How open should open research be?

As I strive to be a “digital scholar,” I’m committing myself to making my research as open as possible, sharing my bibliographies and publications online, posting notes on this blog, and offering more polished (but still kinda rough) thoughts about larger issues in my Digital Scholarship in the Humanities blog. By being open, I can try out ideas, get feedback, and, I hope, serve the research community by stimulating discussion and pointing to relevant resources. But when I start exploring an idea, my research notes are often sloppy, cryptic, and all-too-revealing of my ignorance. Does anyone really want to see this stuff–the notes on books I’m reading, my fledgling attempts at an essay–or should I just release the work that turned out well or that is relevant to a broader community? Do I risk making myself look like a fool by dumping half-baked ideas into the blogosphere and beyond? This very visibility and accountability, though, may push me to produce higher quality notes; I’ll be more likely to flesh out ideas and less likely to ignore spelling errors as I produce notes and drafts that will go online. Alternatively, I may decide to post some of my notes after I’ve had a chance to work through them–not the super-buggy draft 1 (alpha?), but the more polished, ready-for-other eyes version (beta?). I may be particularly afflicted by fear-of-looking-stupid syndrome, but I suspect that this anxiety keeps many researchers from releasing their work into the public prematurely–and such caution may be wise, given how one’s credibility can be damaged by reporting false or incomplete results (probably more of an issue in the sciences than the humanities). Maybe there’s a common understanding that materials marked “DRAFT” or blog postings are still in-process. Already my thinking has been refined through comments that folks have made on my blog postings, so I’m all for open scholarship–I’m just figuring out how open is open.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jean-Claude Bradley
    May 25, 2008 @ 14:23:57

    To answer the title of your post I think your research should be as open as you want it to be. Just like in a conversation with a colleague you must couch your statements with appropriate qualifiers. If something is a speculation state that. If you are more confident about other statements then try to back your claims with links to data. Most people will get that.

    Ultimately, I think the best reason for being open is very selfish: you get to connect with people who share your thought-space.


  2. lms4w
    May 25, 2008 @ 19:30:38

    @Jean-Claude: Thanks, Jean-Claude. Stating degree of certainty makes a lot of sense, and blogging does seem to be a very conversational medium. I view your work on Open Notebook Science as an inspiration for what I’m trying to do in the humanities.


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