10 March 2010

Open Science vs. Closed Companies

Here are some interesting thoughts on open science and how it relates to those working within companies:

Just as secrecy in academia only makes sense within the existing reward structure, secrecy in industry could be at least partly offset by policy decisions that recognize the gains in efficiency that collaboration can bring. I've heard multiple times from multiple sources that industry may close itself off from the rest of the world, but within a company, the teamwork ethic is amazing. Clearly, the value of co-operation is recognized. Why shouldn't that also work for (larger and larger) groups of companies? What you lose by not being the only company to know something from which profit can be made (call it X) is offset by the fact that you might never have learned X without the collaboration -- and in the meantime, the world gets X that much faster.

It seems clear, though, that such top-down decisions are more likely to be made in academia, and perhaps the nonprofit sector, than in profit-driven industry -- at least until there are enough concrete examples of success to tip the perceived balance of risk. If I'm -- if we Open Foo types are -- right, it's actually riskier to compete than to cooperate in the long term. Better to own a share of X sooner than to delay any return on your investment in the hope of owning X outright later. This is especially true when the resources required to try to own X could be used to get you shares in multiple other projects at the same time.

Sharing should not be seen as a problem but as a solution.

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Filceolaire said...

Companies are, in general, happy to cooperate with their suppliers and with their customers. It is unasual for any one company to be able to deliver a new technology on it's own.

You have to educate your customers about what your new widget can do so they will integrate it into the design of their next gen whizz-bang.

Of course yopur suppliers and customers are doing the same with all your competitors and staff change employersand so the knowledge goes round.

It isn't that there is no cooperation; it's that that there is a culture of pretending there is no cooperation.

How do we change the culture?

Glyn Moody said...

@Joe: good point. I think making this fact clear will help people on this.