Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Availability of Scientific Data

There is a gross misunderstanding in the interwebz about university or rather government research and the duty to make those results and data available. Actually, the researcher must achieve the data for its employing agency and publish the methodoligy with the results.

This is the absolute minimum he has to do and in many engineering research projects this is the end of it. You publish your results and your methodology in a journal and give your data to your employer (mostly private companys).

However, there is a big difference between physics/climate science and engineering. While we, in engineering, often work on specific problems for specific employers, f.e. an automated milling station and its application for Daimler, many physics departments actually work for the greater good of mankind (mostly symbolized by a government entity).
These research projects are 100 % funded by the people and thus they are ultimately the employer. One can argue that in this case, the scientist has to release everything to the public (though that is usually not practice, because usually only a handful of people is interested in those results and data), similar to property and patent claims of the company-employee relationship.

When an employee has made a patentable discovery, he has to inform he employer and ask if he can have the patent or the company wants to persue the patent, because this discovery was only possible with the monetary help of the company.

The same claim can be laid out for research results and data and should be employed especially in areas of highly politicized value like climate change (imo).

So, I am not surpised but a bit saddened by comments from scientists that go like this:

We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

Though technically correct, it gives you a bad reputation and shows a lack of confidence in the results.
I hope such problems can be soled or circumenvented the next time around, but I am not quite sure, because academia is sometimes full of egomaniacs, when it comes to the propriety of their own work.

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