I had a small ethical dilemma this morning. I say small because it doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface. Here is what happened:
Yesterday I posted What I’ve learned about Open Notebook Science, and I gave myself some tasks associated with some of what I’ve learned. One of the tasks was in reference to my Open Notebook Science blog; I need to post consistently. I mentioned that both Anthony and Dr. Koch are consistent bloggers. I see posts from Dr. Koch all the time, in several arenas, mainly on Twitter and Friend Feed, about his work and Open Science. When I was posting yesterday I made an assumption that because he is always (electronically) around, that he must update his blog every day too, and that is what I wrote.
So this morning while I’m getting ready to come into the lab and all of a sudden, in my mind I see Dr. Koch’s blog page from the day before, and I realize that his last post was in August. Uh oh I think. What should I do? I don’t want to be “that” undergrad. I don’t want to be the kind of scientist that “assumes.” Wait… I can just access WordPress and change that one sentence. My mind is racing for about 60 seconds – how do I fix this (I might be having a finals stress hangover)? Then I calm down and realize it’s not a big deal, or is it?
I decide to wait until I get to the lab and talk to Anthony. Turns out that no, this particular situation isn’t really a big deal, but it does touch on an interesting ethical Open Notebook Science question. Would editing an Open Notebook Science blog post defeat one of the main underlying purposes of Open Notebook Science… freely sharing all information, right, wrong, imperfect? I wonder?
With Open Notebook Science, we post everything, even our mistakes. The first Open Notebooks were kept with wikis. Wikis have revision tracking. That means that every revision is accessible by anyone that wants to look. I keep my Notebook in this blog. A lot of scientists are doing the same thing. If I inadvertently make a mistake (i.e. post misinformation), I can simply edit my previous blog post and no one gets to see my mistake. Is that honest or am I helping to keep to a minimum the amount of misinformation that is available online?
We decided I should add an update to yesterday’s post. Thoughts?