Friday, September 14, 2007

Open source and closed source

There are about 2.2 million Google links re the Wikipedia accuracy question. While I have not yet read all 2.2 million entries, I get the picture. Open source is not perfect but it is not bad either. Today's WSJ includes:

Most Science Studies Appear to Be TaintedBy Sloppy

We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar
John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations,
most published research findings are wrong.

Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research
methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts
University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he
has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published
every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.

These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud
or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor
study design or self-serving data analysis. "There is an increasing concern that
in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority
of published research claims," Dr. Ioannidis said. "A new claim about a research
finding is more likely to be false than true."

The hotter the field of research the more likely its published
findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.

Take the discovery that the risk of disease may vary between
men and women, depending on their genes. Studies have prominently reported such
sex differences for hypertension, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, as well
as lung cancer and heart attacks. In research published last month in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Ioannidis and his colleagues
analyzed 432 published research claims concerning gender and
genes. ...

It seems that closed source also has its problems. And it is painfully slow.

The wonderful possibility of open-source journal refereeing is that there are many smart people with time on their hands and/or the desire to be involved in the discussion. And good-bye to time lags that have no place in the modern world.