Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Breaking Through the 4th Wall: OPEN SCIENCE's Promise of a New Scientific & Spiritual Kingdom

In case you didn't see this coming... well its not like I haven't been dropping hints all along... that I have always had in my back pocket some rather challenging and interesting ideas on how this whole beast of scientific process/communication can be improved, augmented, streamlined, and made more inclusive. That these thought will now be made manifest is here. So hey, if you thought this blog was all about making dromaeosaurids nasty again, plesiosaur machinations, bottom punting hippo Spinosaurus, night stalking T. rex, or droopy lipped sabertooths - well I played you a bit there, as I never really gave away my full hand. Not only will I outline how such an OPEN SCIENCE system can operate I will boldly proclaim that such a system will greatly augment and inform a robust citizenry of science, reclaim sciences status in the world, and usher in a new era of spiritually strong scientifically minded peoples.

I have given the issue much thought, not as yet succinctly expressed. While at once I saw my lack of a peer reviewed publication record as a weakness, I now see it as a badge of honor.  

Some online voices have tried to construe a bit of a false narrative that it is Duane Nash vs. the establishment when in actuality quite a few people in what may be deemed "the establishment" are quite amenable to my ideas and do express to me, mainly in private, that they see the logic and merit in many of my ideas. So personally I don't quite buy the idea that it is this "Duane Nash vs. the establishment" trope as some have tried to convey, although I can't deny some truth to it (wink, wink). However I do recognize that some researchers might feel some consternation that they can not properly cite or comment upon my ideas as they are not "in the literature"and in doing so they might unwittingly open the floodgates for all sorts of online self publishers feeling the need to be "cited". That opinion is due to a culturally enmeshed and unnatural byproduct of the system we are in engaged in, where it is the peer reviewed scientific paper that is the only word that seemingly counts in the minds of most. But this is a cultural notion - it is not a law of nature - and like all cultural notions it is prone to be re-imagined, made over, and transmutated in new and exciting ways. So no, it is not really about Duane Nash vs. the establishment it is about Duane Nash vs. the system. It is the system that is the problem. And it is the system that needs fixing.

It's high time that the modern peer review format goes through such a deconstruction and reconfiguration. Not, as some may wrongly be assuming, by abolishing the peer review process but by dramatically ameliorating the process of peer review in an exponential way. At the same time dropping the curtain on scientific process and controversy, making both creators and reviewers accountable to their words. Creators will face more levels of scrutiny and question but they will also benefit from exponentially more collaboration and insight. Creators will no longer be held at the mercy of their reviewers as reviewers will no longer be anonymous and their critiques will be displayed to all. The inherent collaborative and synergistic methods of a truly free and liberal OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift will dramatically and irrevocably speed up the process of science. Science operating at maximum RPM. Contrary to what many may fear I advocate, as sort of free for all of self publishing anarchy I actually hope to curtail that pitfall. By allowing any and all to submit their idea or work in whatever format or state of finality they choose all are given a shot and subject to online review. Therefore charges of "ivory tower" orthodoxy, academic bias, and in-group out group shenanigans get cut off right at the root. The lone wolf outsider, forever reeling at the unfair treatment they suffer from "the establishment" will be a thing of the past. In short the future of scientific communication as I envisage it will combine the best elements of the peer review process and the social media, group sourced, immediacy of "blogging" format while eschewing the problematic elements inherent in both practices.

Some bold claims Mr. Nash how can this be achieved? The process as I will lay out is disarmingly simple and intuitive. The paleontological community, both online and off, already has all of the tools at hand ready to implement such a system. As such the paleontological community can serve as a bit of a test run or trial run for how such a system can be utilized in other sciences. It is a bold and exciting new frontier as I will lay out and one paleontology is optimally positioned to be in the vanguard of. As you will see too I am not solely creating or imagining this revolution… it is already happening with or without me and is happening with or without your permission. I'm just a messenger.

Before giving a rundown on how I think the peer review system/science communication needs to be revamped I will be running down some of the major flaws and grievances of the current system. As I do this I challenge you, the reader, to start formulating ideas and hypotheses on how such a system can play out. I also invite you to start entertaining potential problems and pitfalls of such a system and if I offer reasonable guards against such situations. This is, in effect, an experiment being run simultaneous to the reading and I do it to illustrate the manifest benefits of a truly OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift.

Breaking Through the 4th Wall of Science Engagement

4th Wall: That semi-porous membrane that stands between actors and the audience.

Let me explain this analogy. We have to imagine the scientist presenting his/her findings, ideas, or better yet their "creation" analogous to the actor or performer in a live audience setting giving their presentation or work - their "creation" to an audience. We imagine a sort of 4th wall that separates the actor on the stage from the audience, likewise in the presentation of scientific material there is another 4th wall separating the creator "the scientist" from the viewer or in paleontology the, often times, informed enthusiast. Does this mean that the informed enthusiast is not on the same level? Usually they are not. But not always. As I get to the how part of this process I will explain how the two can be teased apart for the benefit of all. And how valid criticisms or observations can and should be documented, heralded, and archived in the process at all levels, yes, even if it is from a non-professional towards a professional.

These binary divisions are becoming more and more cumbersome and transparently ill-informed. Many of the greatest paradigm shifters in paleontology came up with the bulk of their life's work as undergraduates and several prominent names (Jack Horner & Gregory S. Paul) never graduated with advanced degrees in paleontology. Robert Bakker was formulating the basis of his ideas as an undergraduate. Contrary to a prevailing notion that your thought or opinion only can be viewed with credibility upon receiving that PhD pigskin participants in such programs readily concede that yes, their education was important, but it is not the be all and all of what makes a good scientist or thinker. There is a reason that we have the acronym "P.iled H.igher & D.eeper" and most graduates will begrudgingly or willingly concede some truth to this notion. So no, there is not some arcane wisdom or benefit conferred simply upon receiving a PhD, that now - and only now - your voice matters and carries more weight than it did before graduation. Such graduates are in many cases useful scientists, yet in others such a title merely amounts to union membership.

As always it is the merit of one's work or ideas - whether advanced graduate or no - that is what matters the most. Not how extensive your C.V. is or the "impact factor" of the publication you are published in.

All this being said - you still need to learn and become educated in the basics of paleontology - anatomy, geology (especially sed & strat), chemistry, biology, ecological theory - among others. And yes, even though I don't highlight my own education I have a minors in geology, major in physical anthropology, taken classes in anatomy, ecology, biology, science illustration, chemistry, anatomy and all the basics. My main teacher has, and continues to be, my curiosity.

The Scientist as Creator, as Artist, as Owner of their Work

There has been a revolution in the creative arts, one that has firmly placed creative control back in the hands of the creator. And wrested it from those that seek to profit, exploit, and manipulate artistic works. Probably the most apt analogy is the revolution that we have seen among independent musicians and how the internet has allowed them to carve out a niche of complete artistic control, autonomy, and outreach to fans. What the internet had done is broken the monopoly of the "recording industry" that prior to the internet was the intervening party that artists needed to record their art and have it marketed to an audience. The internet has broke up this domination and now artists can market, engage, and create independently from a record company. This also allows the artist complete ownership and control of their work. While the break up of the gigantic recording industry has meant a loss in giant revenue streams as fans can and do download off the internet, use listening apps, or simply buy individual songs - such a new paradigm has allowed unfettered artistic freedom, outreach, interaction, and ownership for the artist.

Science and scientists need to take a page from artists.

And this means, in no uncertain terms, a complete disruption, cancellation, and termination of a relationship that is cumbersome, slow, parasitic, inefficient, egotistical, and arcane. That relationship is the one between the scientific peer reviewed publishing houses and the creator - the artist - whom actually makes the hypothesis, tests it, and does the real work of science. That abusive relationship needs to end…. yesterday.

While the internet has parked revolutionary changes in just about every facet of modern life the revolution promised in science has only been piecemeal. This has more to do with a culture of science, a staunchly conservative culture handed down to us and not necessarily congruent with the mindset, aspirations, and ideals of the vast majority of modern practitioners of science.

Sins of Our Father. Abuses & Iniquities of the Peer Review Process

Sins of our Father. Biblical reference; sins and iniquities passing from one generation to another.

One of biggest sins of the modern peer reviewed publication process is that it so obviously not fun. I don't know when it became this way or when the exact transition occurred but we have now landed in a place where science as it is communicated today is the antithesis of the creatively rife and anarchic pursuit of knowledge that it actually is. It became boring. This is the ultimate sin that science communication has suffered at exactly the same point in our history where we need to be engaging more and more people to think in a scientific manner. If science is in competition with an IKEA furniture assembly manual for the most boring piece of human literature ever contrived science deserves to lose the battle for the human spirit. And science will lose this war if we continue down this path.

It was not always this way, nor does it have to be mandated that science communication must be so devoid of the human touch: that it is clinical, non-stimulatory, and devoid of any and all touch of humanity or spirit that reading it is akin to an instructional manual. If you go back and read the scientific texts of many of the great natural history writers of the 19th century they were rife with anecdote, wit, and a human element. Why did we stop? Are we really under the illusion that by scrapping any and all notions that an actual human is behind these papers that they are themselves devoid of biases, shortcomings, and imperfections… you know like we all are? That by scrubbing the scientific literature of any notion that, you know, an actual human is behind this thing and not some machine? What is more dangerous: the danger that you know or the danger that you don't? By dressing up scientific discourse in a neat and tidy little pant suit we are giving the false pretense that what is in said paper is true and better than what might be said in a sloppy blog post. I beg to differ. If a sloppy blog post is your average street hood a scientific paper is your white collar criminal. Both have faults but one gets away with more due to its glossy and neat appearance. Show me the warts and all.  Show the process. Deconstruct the whole system and rebuild a better one.

That these sins of our fathers - the patently obvious flaws within the modern peer review system - have been heralded and noted is evident. Who has been most vocal about the flaws within the system? Well the very practitioners of the system themselves we are talking about: publishing academics  i.e. "teh workers" "the authors".  I've followed enough academics in both social media and elsewhere to garner a pretty thorough list of the grievances:

Pay to Play: Any self respecting DIY punk rawker should gawk at the sheer lunacy of this system. Again, scientists should take a page from independent artists when thinking about their work, how it is distributed, and who benefits (financially) from it. You often have to actually pay money to submit your paper for publication. Yes, there are ways around this, but the point stands: pay to play sucks. Pay to play as I use the term here refers to struggling new bands literally shelling out money to get a slot on larger tours. Sharon Osbourne was notorious for doing this to small bands on Ozzfest. More reason to hate Sharon and peer reviewed publications.

Obviously the system I will layout would eschew any sort of pay to play shenanigans.

Paper Owns the Right to Your Work: Now I might be misinterpreting this a bit but I think in broad strokes I am right. After you do the work, synthesize the results, submit and pay for process and publication it is the paper, not you the artist, which owns the result. HOGWASH!! Again, any self respecting punk rawker would gawk at this system! Scientists - who are actually creative artists - need to take a page from independent artists. Again the analogy to the parasitic recording industry who seize control and rights of music - that they did not make - and hold bands/artists hostage with parasitic and ridiculous contracts and sleazy deals is apt. Scientists need to get their liberty spikes up in anger and defiance about the egregious system that they have been beholden to for far too long. Other creative ventures have left the scientific community in the dust in terms of owning, empowering, and controlling their creative product!! Wake up scientists all the tools are already at hand!!

Again, in the system I will present the creator has complete control and rights to their creation - their work. By now you should be starting to piece together what I will be presenting as the new paradigm of scientific discourse and you should be coming up with some potential criticisms of what I will present. That is good and how it should be… but don't be too shocked that I have anticipated and dealt with many of these problems as you will see…

"Peer Review" Really?: I'm not going to mince any words here and I'm going to hone in on some very harsh and difficult truths we should all look at… unflinchingly. I suspect that the reason a lot in the  academic world look down in disdain at bloggers, self publishers, those that come in the back door so to speak is that we show open defiance and disdain for a system that they themselves don't like or enjoy. It is less about "does this blog make a good point?" and more about "if I have to suffer through inane formatting technicalities, grueling and idiotic reviewers and all this other soul-killing bulgerdash why should I give a blogger who doesn't go through any of this - admittedly - inane bullcrap the time of day?" I don't even need to conjecture here, Jingmai O'Connor, a lightning rod in the blogger vs. published paper debate, says so much herself:

"Aren't we all forced into this stupid world of publication rates and H-indices and what not?"

Yes it is a stupid world but no, Jingmai, we are not forced into it. Most just willingly succumb to the system because they can't imagine a better one. More on Jingmai to come and you might be surprised I agree with her fundamentally on one important, probably the most important, principal that I will delve into later.

Now I'm not saying that there are not good reviewers out there or that they don't for the most part help and assist to make a better product. To take the analogy to the music industry further a good reviewer can be like a good producer, they bring out the best in the artist and cut and trim away the problematic parts.

But let's get real about some, just plain stupid, aspects of the peer review process:

Peer review, in today's parlance, amounts to a sort of blessing. That what is said in a paper is true, good, and can be trusted. However when we deconstruct what peer review actually encompasses, how indefinable it really is, and really hone in on the problems inherent in the system that blessing, becomes more of a curse.

Reviewers are anonymous, unpaid, and often times limited to just two?!? I suspect a lot of younger paleo-grommet enthusiasts have this fantastical idea that peer review is this very involved all encompassing type of thing with a literal army of leading workers looking over every last detail and scruple. Not the case. Again often just two of them. And since they are anonymous if they make a mistake or overlook something guess what type of repercussion do they get? Nothing?!? That's some bullshit if I ever heard of it.

In the system I will present work is presented in it's raw form for all in they system to look over, analyze, and critique. The review process is therefore group sourced and made transparent for all to see. No more anonymity. Not just two reviewers but in fact dozens if not hundreds. Again, you the reader, should already be piecing together what I will be suggesting as an improved model for science communication, putting together the pieces and formulating critiques. This is science in process. This is OPEN SCIENCE. The creators can take and synthesize criticisms and update/augment/change their work in real time. Imagine that, people see science working!!

And finally did you know that people submitting papers for review can deliberately request that specific parties don't act as reviewers?!?! Conflict of interest anybody? Can it be laid any more bare?

Some may have been working under the premise that bloggers, self publishers, i.e. people coming through the back door are seeking to circumnavigate the peer review system. In my case at least, you couldn't be further from the truth. I am hoping to exponentially increase the net of review. But doing it in such a way that unscrupulous reviewers will be exposed as they can't hide behind a cloak of anonymity and that the scientific creator has tools to not be "at the mercy" of reviewers.

And finally, and most damningly, no one can actually define or quantify what are the responsibilities, tasks, and essentially the rubric for what it means to be a reviewer? It seems every reviewer has their own method and criteria for what they want to check and how in depth they want to go. Given that reviewers are anonymous and not paid who often do you think professors outsource their review jobs to their grad students. Probably a lot. There is a reason for the term "shit rolls down hill."

Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals

Peer review: Troubled from the start

Again, and this should be a consistent pattern by now, most of the critiques of the system come from those working within the system. Peer review is probably the best example of this, unfortunately most within the system capitulate to something along the notion of, "It has problems, but it is the best method we have". In this post I challenge that and after reading it I challenge any and all comers to honestly and transparently maintain that it really is the best system available. OPEN SCIENCE smashes the current system to smithereens. It not only answers every question all the time, it answers questions we didn't even know we had!!

Paywall… Really Why Are We Still Having this Conversation?!?: Unlike the free-balling informed speculative hypothesizing I deal in, in order to go out and test hypotheses vigorously it takes a lot of money. You have to travel; see specimens; understand and get access to complex machinery/computer programs etc. etc. It's real work and man hours. Where does this money usually come from? Grants. Where do grants come from? Publicly funded i.e. you and I pay for the research. Which by extension means that since we pay for the research, we should see the research FOR FREE. But guess who hijacks this completely logical sequence of transactions. Those pesky Pay to Play; meagerly reviewed; and unscrupulous scientific journals who often charge up to 40 US$ to get access to one article!?! BOLLOCKS!!

Those jive turkeys at publishing houses will come up with reason X, Y & Z for why they do what they do. Their time is coming to pass. OPEN ACCESS publications are a step in the rich direction but even that modification to a paradigm will quickly become obsolete  under the vastly improved potentialities of OPEN SCIENCE.

Again, I don't want to explicitly define this system just yet - what OPEN SCIENCE means when taken to its logical conclusion - but I do want this idea of what a truly liberal, open, transparent, and inclusive scientific process could mean and how it could be enacted. Just let those two words, open science,  kind of bounce and dance around in your head without judgment, scorn, or ridicule. And just know that as you are reading this the true merits and benefits of OPEN SCIENCE are playing out right now between you, me, and others with or without your permission or acknowledgement.

Blogging Vs. Publishing: Jingmai O'Connor Saga Revisited

"Those who can, publish. Those who can't, blog." Jingmai O'Connor

An unavoidable touchstone that crystalized the blog vs published debate is the saga of Jingmai O' Connor. Brief recap: Mickey Mortimer of theropod database wrote some pieces calling into question some of Jingmai O' Connors conclusions on some stem bird taxonomy. Jingmai really didn't like this post publication peer review (PPPR), and wrote some nasty stuff on FB directed to Mickey. Jingmai deleted her FB response to Mickey but by the power of screen shot those words still live on. Its not my intention to reopen old wounds for some of the people involved but it is necessary back story for the several screeds against blogging that Jingmai subsequently put forth. Probably the most succinct distillation of Jingmai's thoughts are this interview here: If you have valid criticisms, publish them! An interview you should read (as well as the comments) for a refresher or if you are new to the whole incident several quotes of which I will be pulling from.

It was an event that never really came to a consensus or conclusion it just kinda happened and things went back to normal. What normal means basically is that published works and authors just kept on doing what they are doing paying little to no attention to blogging. More or less status quo. No need to cite, reference, or pay heed to blogs.

I firmly believe that Jingmai is a very useful and necessary player in all of this. She said, in no uncertain terms, what I think the vast majority of academics really feel. I applaud her for that, she pulled back the curtain. But that doesn't mean I am not going to take her to task for the things she stipulated about blogging/social media/"amateur hour" and ultimately provide an answer to every problem she details in this interview as well as lay out a rather simple alternative system to the peer review system of which she states:

"But you can't destroy the whole system (unless you have a better one to put in its place) because of a few flaws…. Although the scientific system of peer review is flawed, it is a better system than a free for all of ideas/comments/critiques from netizens of varying education backgrounds."

The destruction of the system will commence and yes, there is a better one.

One of the better points that Jingmai makes, and one I second, is that social media and online "anonymity" have a downside. Everyone has a voice now and they are not afraid to use it, regardless of their educational background or the veracity of their word. What can and does happen online is a sort of  tyranny of the masses, where what we want or expect to be true is often times incongruent with what actually is true. From there a sort of group-think and cognitive dissonance can easily embolden large groups to create us vs. them divisions. The online paleo-community is especially vulnerable to this in my estimation.

How would I suggest that this inherent problem - a savage democracy of science - be dealt with in a system that I am advocating to replace the peer reviewed publication system? Easy. You are not allowed to be anonymous when working within OPEN SCIENCE. What you say and write and put down there follows you… you want to be a 12 year old Jr. paleontologist fine… but say enough dumb shit and your reputation will start to sink faster than the titanic. Words matter in the system I am suggesting. Your words follow you there in OPEN SCIENCE, so probably better for most juniors to just watch, learn, and listen and if you are going to say something best to mind your P's and Q's.

Open Science: Dawning of a New and Exciting Paradigm in Scientific Advancement and Communication

OPEN SCIENCE is already here. The foundation is already laid. All that is needed is the will.

OPEN SCIENCE framework.

OPEN SCIENCE would necessitate a central hub, a gathering ground, where anyone can join and become part of the process. You have an account under your real name. Care to venture forth a critique Go for it. Put forth your own hypothesis. Go for it. Such a hub - it would sort of resemble a large forum or something like Reddit - with various subs and specializations would allow delocalized collaboration of science. One party might offer a novel hypothesis. Another party might have the means to test that novel hypothesis. Additionally you might have several parties all simultaneously testing a hypothesis. All the while these parties are showcasing and uploading their work in real time. People can see and read this work in real time and offer real time critiques that can further augment the process. Conclusion derived from the test can be further independently sourced. Maybe a third party that did not do the test or come up with the hypothesis notices something or a line of inquiry that the testers missed… or they noticed a pattern that was missed.

Another source of irritation that I see is when people have relevant work that is not cited or discussed that can be fixed as well in this system because they can see the process happening real time, upload your work, and join in!! Hey check this out, this is relevant!!

Such a hub as I am envisaging it is not really an impossible scenario in fact I would venture that it is happening right now in a more diffuse pattern. We are already seeing large multiple author papers, I'm reminded of that 20 author paper on pterosaurs that Darren Naish talked about on his blog (Dyke, 2014) a bit ago. Pre-print publication is a growing phenomena. I would suggest that blogs, poster presentations, and other such discourses constitute a form of pre-print of putting something out there in order to get feedback. Science happening in real time is already occurring and physics seems to be on the forefront as detailed in this interesting story.  And then there is this: Group of Biologists Bypasses Journals and Uploads Their Work Straight to the Internet. As I keep mentioning there is a new synthesis, a new paradigm occurring in science communication and research; multiple author collaborations; group sourcing; blogging; multiple parallel testing; multiple reviewers; pre-prints; citizen scientists; the disruption of traditional avenues of communication; stewardship; "dropping the curtains"; and breaking the fourth wall. It is all already happening. All I'm saying is that we should streamline the process and put it all under one umbrella.

Are You an Ego Serving Science or is Science Serving Your Ego?

Earlier in this piece I alluded to one central problem that Jingmai O'Connor presciently addressed inherent in the modern paradigm of how science is done: the human ego.

The human ego is a problem for the advancement of science and the human ego is actually the chief stumbling block that stands in the way of a fully operational OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift. Why is this? Well simply put the human ego is woven into the very fabric of the current paradigm. Who is first author, second author, third author etc. etc.? Who gets quoted in the media? Who gets to be  televised? What "high impact" journal do I get published in? Who gets on the magazine cover? How big and extensive is my C.V.? How much bigger is mine than yours? How many papers did I pump out this year (i.e. publish or perish)?  Who "won the race" towards publication? Who gets the credit? Who gets tenure?

Again these are all problems inherent to the system of academia and the influence of the ego-beast in science and culture at large. Most scientists, like most people in our ego-driven world. are constantly looking for outside validation for internal truths. They need that outside recognition to feed the hole in their heart that they are possibly not good enough. It is an endless cycle to constantly feed the ego-beast. For as much as we feed it, as much as science panders to it, the ego is essentially a human creation. The ego-beast, if you have not noticed, is more dangerous, cunning, and vile than any antediluvian beast I have ever discussed on this blog. The ego-beast holds sway in the whole academic and intellectual enterprise of science. Is it not amazing and ironic that modern science, for all its emphasis on reproducibility, quantifications, and rational discourse, is beholden to something that can not actually be measured, seen, weighed, or that we know for certain is actually a real definable thing?

The human ego will reel at the eternal truths and manifest possibilities of a truly OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift because such a paradigm shift, in no uncertain terms, takes direct aim at the human ego. There will be victims in such a shift, apart form the more obvious publication peer review system. Because such collaborations as OPEN SCIENCE allows creates the potential for dozens or even hundreds of "authors" collaborating on a piece the cultural construct of the "lead author" conceit bites the dust to a large extent. Because the process is done in complete transparency and openness for the world to see the curtain is lifted creating the "opportunity" for other teams to "steal" ideas and "beat competing" groups to the "finish line". However this really won't be a problem because it will be patently obvious when this is happening. Instead what OPEN SCIENCE promises is the scientific engines revving at maximum capacity and the highest RPMs. Instead of waiting for months or years for a project or study to be published OPEN SCIENCE will speed up this process. The necessary confirming or denying "post" studies can actually be performed in tandem or in parallel at this point. Several independent teams can now test a hypothesis in parallel but complimentary studies to confirm or deny. This creates a faster, more efficient, and collaborative scientific turn over and will dramatically speed up the scientific process. The benefits will become immediately manifest. What might be a tough pill to swallow for some is that notions of "lead authorship", "finishing first", and "beating the competition" become less and less important and will, after some cultural shifting, become transparently ridiculous.

A diminution of the ego-beast, both in science and the world at large, is our calling.

Scientists need to ask themselves, and do some serious soul searching: "Am I an ego serving science?" or, "Is science serving my ego?"

Say it with me, try it on for size: "Am I an ego serving science?" or "Is science serving my ego?"

That will be the crux of the dilemma: the source of the consternation, skepticism, and cognitive dissonance that the scientific community will have to face up to when realizing the manifest potentials of a truly OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift.

As I keep pointing out the change, the shift, is already happening with or without your acknowledgement or permission. There are already leaders in this paradigm shift away from the ego-beast dominated current science paradigm. Maths "Nobel" prize declined by Russian recluse. Maybe we should all take a page from Grigory Perelman who declined receiving accolades, including 1 million dollars, for his self published work on a mathematical theorem which has confounded mathematicians for over 100 years: the Poincare conjecture.

"Emptiness is everywhere and it can be calculated, which gives us a great opportunity. I know how to control the universe. So tell me, why should I run for a million?" Grigory Perelman

Just let that notion waft through your brain cells a bit. Is the prize of science the external validation? The magazine covers, invitations, speaking engagements, prizes, and accolades? The outside world confirming an internal truth? Or is the process of science, the immersion, the revelation, and the oneness with discovery and the universe the real prize - an internal reward knowable and only felt through the rapture of the pursuit and gaining of knowledge? Tell me which one do you feel is more becoming, more in line with a higher purpose, the magazine cover or the rapture of discovery? Which is reaching for a higher self?

Competition Cooperation and Science Striving for a Higher Self

If we are indeed in an age inculcated with the ego-beast and science is therefore thrall to the ego where can we get a glimpse of how science might work if the ego took a back seat? Can such a situation occur? What might a culture of science look like that did not center on competition, turf wars, politics, publish or perish, huuuuuuge C.V.'s. You know, teh academic cvlt mentality writ large?

There has been such precedence for unfettered and free exchange of scientific information and thought frequencies as documented in the book Innovation in Science and Organizational Renewal (Heinze & Munch). In the chapter "From Salomon's House to Synthesis Centers" (Hackett & Parker) the innovative collaborative strategies of groups such as the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) from UCSB are highlighted. These immersive working and living arrangements allow a sort of emotionally laden, fact to face, interdisciplinary and creative process to emerge in order to create new ideas. The caveat is that highly ego-driven participants - those that tend to monopolize and dominate talking time - are not allowed. What occurs at these synthesis centers is a unique sort of push-pull between open and free exchange of ideas and criticism: basically the free form hypothesizing and outside the box thinking coupled with intense "peer review" and criticism. However because this push-pull is occurring in a social setting there is much more profound emotional energy and cadence to the whole process.

From the book (PP 70):

Another group specializing in formulating new ideas and hypotheses, the RA group. actually live on an island together. The RA group as opposed to the NCEAS group actively shuns intense criticism and thought policing during the idea formulation stage.

In the words of one of the participants:

Remember kiddies… these are rational, evidence based scientists laying down more or less a quasi-mystical spiritual experience from their intellectual experiment. Are you brave enough to imagine a sort of scientific process that empowers and emboldens such notions? That far removed from the hyper-competitive, ego driven, slow and stifling process of scientific communication and creation in the current system lays a largely untapped, funner, more collaborative, more efficient, faster, more inclusive, more spiritual and less cumbersome alternative? Just play with these ideas of synthesis centers and unmitigated free thinking and carry them over to the larger online internet community. Can such a diffuse collective brain of the internet, a meta-brain, be already awakening? If you think I'm just getting too far out there I say you are not thinking big enough…

Microelectronics pioneer Carver Mead on the stalled revolution of physics:

"A revolution is when something goes clear around. And what happened during the first 25 years of the 20th century was that there was the beginning of a revolution, and it got stuck about a quarter of the way around."

"What we're living with today is a bunch of mysteries and misconceptions that came about partly because people couldn't imagine nature being as interesting as it really is and partly because a bunch of big egos got in the way and wouldn't let the revolution proceed."

Death of the Iconoclast, Inclusion, and Educational, Financial, and Media Repercussions of an OPEN SCIENCE Paradigm Shift

Death of the Iconoclast

Every scientific sub discipline has its real or self proclaimed iconoclast(s). Depending on who you talk to I myself might be placed in one of these holding boxes. Over here in dinosaur online paleo-weirdo-community we have no lack of such personalities crying foul over the "ivory tower" establishments refusal to acknowledge or entertain their work. My view is probably, not surprisingly, a little bit skewed to the left of what most feel about these characters. Often times buried or hidden amidst the bad or erroneous work of some of these characters are hidden gems that deserve the light of day. Unfortunately because of politics, because of in-group out-group dynamics, because of good guy bad guy dichotomies such gems are often overlooked. In a truly open and free OPEN SCIENCE paradigm such figures whether real or imagined or some combination there of, would hardly get the oxygen needed for such status because everyone can submit their work or even their ideas into the system. Where they can receive not only critique but also help. Sometimes an idea is merely that, an idea that is a bit left of center and can not properly be tested at present. Such ideas should still be archived and kept in the back pocket for future reference.


This might be one of the more controversial and challenging aspects that I will highlight in this piece. It is also a very timely topic in paleontology and STEM sciences in general. No doubt it could warrant its own article but I will include it here because OPEN SCIENCE directly speaks to issues of inclusivity, namely the dearth of females and minority groups in paleontology and science/academia in general. I can anticipate that as many read this they will, sometimes in rapid succession, meet me with both extreme agreement and disagreement regarding my opinions on the matter. I never claimed this was an easy read.

Its Not My Beard Holding You back, Its the System

Yup, this is referencing what you think it is - the bearded ladies project. A social critique of the "bearded, rugged, sweaty, white male" stereotype that many feel stymies entry of females and minorities into the paleontology and potentially academia in general. Now I have to be honest to you about my initial exposure to this project at the Salt Lake City SVP and how it made me feel: ambivalence. Let me parcel this out carefully, I am not doubting or challenging the right for females to express their truths. Their is much to be garnered from how appearances influence reality. How the ubiquity of a certain "appearance" becomes emblematic of that profession and how people not fitting that stereotype will and do face social hardships. I'm not challenging that.

What I can speak to is my truth and that as a; white male; who is bearded; who is large and burly; who is sweaty; who is outdoorsy; and who loves dinosaurs - I felt attacked. Was their something inherent in me, who meets so many of these superficial criteria (OK I don't wear TIVO I wear Patagonia cuz Ventura 805 bitches!), that thwarts others from entering paleontology?!? To add a super thick, greasy, and heavy cheeseburger layer of consternation to this whole thing I myself don't fit into paleontology!?!  I get loads of cold shoulders from people at SVP; I'm not a "real paleontologist" or "scientist"according to many; I'm "just trying to be different"; I obviously detest the modern peer review format and business model; opinion on me amongst the online paleo-community is extremely divisive; "teh workers" ignore my emails all the time; academia and all of it's trappings, don't even get me started… I most assuredly do not fit into paleontology yet someone of my likeness is heralded as "emblematic" of what it takes to be a paleontologist. It's giving me a real conniption fit!!

What I've learned, what is my truth, is that an emotion is there trying to tell you something… so listen!!  Go into the emotion, not away from it. Go deeper. And when I go deeper into the truth of why I feel so ambivalent towards "the bearded ladies project" it is that I too feel alienated, despite my superficial appearance to what a stereotypical paleontologist "looks like", from the paleontological community!

However I've come to the truth that, "I'm not meant to fit into a system that I am here to upend." 

Sexism is certainly a problem, as are gender roles; role models; and subtle social dissuasion. Overall though I see an extremely overt "virtue signaling" appeal amongst paleontology and the sciences to attract and retain females. The issue as I see it goes deeper than the people in paleontology and the stereotype of what it means to look like a paleontologist.  The real elephant in the room, the true barrier that thwarts not just many females but many personality types not amenable to academia is the system itself. Academia is drawn from and retains a patriarchal pedigree. It does not matter how many overtures to females paleontology or other sciences make. It does not matter how many "bearded lady" projects upend gender norms. It does not matter how much virtue signaling we do or shaming of any and all "boys club" type shenanigans occurs. If the system of academia is poisoned from the inside by patriarchy, then you can expect more of the same.

Yes, I did just do that. I called academia a patriarchal establishment and I referred to most overtures towards female and minority inclusion nothing more than virtue signaling. Deal with that seeming contradiction and realize that you will see similar strange bedfellows arise as traditional systems continue to collapse.

Academia promotes:

1) Intense competition for positions and prestige. Ideas are not shared freely for fear of someone stealing. This thwarts and slows science down. Some females may naturally feel comfortable in such an intense environment of competition. Many females and some males may not.

2) Politicking. Yes politics plays and insanely important role in academia. The people above you determine your future, if you get tenure or if you get sent to adjunct professor purgatory. Best not piss anyone above you off, which means you probably don't want to upend any of their theories. This thwarts and slows science down.

3) Non stop working. Want to take a break to have a kid? This could be a dilemma, one hurdle that falls squarely on the shoulders of females. This is unequivocally a patriarchal element of the system and unfairly stymies female progress.

4) My C.V. is bigger than yours!! Can we get any more patriarchal than size comparisons LOLZ? This goes hand and hand with the publish or perish mentality of academia, it is not necessarily the merit of your work but the sheer overflowing abundance of it that counts!?!

5) I made it in the lifeboat why didn't you? This is the attitude espoused by the few that make it to have a successful career in academia. Something must be right with me and wrong with you for me to have received what you can't. Condescending to put it mildly.

6) GROW A THICKER SKIN!! Again patriarchy, emotions are bad blah blah… I take complete offense to this on an internal level because I consider myself a highly sensitive person, and I don't consider my sensitivity a weakness. But if academia is going to make a direct threat to my personhood - what makes me who I am - the gloves are coming off. You can label this under patriarchy and you can confer whatever meanings you like to it if you consider females "inherently" more emotional than men or whatever….

So what if we instead had a system that did not require intense competition but availed the competitive impulse with a more commensal, collaborative process. What if we had a system where politicking was not even necessary but actually tragically passé? What if we had a system that allowed people to take breaks, work remotely, and you know live a life outside of intense academia? That you could leave it and come back to it freely? Where ego, C.V.'s, and impact factors simply did not matter and became transparently bullshite? Instead of stepping on people's heads to get into the lifeboat an immense tidal surge lifted us all to safety and enhanced productivity? Where "growing a thicker skin" was not a prerequisite to having a productive, engaging, and successful intellectual life?

There is a whole army of people that did not finish their phd, that did not come into fruition professionally in academia. Life happened or maybe the cult like trappings of academic politics shook them to their core. The vast majority aspired to join academia for all the right reasons - a calling to learning and the pursuit of knowledge. However what greeted them in academia did not meet these higher aspirations. Academia weeds people out and it is not always the best and brightest that survive the system. These people the system weeded out deserve a voice, they deserve to engage in an intellectual life. OPEN SCIENCE provides this avenue to them. To have a meaningful, engaging, and revelatory investment in intellectual pursuits despite bugging out of a system that did not meet their higher aspirations. A system that failed them and made them feel… less than. This is the ultimate iron, disservice, and crime of our current academic system. It abandons people.

A truly encompassing OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift could provide these things. It would allow people generally at odds for whatever reasons - culturally, financially, emotionally, biologically - with the current system access to a better one. OPEN SCIENCE will likely be seen as a threat by a certain segment of career academics, as well as it should be. Because it is a threat to how things have been done and how "prestige" is doled out. The inclusivity inherent in OPEN SCIENCE necessarily promotes a shift of intellectual prowess and prestige away from traditional bastions of power and imbues it upon a growing and capable citizenry of science.

Education, Funding, & the Media Within an OPEN SCIENCE Paradigm

Gonna make these parts a quickie because this whole piece is going on for too long already. You know those boring, rote, and cliche things called "academic term papers" that students hate doing and teachers hate reading & grading. They suck right? In fact I would venture they are more about following rules, copying a rubric, and regurgitating information than about actually teaching science. OPEN SCIENCE would make such slavish practises obsolete. Students could instead log into an OPEN SCIENCE hub and immerse themselves in a sub field relevant to their class. Teachers could actively monitor and follow their viewings and comments in OPEN SCIENCE. The student might actually assist in the scientific process!! Way better than another ol' term paper. And hey, if you think term papers are needed to "teach kids to be better science writers" then they should take a science writing course. Your average science instructor is not going to teach jack shit about becoming a better writer anyways. But he/she will ding you for improper formatting of your references… bleagh.

You know how Donald Trump just wants to gut anything to do with science in the US budget? Do you know how a big chunk of Americans are OK with that? Well screw 'em. If it got big enough OPEN SCIENCE could provide a group sourced avenue towards funding research. Maybe its not such a bad thing to get off the government teat as goes research funding.

Bad science reporting anyone? Well OPEN SCIENCE largely puts media out of the loop. People can log in and see science happen real time, not just read some shitty click bait article. Furthermore creators can write multiple versions of their work - highly technical ones as well as more easily digestible ones. Media problem solved.

Somewhere I read that open access solves every problem every time. Well OPEN SCIENCE completely curb stomps open access and answers questions people have not even been asking!!

Worldwide Systems Collapse: OPEN SCIENCE & the Spiritual Revolution

Systems are broke. Things are falling apart.

exert from The Second Coming credit W.B. Yeats

Science is not immune from these depredations. As I have been pointing out throughout this piece many of the most damning indictments against science come from within, from active scientists. That large chunks of the populace have disavowed science or do not completely understand the process of science is reason for fear. However such misgivings are not completely surprising given the failure of the modern system of science to adequately express its merits and techniques.

The way science can get back on track, improve its standing in the world and become the shining light it once promised to be is to complete the revolution. In essence to go full circle back to a time when the spiritual world and science were intertwined.

Keep in mind that Rainn made this before Brexit and Trump, but we can expect more of the same dramatic oscillations. Things fall apart.The center will not hold.

Science no longer has the luxury of not commenting on social, political, and spiritual matters. Those days are gone. Science must find its voice. Science must find its spirit. Part of this process is a diminution of the ego and a policy of transparency and openness that OPEN SCIENCE beckons. Such a simple move on the part of science will do miracles in itself to serve as a template towards diminution of the ego, and increase in transparency and authenticity in other institutions. A disavowal of the ego will give science back its cutting edge - that science can be both a leader in intellectual matters but spiritual ones as well.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

It is a bold and brash proposition and one I'm sure I will get push back on. But the alternative is… more of the same.

We do have to try something new. Instead of always condemning a world that is ignorant of science and scientific thinking the science community needs to realize that when you point a finger outwards, three fingers are pointing back at you. It is the scientific community that has; become slavishly beholden to a cryptic method of publication in "peer reviewed journals" rife with obscene profits, inconsistent review processes, and obfuscating language - but worst of all boring; slavishly upholds an academic system based on ego, cutthroat competition, politics, weeding out creative/original people and that perpetuates a patriarchal worldview disharmonious with females and minorities; a system that instead of actively promoting a citizenry of science where those that put in the work and effort can engage in an intellectual life, us vs. them dichotomies abound. None of these problems were created by "those that are ignorant of science" they were created and upheld by those that practice science. Scientists are complicit in this very broken system. A system holding back the floodgates that an OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift would enact in terms of establishing a robust citizenry of science and unparalleled recognizing of how science actually proceeds, warts and all.

There will of course be challenges and problems in enacting this system, many as yet unforeseen. But the reason number one for resisting a truly all encompassing OPEN SCIENCE paradigm shift is the human ego. And the ego among scientists is huuuge. Putting out your research and ideas in rough form will go against every instinct instilled in many scientists through academia. Many will resist the notion that lead authorship will become an increasingly fragmented and laughable concept. Many will scramble to shore up their ego built castle - made transparently ridiculous that the foundational piece of the modern scientific paradigm, the ego, is inherently nebulous, impossible to measure, and not at all rigorously defined in any certain "scientific terms". Yet we all know that it is there. So if modern science has no problem basing its current system on a completely nebulous concept known as the ego - if science already crossed that road - why not aim for something higher? A more enlightened, authentic higher version of ones self and science.

Spirituality does not equal organized religion. Nor does it equal doing Yoga and shopping at Whole Foods. What I envisage scientific spirituality looking like is nothing dogmatic, nothing decreed from above, but actually a highly personal inward looking subtle acknowledgement of one's being, actions, and thoughts reverberating amongst others and through the cosmos and ultimately bouncing back to you the  creator - not God - but you the creator who has a universe within.

This is, after all, not disharmonious with what science is actually telling us about our relationship to the universe. And hey, you can do a lot worse amiright?

This is the dawning….
of the ago of aquarius

*special thanks Anneke van Giersbergen & Devin Townsend

"A Long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom". Thomas Paine

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Andrea Cau said...

Jesus... this it too long for a single blog post.

In any case, just a reply to the "Those who can, publish. Those who can't, blog." idea:

I both write a blog and produce scientific peer-reviewed papers (and I am not alone in this). So, what's the problem? The two media are distinct media, for distinct purposes and target. I don't understand such elitism. The blog is used for those ideas that my experience says are not good for a paper. Sometimes, a post has become a paper (see for example, my 2015 Balaur paper and its ancestor posts in the Theropoda blog). One can use just one, or both, on none of them... what matters is to communicate our personal ideas. The others will use them the way they consider more adequate.

Duane Nash said...

@Andrea Cau

"Jesus… this it too long for a single blog post." Then don't read it in a single sitting. Take a week to read it. Its not meant to be an easy read. It sure took me longer than a week to write it. What I suspect is that you did not read the entire post, or probably just skimmed it. If you had read it I would expect some mention of OPEN SCIENCE which was the prevailing theme of the post. Get back to me if you have something more to say other than the canned response to Jingmai's quote which is basically just review and easily one of the least interesting aspects of the piece.

Andrea Cau said...

My starting comment was from a blogger to a blogger: if you want your interesting ideas to be read, allow readers to read them sequentially.
I think a series of linked post would fit this better than a single giant and very complex post, because that way you allow the reader to take the entire discussion with a series of guided steps. You produced the message, you must guide the reader the best way. Publishing a single post is not, in my opinion (and experience in blogging) not the best solution FOR YOUR MESSAGE.

In any case, I have read almost all, and suspect that your vision of science and peer review is a bit naive. Peer review is more than just a bunch of anonymous scientists that demolish your manuscript. I encourage you to try to submit some of your ideas into peer-reviewed journals: instead of considering peer-review as an evil machine destroying freedom, it is a constructive challenge that improves your idea. Try it, not just complain! ;-)
My personal experience of open science is that the last decade has seen a good improvement of the different ways we disseminate and produce scientific literature.
Also, I feel that the scientific community cannot be properly compared to the artist community. The idea that scientific hypotheses, models and theories can be equated to artistic productions (as seems implicit in your arguments) is not adequate. I am the first that consider creative ideas the blood of science, but a body is not just blood: it is the skeleton, the brain and the gut too.

Also, if you only mention Bakker and Horner (dino-guy-super-stars, I agree, but also a bit overrated by popular depiction of paleontology) and do not consider the great number of equally valid scientists that improved dinosaur sciences exactly as the two super-stars, and in ways not followed by Bakker or Horner themselves, you are misrepresenting the scientific community.

In short, your ideas are interesting and worth of being read, but they seem a bit naive, from my perspective.

I repeat: if you want your arguments to be trusted more, try at least once to publish in peer-reviewed literature: you will learn from the inside the problem that you are discussing from the outside alone.

Duane Nash said...


Regarding length. Hindsight 20/20 perhaps breaking it down into sequential chunks would be more useful. Perhaps I will iterate this piece in the future in smaller bite size chunks. I have done that in the past. As it stands now this piece has been percolating in my brain for some years and I just wanted to get it all out - an intellectual enema if you will.

On peer review & naivety. Peer review is not the problem in my estimation. It is the limited and anonymous nature of peer review. Also the fact that the very act of peer review is nebulous and not properly defined. These are objections raised not just by me but by those that are active publishing academics. Where am I being naive? The fact that I don't engage in the system and parrot back the exact same critiques from those that do. I think you need to decouple my context of from the very real and documented critique of modern peer review being made by others. Again, you have sidestepped or not even read the far more expansive, progressive, and transparent method of peer review that OPEN SCIENCE advocates.

In shore you mischaracterize my stance on peer review as "an evil machine destroying freedom" as I advocate more peer review in OPEN SCIENCE but done in a transparent format where the reviewer is held accountable.

This is the point you missed or did not even read Andrea. OPEN SCIENCE blends the sort of blogging as "diary of an idea" that you mention with the peer review, archivability, and citable nature of a journal format. But not a static "journal" or "publication" one that can be augmented and changed in real time in complete transparency. I still don't think you are seeing the deconstruction I am outlining here. Blogging and publishing are not entirely how they once were but merged into this new thing in the OPEN SCIENCE format.

In short OPEN SCIENCE is not the same beast as open access or pre-prints or blogging. In its logical conclusion it deconstructs the whole paradigm of how science is done, communicated, and promulgated.

Perhaps you would be better served by decoupling my context from what OPEN SCIENCE is and promises. Maybe I merged the two a bit much in the piece and that is causing confusion? Again I ask that you merely sit with the ideas of OPEN SCIENCE and imagine that there is potentially a better way for science to proceed. Not just paleontology or mine own ideas but for science to really get its edge back; to make it more engaging, inclusive, and exciting; to allow it to proceed in a transparent and entertaining fashion; but most of all to allow the public at large to witness the process of science in real time. That science need not be done behind closed doors or "ivory towers" which will ultimately inform a more scientific literate and engaged populace. WHich is something I think we all want.

Duane Nash said...

Also regarding the comparison between artists (specifically recording artists and large record companies). The analogy was that just as independent artists no longer needed the big recording companies to record, advertise and distribute their work with the internets scientists, in an open science framework, no longer need the publishing journals. They become obsolete.

Jeffrey Lu said...

Wow, great piece Duane! I generally agree with your analysis of the problems plaguing science currently. The scientists in the laboratories I've worked with spend more time chasing grants and acting out their own personal Game of Thrones with their coworkers than conducting actual science. It's so problematic how negative studies (as in saying that "we did this test and our hypothesis was proven wrong") are basically never published because they earn scientists as much glory when being wrong is so fundamental to the nature of science. I don't know how effective Open Science would be, since nothing survives contact with the real world, but considering the deep flaws in the current system, I would be willing to give Open Science a shot!

Duane Nash said...

Thanks Lu!! While I don't actively participate in a true academia setting - you can hardly call the online paleocommunity academia - I don't have to research very far into to see loads of testimonials like yours and even as an undergraduate I saw the writing on the wall as goes the institution of academia.

On negative studies: I totally agree. In fact any researcher or scientist that quickly, unflinchingly, and resolutely states "I was wrong" always earns my highest regards.

On the "real world": That, along with a certain amount of ego-death on the part of some in academia, would be the hardest challenge. Just know that what we call the "real world" is in fact partially a cultural contraction and part and parcel to the time period you are in. What constitutes the "real world" has and will change. It was once considered the "real world" to be condemned into slavery & servitude; if female your life was hemmed into a rigid set of realities & possibilities; that you would probably die before you are 30; that you were a lowly serf and paid tribute to a king. That all the horrible conditions that humans have lived through were once considered the "natural" state of affairs and justified in those regards makes me think that any defense of any system just because it is how " the real world" operates becomes laughably absurd and transparently ridiculous.

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