The Future: Morphing PPP into SCIEnCE

 

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Format for SCIEnCE Proposals – Wikify!

The future – Morphing PPP into SCIEnCE

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Proposal #1: Marked for Death

Proposal #2: Centralized Proposal Depository 

Proposal #3: Inducible tract-specific spinal cord injury

Suggestion #1: Take the 'preclinical' out of animal testing 

Suggestion #2: Public Contribution Rating

Suggestion #3: Crowdsource CRISP

Proposals Under Construction

Science has been, and always will be, a noble pursuit to advance our knowledge of the universe, and in many cases to help improve our existence. But by promoting secretiveness, the PPP culture (Publish, get Paid, get Promoted) is exerting an ever-increasing drag on progress. We must reverse this trend.

Science 2.0.2.0

Looking toward the future of science in a better world, we can expect some of these trends: 

  • Ideas will be turned into optimized research proposals by collaborative web-based input.
  • Research proposals will be turned into data by multiple cooperating, not competing labs. This will result in efficient division of labor, as well as replication and reconciliation of raw data prior to publication.
  • Results will be published in complete format:
    • The evolution of the initial idea into the enacted research proposal.
    • The division of labor among cooperating labs.
    • Links to all the raw data.
    • A discussion of how the results compare with predictions.
    • A plan for future collaborative experiments (or trials).
  • Even ‘negative’ or confirmatory results will be published as long as they are supported by appropriate and open methodology.
  • Journals, funding agencies and universities will adapt their policies away from the ‘PPP’ format toward the new and improved SCIEnCE format.

How will we get to this idealistic vision of the future? Just as with any other plan, the roadmap to the future of SCIEnCE needs a communal effort. Here are some starting points for discussing the practical issues of the SCIEnCE approach. These suggestions are all open to modification:
 

Membership

Nothing should be required of members aside from providing their professional information. Cutting down on anonymous lurkers should allay some of the concern out there regarding scooping. However, once SCIEnCE obtains enough funding to begin awarding grants (see below), members would have to abide by certain stipulations to be eligible for funding: Potential recipients would have to agree to fully sharing not just reagents, but their ideas and plans. Moreover, all labs receiving SCIEnCE-directed grants would have to agree to cooperative project execution, wherein the labor would be divided and replicated among other labs, with joint authorship of resulting manuscripts. See below for more discussion of how to ‘enforce’ some of these stipulations.

Proposals

Ideas submitted to SCIEnCE should be in the form of grant proposals, minus the preliminary data section. This is explained in more detail in Format for SCIEnCE proposals – Wikify!

Publication

Fortunately, many journals are already progressing toward more accessible articles with online links to more in-depth supplementary information. To further encourage the SCIEnCE method of collaboration, a new journal will be established, dedicated to publishing papers arising from openly-discussed ideas and cooperative efforts. This journal, perhaps provocatively named SCIEnCE, will share the spirit of this website, with the major addition of data. Furthermore, SCIEnCE articles will include more detailed discussions of future collaborative research directions than the discussions of most articles published in traditional journals.

SCIEnCE the website and SCIEnCE the journal will obviate the time and expense associated with traditional (confidential) peer review. The background and planning of the research design will already have been optimized in public. The data will already have been replicated and reconciled among cooperating labs. All that will be left will be the writing (and editing) of potential manuscripts, no simple task when dealing with multiple egos and writing styles. One simple approach to this issue would be for collaborating labs to designate a small ‘writing committee’ as is done for many multicenter clinical trials already. Everyone involved would continue to receive credit (see below for details), but the writing process would be greatly simplified by this small-group approach.

Of course, there is no obvious reason why any existing journal couldn’t adopt aspects of this open approach. By encouraging submissions from SCIEnCE-style collaborations, journals could cut down their own review and administrative costs…

Credit

For the traditional PPP system to evolve toward the SCIEnCE ideal, we need new ways of evaluating scientists in terms of academic rank, salary, and grant support. Fairly apportioning credit without creating incentives for secrecy and other counterproductive practices represents the most difficult challenge facing SCIEnCE.

SCIEnCE proposes establishing a comprehensive and quantitative metric by which to rank scientists' contributions: the Public Contribution Rating (PCR). Please add your comments/suggestions/revisions to this algorithm-in-progress!

Funding

The NIH should be lauded for the enormous academic research industry it coordinates. It is not entirely the NIH’s fault that a flat budget has squeezed so many labs the past few years. In fact, the NIH has made significant attempts recently not only to encourage young scientists, but to impose cooperative conditions on grant funding, such as a written commitment for labs to share reagents and submit publications into a public database.

But the NIH leadership isn’t likely to hear about the SCIEnCE movement and jump into investing billions of dollars in it. Enough leaders will be skeptical initially (or longer!) about changing the status quo. So SCIEnCE will obviously need other means of support to expand. Below are some routes being explored, as well as envisioned mechanisms for distributing funding. Please add your suggestions!

Potential Sources 

Progressive private philanthropists and foundations such as Bill Gates, Google.org, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the Gotham Prize Foundation, and Paul Allen each share not only the open science philosophy, but deep pockets as well. SCIEnCE is soliciting start-up funds from these and other sources. Revenue will also be generated from advertising on the pages of the SCIEnCE website. Moreover, perhaps a prominent journal will perceive the potential payoff of supporting SCIEnCE – as the movement gains popularity, the research and the ensuing publications produced will become more prominent, meaning more profitable for the journals publishing them.

Initial Grant Mechanisms

The first SCIEnCE grants will be awarded to the (likely) few labs that buy into the system quickly. To receive this funding, recipients would have to commit to openly sharing everything from research plans to protocols and reagents to experiments and preliminary data. It is hoped that other funding sources will eventually see the light and institute policies that further encourage labs to commit to cooperative research. But until then, SCIEnCE grants would NOT exclude labs from obtaining outside 'traditional' funding.


Future Grant Mechanisms

Once SCIEnCE has been operational and growing for a year or two, members will have begun to build enough of a track record to result in reliable PCR scores. This will allow efficient, objective, merit-based (and need-based) funding to scientists who contribute the most and best ideas to the SCIEnCE community. 

        a.  New grants would be on shorter terms, likely two years, to provide frequent motivation to contribute ideas to SCIEnCE.

        b.  Renewal grants would NOT require entirely new or revised grant applications. Rather, PCRs will be calculated differently when considering renewal grant applications. Incremental contributions, both in terms of collaborative ideas and cooperative experiments, to an ongoing project would weigh more heavily in the renewal PCR score. Funding renewals would consider the cost and complexity of experiments already performed as well as planned by that lab on that particular project.

        c.  There will be no ‘deadlines’ or ‘cycles’ for grant applications. Due to the objective and continually updated PCR rating process based on active participation in SCIEnCE, it will not be necessary to convene large groups of reviewers to comb through gargantuan stacks of applications each ‘cycle’. Most of the material/writing upon which funding applications will be judged will have already been contributed and rated online, on an ongoing basis.

        d.  The often-tedious process of obtaining approval for protocols involving animals or humans will always be necessary. However, SCIEnCE has no intention of adding its own red tape – grant applicants will simply need to document that institutional animal and human investigation committees have already granted the appropriate approvals.

        e.  Any outside sources of funding are perfectly fine and encouraged. However, if a lab publishes a paper on a SCIEnCE-funded project based on ideas or data that haven’t already been shared in SCIEnCE, then it will lose its SCIEnCE funding for that project. Note, a lab may choose not to share its ideas about projects that are funded by 'traditional' grant sources, though of course this too is highly encouraged.

 

YOUR future benefits of SCIEnCE

  • Optimized research plans based on collaborative feedback.
  • Faster execution of cooperative experiments based on division of labor.
  • Fully reconciled and reproducible data among collaborating labs prior to publication.
  • Objective, truly merit-based, continually updated PCR rating.
  • Simpler and more efficient grant application and review process.
  • Thesis committees stocked with more depth and impartiality than current intra-departmental committees. As one colleague puts it, "The whole world is a committee."
  • Incentives at multiple individual and institutional levels to join SCIEnCE.