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Open kitchen science

Open kitchen science

It’s that time of year again: grant-writing season! Marie Curie, ERC, NWO, you name it: academics everywhere are labouring feverishly over their applications in the hope of landing a big bag of research dough.

Almost all these people will miss out. Many of them will end up feeling disillusioned with academia and their place in it. To them I say: there are other ways to do your research. Off the beaten path.

Recently I was involved in the launch of a new club. All of us with PhDs, all actively involved in research – and none of us actually employed by a university. The members of our fledgling society for Open Kitchen Science are all in different fields and fund our work in different ways, from consulting to crowdfunding. Our shared goals: to develop new models of doing and disseminating research, to identify alternative impact measures, and to support others pursuing a non-traditional academic career path.

We believe the purpose of science and research is to increase knowledge and make the world a better place. The best and most efficient way to achieve this, we think, is by sharing: our data, protocols, methods and findings (hello, negative results! Goodbye, firewalls!). Our ringleader, Rosanne Hertzberger – of NRC-column fame – likes to say she does ‘science by TMI’ (too much information): she puts it all out there. It’s strange that simply sharing should be so radical, but here we are.

Another of our core principles is quality control. There are enough climate-change deniers and anti-vaxxers out there giving independent research a bad name. This rule can aptly be summarised as no whackos.

And finally, maximum transparency: honesty about what our findings show and what we really understand about the underlying mechanism. No bullshitting, in other words.

We want to show that the kind of research produced this way can be credible and viable. We believe a more open approach can ultimately make science and scholarship better quality, but also more inclusive as well as personally fulfilling.

It’s not easy. It takes independence, entrepreneurship, a pioneering spirit, and a lot of inherent motivation. Ironically, exactly the things funding bodies say they are looking for.

Alison Edwards



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