Monday, December 06, 2010

Trust has no place in science

One discussion I had often had in the past year, is about trust in science. I, for one, believe (hahahaha; you see the irony? ;) that trust has nothing to do with science. Likewise, any scholar should be, IMHO, hes is suspicious when someone talks about trust. A scholarly scientist will never trust any result: hes will accept it as true or false, but will take responsibility for that decision; hes will not hide behind 'but I trusted him' or 'but it was published in Nature'.

Antony asked last week the community to answer a questionnaire, which turned out the be about our trust in online chemical database. He presented the results at the EBI. This is the slide that summarizes the results from that questionnaire:

We see that trust clearly has a very significant place in science. How disappointing. You can spot me in these results easily: I am the one that consequently answered 'Never Trust' for all databases. It's not that I do not value those databases, but there is no need for them to trust them. I verify. This is actually a point visible in Tony's presentation: we can compare databases.

This is the point that I and others have been making for more than a decade now: if we do things properly, we can do this verification. Anyone can. With Open Data, Open Source, and Open Standards we can. I can only stress once more how important this is. We trust people, we trust government, but repeatedly this trust is taken advantage of. Without transparency, people can hide. By being able to hide, human loose there ability to decide what is right. With transparency, we see things return to normal, as we saw this week with UK politicians.

Further reading in my blog:

Update: if you liked this post, you will also like blogs posts like this one from Björn.