9.401 | Fall 2022 | Graduate

Tools for Robust Science

Week 10 Challenge: Managing the Use of Scientific Products

The Challenge

Who can re-use what? It’s often unclear who should have credit, access, and ownership.

Most scientific research depends on people working together: from trainees working with a PI in a single lab to massive consortia of researchers around the globe. Collaborations raise key challenges: who gets credit for the work? Who can re-use the data and code generated by the work? Traditionally, these decisions were made by the PIs. Even the trainees (research assistants, grad students, and post-docs) who actually wrote the code and collected the data could only reuse data and code for their own future independent purposes with permission from the PI, and the PI could offer the data and code to new lab members to continue the project, at the PI’s discretion. Both larger-scale collaborations, and mandates to make data and code openly accessible, reduce PIs’ ability to control (re)use, potentially dramatically increasing the value of scientific products, but also potentially dramatically increasing the risks that these products would be (re)-used in ways that the original PI finds scientifically invalid, ethically troubling, and/or unstrategic for the trainees the PI most wants to protect. In this way, openness might undermine the ability of PIs to protect what they value: both ethics and people. Can tools help?


Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2022
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments