Good science survives on giving credit to right person Reply

A log of a discussion, I had, with a some folks I have never met …

On freedom of science and freedom of doing science …

Mr Tony Owopetu;

To what extent do you think data from scientific research should be shared?

Mr Austin T Mohr;

Fully, freely, and without reservation. Of course, I’m a mathematician AND an idealist, so what do I know?

Mr Manmohan Dash;

Dear Austin, your sarcasm at self is very well taken.

But I fully, freely and without reservation agree with your observation…

The problem, the antagonists of that scheme cite, are ones of propriety and plagiarism. Like, if you share your data, somebody else might coup you, in going ahead and claim the science to be their own. But then, I think that’s a basic problem of how we generally do science, rather than problems of this scheme.

Mr Austin T Mohr;

“Like, if you share your data somebody else might coup you in going ahead and claim the science to be their own.”

When are we going to move beyond notions of “my discovery vs. your discovery” and just work toward the common goal of “discovery”?

Mr Manmohan Dash;

Probably never.

Because there in lies the threads of our bread and butter. I can happily give up on notions of my discovery — and I have done many times, but the fact that I can still talk about these discoveries are in a fundamental way, reflecting as “my discovery”. In other words, there are no selfless discovery.

But your ideals are something I cherish myself. Our ultimate goals should be to emancipate these discoveries from the chains of “you”, “me”, “mine” and “yours”. Only in those circumstances, can we truly realize the passions of these discovery and feel embarrassed by the rewards it brings forth. This in itself, is, one of the most important ideals of science.

Mr Austin T Mohr; 

” … but the fact that I can still talk about these discoveries, are in a fundamental way, reflecting as “my discovery”.”

The word “my” here can be applied only in a extremely strict, technical sense. It reminds me of a similar argument about selflessness in general. If I value selflessness, then performing a selfless act is in itself a reward, and so my act is no longer selfless.

I feel this is an exercise in semantics, brought about by a poor definition of the word “selfless”. One acts selflessly, not because it brings joy — though it should and does do so, but because it is the RIGHT thing to do. This nebulous notion of “right” is what some attribute to mere warm feelings, but I feel that in attaining true selflessness, one rises above even these feelings. I do something because it is what SHOULD be done – no other reason.

Mr Manmohan Dash;

The “should be” and “right to be” done, are pretty subjective, not only in the sense we perceive it, but also how others would appreciate it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t only be selfless, it would also be useless, not in the sense that a person is useless, because he discovered these ideas.

But how would you feel if you are not at-all appreciated, after making selfless discoveries. These discoveries have to be appreciated by everyone, yourself including, for it to have some meaning.

In other words, nature doesn’t intend us, to be selfless. Nature intends us to be part of the process. Selflessness is not excluded. Selflessness is just part of the process, as much as self-involved-ness

Mr Austin T Mohr;

I feel we are a bit afield, from the original topic. I call for free, open sharing of all scientific data. If I understand your rebuttal correctly, you fear such openness will result in misappropriation of due credit for discoveries. Consider, however, the rapid pace of development, that could be achieved, if all information was shared and all work was joint work.

Can you defend that, ensuring the discoverer receives proper credit, is more important, than quickening the pace at which new discoveries are made?

Mr Manmohan Dash; 

Hi Austin, you got me exactly opposite to what I intended. I supported your idea of free science. I mentioned the antagonists, of free science. Ideally we both are holding same values. I just cited the practical side as well.

I just wanted the discussion to be a little less lopsided.

And about credit, I still hold that, due credit be given to the due person, because the discovery has been made, so credit is not going to hamper, the process of discovery, and giving credit to “someone’s” discovery, doesn’t make it a selfish discovery. The discovery is still waging its tail, to be used by us selfish humankind.

Giving due credit to due people, propagates science and discovery in the right direction. But giving credit to the wrong person, may kill the motivation of good science.

Also there may be multiple independent discoverer, of the same discovery. eg. Richard Feynman, Tomonaga and Schwinger, all of them discovered QED independent of each other.

I agree that freeing information and data can make discoveries rapid, but it can as well bring formidable competition. In that sense, I don’t care, if someone can not compete, to make a discovery fast enough. I am not vouching for such a person at-all, even if hypothetically that person could be me.

But once the discovery has been made, he who has discovered — or they, independent of each other, be given the credit.

Also, I have been sometimes felt handicapped, due to lack of “free” information, by a supposedly free-collaboration, so I wouldn’t have a reason, to put-forth a non-free regime of science and discovery.

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