested in designing a better PCR machine and is collecting all the hardware information he can get. Today, after I’ve forwarded him a link to OpenPCR, a project aiming at constructing open source PCR hardware that anyone can build, he asked me what’s the point of making biotech equipment by yourself in an academic environment. My answer was that with empty pockets academics will have no choice, but turning to DIY hardware. And this is going to be one of many other changes that scientists are going to face within next 18-24 months.

If you still believe that recession is ending, look at the recent newsletter from Investors Insight. Author comes to a similar conclusion like other analysts I’ve read over the last year: no bailout is going to save several countries from economic collapse. How will it look like, it’s still an open question (rapid collapse or death by a thousand cuts), but I assume that science funding is about to be severely limited (friends in the US are already reporting quite difficult situation in academia). And probably the only way to move the research forward at the large scale will be making it open and distributed. Citizen science, open access, DIY biotech, open source, outsourcing and crowdsourcing, rapid development, etc – these are the songs of (inevitable for some places) a future of science. Probably at a smaller scale, at a level of an individual scientist, radical openness might not work in each case. However I would expect that some level of opening the research process is going to happen in almost all fields, because the spectrum of open solutions is big enough to accomodate different requirements/needs/expectations¬† (for example, a citizen science project in which the final outcome is still a subject for patenting).

Open and distributed means less expensive. If the science funders assume it’s true (and I’d assume we’ve enough evidence to postulate at least correlation), we’re going to see some interesting things happening. Plus couple of familiar names at managing positions of science-related public institutions ;).