Beth Ritter-Guth
Dr. Amy Koerber
English 5386: Written Discourse & Social Issues
October 11, 2006

Rhetorical Bridges:
The Communication Strategies of Traditional and Open Chemists

On May 2, 2005, the National Institute of Health initiated a policy requesting investigators “to submit to the NIH National Library of Medicine's (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) an electronic version of the author's final manuscript upon acceptance for publication, resulting from research supported, in whole or in part, with direct costs from NIH” (NIH, 2005) [[#_ftn1|[1]]]. As a result, scientific disciplines have explored the ramifications and expectations of publishing open access materials. As grant funding bodies and federal agencies like the National Institute of Health (NIH) require Open Access (OA) publishing as part of the dissemination process, scientists are moving beyond traditional scientific approaches (peer reviewed journals) by embracing practical and technological approaches of sharing discipline-specific information within, or at the conclusion of, the research process. The biomedical community, for example, has pioneered efforts for sharing information through sites like BioMed, which offers open access to peer reviewed journal articles without the sharing of primary or in-process data. Their position is to share “all original research articles published by BioMed Central…freely and permanently accessible online immediately upon publication. BioMed Central views open access to research as essential in order to ensure the rapid and efficient communication of research findings[[#_ftn2|[2]]].”
This article focuses on the open chemistry community in their quest to understand, embrace, and facilitate the open process. Open chemistry is a subset of traditional chemistry which operates using the historical peer-review publishing model for dissemination of information.[[#_ftn3|[3]]] Open Chemistry, while not new, is enhanced by the increase in technology to share in-process data. Murray-Rust notes that “in informatics the lack of Openness is a serious problem” (September 2, 2006) and that “the chemical information cycle is broken - to the detriment of the chemical and general commons” (September 7, 2006). Further, he “believe[s] that scientific data belongs to the commons, not to publishers or secondary aggregators” (September 2, 2006). Finally, he states that “chemical informatics [docking systems] and information is broken. It’s expensive, lossy, out of data and restrict[[#_msocom_1|[JBS1]]] [[#_msocom_2|[JBS2]]] ive(September 8, 2006). The use of the web has provided open chemists with new and better ways to share information. Chemists no longer have to wait for conferences or publications to extract useful data.
The idea of sharing data is not universally accepted, however, There are some reasons, both good and bad, not to share data in the pre-journal process. Since tenure and promotion often hinge on publications, and publications are stinted by publishing data on blogs and wikis, it does not make sense for all data to be shared within the research process.
[[#_msocom_3|[JBS3]]] tion between traditional and open chemists that is the focus of this study. Specifically, this study examines the communication structure of traditional and open chemists in hopes of creating a bridge between the two communication styles. By relying on the theories of “system” and “lifeworld” communication as presented by Jurgen Habermas, this study will demonstrate the communication gap between traditional chemists operating in a “system” or Instrumental Rationality model and open chemists operating in the “lifeworld” communicative rationality model. Open Chemistry, as I will argue, is the sharing of data within the research process for free use, re-use, modification, and/or distribution. This is facilitated by a “lifeworld” approach to collaborative communication on wikis and blogs.
The specific problem I examine is that traditional academic chemists, and the funding sources that recognize this model, do not, yet, recognize or embrace the new trends of open chemistry. I will argue that this is a result of the communication gap created by the “system” versus “lifeworld” models. Through negation, the revolutionary work of the open chemists is largely ignored. I argue that this lack of support is not indicative of a philosophical opposition to the concept of open chemistry, but, rather, a misunderstanding, or an absent understanding, of the purpose, scope, and definition of open chemistry. A[[#_msocom_4|[JBS4]]] s Murray-Rust, an Open Data advocate, asserts on his blog, “IMO that is why biosciences, with an Open ethic are about 10 years ahead of the chemical sciences in their use of information” (September 2, 2006). Open Data, a subset of Open Chemistry, “is a philosophy and practice requiring that certain data are freely available to everyone, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. It has a similar ethos to a number of other "Open" movements and communities such as Open Source and Open Access” (Wikipedia: Open Data, November 6, 2006).
Certainly, the practice of chemistry, in any model, is best left to chemists to discuss. However, technical Communicators, serving as advocates for the scientific community, will play an important role in the future of scientific communication as it applies to academic us[[#_msocom_5|[JBS5]]] es. The need to bridge the communication gap is increasingly important; as web technology expands the possibilities and capabilities of open chemists, a clear, consistent, and positive message needs to be delivered from the open community. Since the open chemistry movement is new, the issue of clarifying language is important. While chemists may not recognize the communication structures used to facilitate the process of sharing data, it is useful for their advocates to understand the different models of communication. Grant and policy writers will benefit from recognizing the communication structure of the closed “system” of traditional chemistry in comparison to the “lifeworld” model used by open chem[[#_msocom_6|[JBS6]]] ists.
The first step in preparing the research for this study was to make contact with the chemistry community. In working with Jean-Claude Bradley, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Drexel University, I learned about the potential impact of open chemistry on the global community. In working with him on other projects, I understood that the main problem in the open chemistry movement was a lack of definition of fundamental terminology.
Once I identified the problem (a breakdown in communication approaches between traditional chemists and open chemists), I began reviewing blogs and wikis of various open chemists. I wrote to Peter Murray-Rust, and he invited me to post my questions on the Blue Obelisk mailing list. As a result of that recommendation, I was further connected to other international open chemists. As a result of my partnership with them, I identified several blogs and wikis for use as primary documents. For examination, I studied the blogs of Peter Murray-Rust, Jean-Claude Bradley, Rich Apodaca, Geoff Hutchinson, and Egon Willighagen,. Further, I examined the Blue Obelisk Wiki, The Blue Obelisk Mailing List Archive Wiki, the Useful Chemistry Wiki, the “Open Data” entry in Wikipedia, and Peter Suber’s Open Access Wiki.
To understand the practices of traditional chemists, I spoke to various traditional chemists that outlined the procedures for tenure and promotion. I used the process of negat[[#_msocom_7|[JBS7]]] ion to determine the differences between traditional and open chemistry.
Finally, I examined supplemental literature to determine whether the trends of Instrumental and Communicative Rationality (Habermas) was found in similar studies within the scholarship of science, rhetoric, technical writing, or communication.
In preparing this paper, I worked completely in the open on a wiki. I believed that writing in the open demonstrated my own faith in its merits and lent credibility to the chemists with which I have been privileged to meet through this research. At every stage, the chemists were able to provide feedback about the nature and scope of my work, and many offered additional suggests. Most importantly, as a result of this study, several open chemists began looking at their use of language in advocating their position.
Background on the Controversy
The term “traditional chemists” refers to chemists that share chemical information through the traditional peer review process. Traditional chemistry is the standard practice of chemistry as recognized by the American Chemical Society and the Royal Academy of Science. In this process, lab chemists work on data in “closed labs” where data, practice, and results are kept private until patenting and publishing takes place. Patenting laws are created and sustained by the governments; publishing guidelines, including copyright ownership and dissemination capabilities, are created and sustained by individual journals. In traditional chemistry, the peer review process is important and publishing results in funding, promotion, and tenure in companies and academic institutions. While some funding sources require true publication of primary data, most articles mask the data so that the lab experiment can not be easily reproduced in another lab.
The term “open chemists” refers to those who share data within the research process before publication. For example, Murray-Rust writes in his blog that “the single fundamental requirement in eScience [science shared via the web] is that there is shared data” (September 7, 2006). Certainly, all chemists are traditional at some level. Since open chemistry is relatively new, there are no chemists that have avoided the traditional model of practicing chemistry. This is an important factor in examining the communication structure of open and closed chemists. Even students enrolled now in chemistry programs are influenced by the traditional model, as most professors were tenured and promoted within the model. Therefore, it is safe to suggest that open chemistry is revolutionary, as it operate outside the norm of traditional chemistry.
There are various existing definitions of “open chemistry.” Generally speaking, open chemistry is the sharing of information within the research process before publication of traditional articles in peer reviewed journals. Even within the community, there is some discussion of the terminology used to describe what is common to those publishing pre-formal publication data. Murray-Rust writes, that “the term “Open” both unites us and causes potential confusion. “Open” has connotations of trust, collaboration, innovation, etc. but because someone espouses “Open X” that doesn’t mean they espouse “Open Y”" (Murray-Rust, September 26, 2006).[[#_msocom_8|[JBS8]]]
Open chemistry is a response from within the traditional chemistry community that deals solely with the output of information, but [[#_msocom_9|[JBS9]]] . In short, even with the advent of technology, chemistry is still practiced the same way in both communities; it is shared differently by open chemists than traditional chemists. The philosophy of sharing chemical information within the research process is based on the understanding that “unless we have free access to the primary outputs of science, we are denied the opportunity to develop new ideas in informatics-driven scie[[#_msocom_10|[JBS10]]] nce." (Murray-Rust, September 1, 2006). The limitations posed by closed chemistry are a result of a communication structure rooted in the system model.
Open Chemistry is practiced in a variety of ways, and there seems to be no standard way to share information. However, it is safe to assume that technology plays a large role in the ability to share chemical data, and, thus, is a defining tool of the movement. Further, it is inaccurate to assume that all open chemists’ share a vision for how much information should be shared or when, within the process, information should be shared. While all agree to share at some level, there is no universal statement or understanding about the logistics.
Open Source Science, Open Data, Open Standards, and Open Source Science generally refer to the same principle; it indicates the publication of data for free use and distribution via the web using wikis, blogs, chemical docking programs, or other RSS technology. However, the words are not synonymous, as each term carries a slight variation to the central theme of sharing. Open chemistry has the possibility to “change the practice of science” (Murray-Rust, September 1, 2006). Historically, this same data has only been available, in parts, through traditional peer review journals. Open Access, however, applies only to the publication of journal articles and does not, exclusively, deal with in-process data. There is much confusion; as Murray-Rust notes, “Open Data is much less well understood than Open Access” (September 7, 2006). Further, “any use of “Open” is likely to be fuzzy and confusing. The “Open Access” movement is broad and supports several major points of view which, though overlapping, have significant differences either in pragmatics or philosophy” (Murray-Rust, September 26, 2006). The strongest message from the open chemistry community has been a desire to distinguish themselves from the Open Access movement. While both imply sharing, they are, indeed, very different movements.
ODOSOS is one acronym used to define "Open Data, Open Source, Open Standards" (Murray-Rust). However, there is legitimate discussion about what constitutes “Open Source” as compared to “Open Standards” and “Open Data.” Open Access, for example, refers to the publication of "final" data or articles, and is not, inherently, about the sharing of collaborative data although there is a place for that to exist within OA. “Open Source Science” refers to the sharing of all data, including failed experiments, and is likened to “open source” code in computing. It includes both the process and the resulting data. As such, it communicates the "thinking behind the chemistry" - a practice not embraced by traditional methods (Bradley, 2006). “Open Data” is similar to Open Source Science in the philosophy of sharing, but differs because it does not include the publication of failed data or experiments, and shares, instead, successful processes and data. In short, "open data" refers to data "which we can attach a CC [Creative Commons] or similar license" (Murray-Rust). Finally, “Open Standards” refers to the sharing of the coding used to dock chemical data. Open chemistry, as a science, belongs to the overall grouping of the “science commons.” The Science Commons is “a specific organization that has spun out of the Creative Commons movement” (Cook-Deegan, et al, 2006). While the Science Commons often refers to the biological science, it also applies to chemistry. As Murray-Rust argues, “primary scientific data belong to the scientific commons and that they must be free" (Murray-Rust, September 1, 2006). Again, the core philosophy appears to be shared by “open chemists,” but, at present, all of these terms are confusing. While the differences are subtle, they do, in fact, exist.
However, not all persons who believe in the philosophy of sharing agree on the process (when and how the information should be[[#_msocom_11|[JBS11]]] shared). The term "Open Data" is used most frequently by Peter Murray-Rust to describe the work he does to share information with other chemists; his pioneering efforts, along with Henry Rzepa, creating the Chemical Markup Language (CML) have great potential to change the process by which chemical information is shared within the community. Open Source Science, which has recently been renamed “Open Notebook Science” is a phrase used most frequently by Jean-Claude Bradley and refers to the sharing via blog publication of all experimental data, including failed experiments, in open access formats (blogs, wikis, and other RSS technology). Open Standards generally refers to the process by which chemical information is shared; in the open chemistry community, there are several formats to share information. Among them, CML and InChi are just a tiny sample of the variety of out-put formats available. One of the problems in establishing a unifying process is that there are many more out-put formats and there is not one “standard” reader
There is certainly an understood distinction between open and closed chemistry. As Murray-Rust indicates, “in chemistry there is virtually none [sharing of data]. What there is has almost all come from bioscience (e.g. NCI and PubChem) and some of the US government agencies. However, mainstream chemistry is totally uninterested in sharing chemical data and when it needs it expects to have to pay private sector providers. As a result, innovation in eChemistry and cheminformatics is stifled” (September 7, 2006). Further, he suggests that “chemists write in unnecessarily convoluted language” and this problem in communicative terminology is the “gap” between traditional and open chemistry (September 7, 2006). The community, in its attempts to identify itself and legitimize its connection to traditional chemistry, uses “the term ‘Open Data’ [and it] is now becoming commonly used and we (Blue Obelisk) are trying to define it (our mantra being ODOSOS. Open Data, Open Source, Open Stan[[#_msocom_12|[JBS12]]] dards)” (Murray-Rust, September 12, 2006). As these posts indicate, there is a shift in language between traditional chemistry and open chemistry. Further, the notion that they are “trying to define” terms indicates that no universal terms exist.
The work of open chemists is exactly the same as those practicing traditional chemistry; the lab practices, standards, and reporting are the same. It is only the dissemination of data to the chemistry community that marks the difference between the groups. This gap grows wider as open chemists put more material online and traditional chemists feel the weight of anti-collaboration from grant funders like the NSF and the NIH. It is important to note, however, the open chemistry community accepts and expects resistance to their work “in the margins.” On his blog, Murray-Rust cautions, “be prepared for disinterest and opposition from most of the [traditional] community” (September 7, 2006).
While much needs to be written about "open chemistry" and "open science" throughout the academy, the concept of "Open Access" publication is not new. The OA movement is strong and well defined by Peter Suber; “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (2006). In general, though, OA refers to the final product of research and not the process by which it is shared. Chemistry, a discipline rich in raw data, is a perfect candidate for sharing collaborative data within the research process. Technology offers cost effective methods to share data. Google searching, for example, allows for free and simple access to core data; this shared data produces faster results via the cheapest methods.

The difficulty in creating a definition has been a result, likely, from a misunderstanding of the philosophical nature of Open Data and the Open Source technology tools used to share data and confusion between Open Access publishing and shared data. The present focus of the rhetoric between these chemists has focused, almost exclusively, on the technologies by which the information is shared. There has not been a great discussion on defining the core concept or offering that core concept a unified name. This leads to confusion by those who do not understand that while “open chemistry” and “open source science” may share the same root philosophy, they are practiced in different wa[[#_msocom_13|[JBS13]]] ys. Outsiders may not realize that practicing chemists and collaboration sites share a core philosophy but function differently in the "open community." For example, Bradley supplies all data from his lab including failed experiments that would, otherwise, not find placement in journals or repositories. His definition of “publishing” does not require the use of peer-review, as all the lab notes are digitized and provided online. In supplying failed experimental data, he hopes to prevent others from making similar mistakes (interview). His goal is to provide the "thinking behind the chemistry.” Murray-Rust shares successful data through his Chemical Markup Language. Other organizations like Chemists without Borders and The Synaptic Leap function as collaboration sites to help chemists work together on similar projects. The Blue Obelisk is a site that provides a place for chemists to share and discuss ideas relevant to the technology of sharing data. Collaboration sites are useful, but they do not necessarily publish data. What is most striking about all of these groups is that they all agree about the principle of sharing with one another; the question to explore will be whether or not "when" is as important as "why."
Communicative v. Instrumental Rationality in the Chemists’ Discourse
In The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1 (1981), Habermas defined two types of competing communication strategies and urged for reconciliation between the two styles. In “Instrumental Rationality” communicators work from a top-down approach, and the leaders (those in power) control the flow of communication. In “Communicative Rationality” all members work toward reaching consensus through communication (Habermas, 1981). As a result, “communicative action organizes social interaction through the notion of mutual understanding” (Niemi, 2005). Habermas recognizes that both systems exist in relation to one another “since both strategic and communicative action are mechanisms for interaction coordination that takes place in a linguistic medium, the main difference between them is how language is used in each respective case” (Niemi, 2005).
Habermas argues that, right now, the world operates under the influences of Instrumental Rationality, as those in power do not communicate using terminology common to the “lifeworl[[#_msocom_14|[JBS14]]] d” (Habermas). Most people communicate in the lifeworld, and those in power are too far away to understand. The better of the two strategies allows for all to communicate equally; “in Habermas’s terms, a strategic use of language attempts to accomplish the problems of action coordination through an exertion of influence, while a communicative use of language tries to achieve the same through a process of researching understanding” (Niemi, 2005).
The “system” and “life[[#_msocom_15|[JBS15]]] world” models are useful in this exploration of communicative structures in traditional and open chemistry. Traditional chemistry operates in a “top down” approach where governing bodies, tenured professors, grant PIs, and funding bodies like the NSF and the NIH make the “rules” for the community to follow. As Habermas suggests, these rules are perpetuated through communication strategies, and communication is used to enforce the rules. Open chemists resist the structure of top-down communication by allowing each chemist to have an equal footing in the community. At first glance, one can not determine who is a tenured professor, graduate student, or undergraduate student, as all participants have an equal voice. Credibility is determined by the legitimacy and worth of the data shared. Further, no person steps forward to claim authority over another. The collaborative nature of the group, in their attempts to define their purpose and scope, is cyclical and, as of yet, unfinished. In the nature of Habermas, the discourse will continue and a likely resolution is improbable based on the structure of the communicative strateg[[#_msocom_16|[JBS16]]] y.
Traditional chemists utilize “instrumental rationality” or “system” communication to communicate chemical information to one another, and are “detached and success oriented” (Hyde, 2005). In the sciences, chemistry is considered to be one of the most conservative. Other sciences, especially biological science, have embraced the sharing of in-process data. However, the strategies of traditional chemistry, considering that most funding is received through selective grant competitions, rely on Instrumental Rationality to communicate. Murray-Rust outlines the process outlined by Peter Suber, the champion of Open Access publishing, as “funders support scientists to do research. The results of this work are then given (i.e. copyright assigned) to publishers who get peer-review donated by the scientific community and then restrict the dissemination to readers who are able and prepared to pay. The wealth flow (which includes both money, informatics goods, and services) is a net drain FROM the funders TO the shareholders of the publishers’ (September 7, 2006). In this approach, the leaders of the community are identified as tenured professors, Primary Investigators, or Senior Chemists. These persons hold the “power” in the community and disseminate guidelines and rules to those underneath them. The community does not attempt to reach agreement through the consensus, as this group communicates in a top-down manner. As such, chemists mainly publish and throw away [and as a result] most data is lost (Murray-Rust, October 7, 2[[#_msocom_17|[JBS17]]] 006).
The approach leaves little room for those who operate “in the margins” (Apodaca, 2006). Open Chemists, relying on Communicative Rationality, operate in the margins of this ruling “class.” It is important to note, however, that most of the open chemists operate, at some level, as traditional chemists; most members of the open movement are tenured and have little to lose by being open. Further, since the communicative structure is controlled by traditional chemists, the open chemists are forced to operate in the system at some level.
The power elite control the flow of communication in traditional chemistry. Those in power control communication by denying promotion and tenure, refusing to fund or support open labs, and/or refusing to allow data to move beyond the lab walls (on paper or in concept). The open chemists certainly understand this model and operate in resistance to it by “freeing” the data. As Colby indicates, “differentiation also includes symbolic representation of the lifeworld that is regulated by cultural traditions and “value spheres” of taste and distinction….that help individuals more easily achieve consensus” (2003). The values of the open chemists stem from an idea that sharing is beneficial to all, and “free” does not mean lower quality.
In sharing data, the open chemists are beginning to establish themselves in a community which has, largely, paid little attention to the movement. All members of the group have equal footing, regardless of position, stature, or funding. For example, “the Blue Obelisk Open Source group has now achieved a critical mass of high quality software, especially in chemoinformatics, chemical text analysis, editing and infrastructure such as markup languages (CML). We are beginning to be taken seriously and more collaborators are joining. The success is built on years of work by a few individuals. Those of you who think Open Source is now “obvious” may not realize that in domains - such as chemistry - it is normally regarded as suboptimal, carried out in “undergraduate projects” (a slur, anyway, as undergraduates have created some of our best materials)" (Murray-Rust, September 14, 2006). However, despite the trend of “people are taking us seriously…it is still extremely hard to get support for Open Source in domains, especially chemistry (though some of us can thank funding bodies for our existence). The market is slewed to the pharma industry that has little effective interest in encouraging Open Source, even though they know that the current products are broken and do not interoperate (see earlier blo[[#_msocom_18|[JBS18]]] gs). It is an enormous labor of love to create tools which appear to duplicate existing commercial offerings and be igno[[#_msocom_19|[JBS19]]] red." (Murray-Rust, September 14, 2006). Even though the community, as a whole, resists the “new way” of doing chemistry, Murray-Rust says that it “would be safe in saying that worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of crystallographic data is lost each year. For spectra and synthetic chemistry it will be at least 10 times greater. Many synthetic chemists say they are interested in failed reactions - and these are almost never published! If funders are aware of this they should be concerned about the loss. Funders are increasingly being proactive in requiring funded research to be Openly accessible" (Murray-Rust, September 17, 2006). Clearly, the logistics of funding and policy are important to all chemists regardless of communication strategy. Since policy and grants are a from of communication, it is essential that writers are able to serve as informed advocates for this group of chemists. However, international chemists generally prepare their own grants, and so, in reality, the informed writers will likely be US based adacemic policy and grant writers.
The gap between traditional and open chemists is widening, as technology makes it possible to share instantaneously. This results in a “tension between the publisher and the users [because] significant content is illegally downloaded and an important role of the publisher is acting as “policeman” making sure that content is not stolen" (Murray-Rust, September 11, 2006). In the traditional model, “policing” is not necessary, as the information has been examined and legitimized in the peer review process. The open chemists are not as worried about the “stealing” of data, as “stealing” is a non-issue to a group advocating for collaboration, but the “major problem in chemistry is that there is a plethora of file formats and it continues to get worse. Each manufacturer thinks they are the centre of the world and everyone else will use their approach. So they make up some ad hoc format and the number of different file types multiplies" (September 14, 2006). Sharing the data becomes a problem if the systems for sharing remain part of the “system” and the “lifeworld” chemists do not have access to that d[[#_msocom_20|[JBS20]]] ata.
The gap continues to widen if the open chemists share freely with closed chemists, but the benefits of collaboration are not returned. The “science commons” addresses this issue, as Murray-Rust noted earlier. But, in short, the communication strategies will need to be bridged if both communities are to remain ethically grounded. As Apodaca notes, “regardless of your views on the use and abuse of chemical information resources like PubChem, it's clear that getting open resources on the Web is only the first in a long series of controversial steps that will ultimately transform both the practice and culture of research." (September 22, 2006). Clearly, open chemistry will not “go away”; likewise, traditional chemistry will not “go away.” If both styles can bridge the communication gaps, they van exist in relation to one another and compliment one another as Habermas suggests.
Open Chemists rely on communicative or “lifeworld” rationality which is “reflexive and value oriented” (Hyde, 2005). It is important to note, at this point, that Habermas, like the Open Chemists, recognizes that “lifeworld” communicators exist in relationship to instrumental communicators. He does not advocate the elimination of instrumental communicators, as the Open Chemists do not support the elimination of traditionally practiced chemistry. Habermas suggests that the two communication groups need to establish a balance; likewise the Open Chemists and the Traditional Chemists need to establish an equitable communication balance that allows each group to operate functionally within a global system. As the Open Chemists attempt to identify themselves and establish credibility within the discipline, they will have to understand and accept the grounds upon which they communicate. As they continue to share data openly, they will need to promote the communication process by relying on “system” terminology to express their “lifeworld” strategies. If they fail to do so, traditional chemists will not value, recognize, or legitimize the work of the open chemists.
In establishing legitimacy, the Open Chemists will need to define and position themselves using concrete terminology. However, because these Open Chemists strive for collaborative and consensus, they hesitate to formulate a definition until all members, even those not identified, weigh in on the issue. This silence is a result of either disagreement with the open movement or a complete disregard for the movement itself. In order for the movement to receive recognition, it will need to provide foundational elements consistent with terminology used in traditional chemistry. Positioning themselves in the community, however, is slightly problematic when no member wants to “speak out” more than others. The lack of defining principles will lead the traditional chemists to the belief that the movement lacks foundation. Certainly, this is not true, but until the open chemists advocate for their own vocabulary, the traditional chemists are poised to create the discourse for them.
David Dayton observes a similar situation in his study, “Evaluating environmental impact statements as communicative action,” because the ideal communication parameters are unachievable since the debate about terminology never ends, and, thus, policy creation is paralyzed, as a result (Dayton, 2002). In the case of the open chemists, failure to achieve consensus on defining terminology has the potential to damage the credibility and legitimacy of the movement. The open movement has, as Murray-Rust notes, received some criticism. As a result, Murray-Rust notes in his blog, “"that Open Access, Data, Source and Standards are not unethical. There will have to be new - and untested - business models for scientific information. Some won’t work. But the whole impetus of the current web with mashups and REST will inevitably change the face of science, so we should start preparing. There is nothing intrinsically laudable in publishing scientific material that looks visually the same as it did 120 years ago” (September 2, 2006). As this study demonstrates, failing to define their efforts will become even more problematic; if open chemists do not define themselves, they allow others, namely instrumental communicators, to define their effo[[#_msocom_21|[JBS21]]] rts.
Significance of Study
Open chemistry, operating within the structure of traditional chemistry, has the potential to exact great potential in the science commons. Murray-Rust, for example, “believe[s] that knowledge and science can now only flourish in an Open environment…close commercial interests (publishers, aggregators, software developers and industrial customers such as the pharmaceutical industry) stifle innovation in information-driven science” (Murray-Rust, September 2, 2006). The potential for innovation through collaboration is one marked advantage to open chemistry.
This impact, however, will go unrealized if funding sources, policy makers, or the larger chemistry community is not aware of the benefits of the innovation. Further, the nay-sayers, as outspoken members of the traditional community, will create and fashion defining principles for the community. Murray-Rust notes that he is “prepared to be called foolish, unrealistic, and encounter prophesies of failure; to be ignored by the mainstream of the discipline. But I don’t like being called unethical." (Murray-Rust, September 2, 2006). Failure to craft their own guiding definitions will result in the name calling (as it has) of others in opposition to the movement.
The real challenge, of course, is to convince funding agencies and policy makers that open chemistry is equal to traditional chemistry. There is a notion that something that is “free” is inherently bad, as cost indicates quality. For example, “very little scholarship done on OS in chemistry as most people in chemistry think it’s a bunch of idealists and “student hackers”. “If it’s free it can’t be any good” and they ritually pay kilobucks/year for mediocre software" (Murray-Rust, September 10, 2006). However, open chemists can frame their arguments by demonstrating that money is spent more efficiently in using open chemistry because “the [research] cycle is complete: funders support science; science is published into the commons; the commons can be seen by the funders who can demonstrate the value of their contribution; and the new goods inspire the next generation of science’ (Murray-Rust, September 7, 2006). While this can certainly happen in academic chemistry, a greater problem exists in relationship to corporate chemistry because “the major market for both software and data is the pharmaceutical industry which pays billions to major information suppliers. This biases the flow so that only crumbs return to the commons. It’s actually worse than zero because if a commercial offering exists there is no motivation to build one in the Commons. So innovation is stifled." Murray-Rust, September 7, 2006). The idea of “share alike” is certainly understood in the Science Commons, but big industry may or may not play by the same rules.
The problem boils down to one of communication. If open chemists only communicate with other open chemists, no advancement can take place toward the spreading of the mission. In a sense, they are “preaching to the choir.” However, many of these open chemists don’t wish to “rock the boat” in the larger community and simply go about their business with a disregard for the larger community. But, funding sources, relying on an Instrumental system they have understood for the past 100 years, will not readily disperse funds to a system they do not understand. As a result of “apathy and lack of vision - scientists (especially chemists) need demonstrators before people take us seriously” (Murray-Rust, October 20, 2006).
The Irony
The irony of this communication problem lies in how Open Chemists communicate. They operate in conjunction with Traditional Chemists, as many of them are, in fact, traditional chemists. Some, like Bradley, prefer to operate as traditional chemists “in the margins” of traditional chemistry. As such, they resist, as a community, the confines of traditional definition. Their interest in reaching pure consensus through collaboration is commendable. However, they are, at the core, chemists that rely on funding from outside sources. Since most funding agencies are educated in the traditional approaches to chemistry, they may not recognize the legitimacy of the movement. The chemistry, itself, is the same in both communities; it is the practice of sharing that makes them different. In an effort to educate funding bodies of their legitimate, practical, and cost-effective work, they will need to agree on some defining terminology. This “double bind” will require Open Chemists to use Instrumental approaches to define and justify their Communicative actions.

The chemistry community has not wholly adopted open access or the concepts of open data. Historically, chemical information has been shared through the traditional peer review process, and, even then, the information is masked so that it can not be replicated easily by another lab. Open Chemists are working to change this system by sharing data via technology within the research process. While open chemistry does not operate in opposition to traditional approaches, it does offer an alternative to standard or accepted procedures. This trend is consistent with the theories of Habermas, as he explains that the lifeworld works in conjunction, and sometimes in tension, with the “system” (Habermas, 1981). In Hyde’s study, as well, it is noted that, despite tension, both systems co-exist. Those who embrace open chemistry hope to lead the future of shared information by respecting the current practices within the chemistry community. However, practicing "open chemistry" will impact competitive patenting and tenure procedures as these systems, by definition, rely on instrumental rationality.
In their approach, the open chemists attempt to rely on the consensus approach suggested by Habermas. They resist power relationships and hesitate to designate one leader. All are considered experts and all are considered students. Since this group tries to communicate and collaborate toward consensus, there is a struggle to identify any one term or concept as “better” than another. Avoiding defining terms will not aid this group in achieving legitimacy within the larger, more traditional community. However, the nature of these chemists is to share collaboratively without pretense or competition. The cyclical nature of the dilemma is that the open chemists do not want to be defined using instrumental terms, but they need to be defined in such a way for funding and acceptance by the larger community that engages itself in instrumental terms.
In an effort to establish the legitimacy and benefits of open access science, open source science, and open data, the chemistry community needs to develop and establish a working, yet solid, position statement and philosophy. However, since the philosophy of sharing is not the same as accepting or defining suitable ways to practice sharing, there needs to be a distinction between philosophy and practice. At present, the open chemists use several terms that seem to refer to the same concept to a non-chemist audience, and the differences are not expressed in conversations about the root philosophy of sharing data, but, rather, in the actual practice of when and how the data is shared using technology. In short, the chemists spend most of their time focusing on how to share data and not engaging in conversations about their joint mission. As a result, they are not able to advocate for their needs in the funding community.
The purpose of this project is to aid the “open” chemistry community by helping them shape and define their core philosophy with an understanding that the process may or may not be essential to the definition. If both groups can agree that chemical information is “broken” as Murray-Rust indicates many times in his blog, they may be able to establish a pattern that works for both communities. Any defining principle will need to be flexible to account for all the varieties and styles of open chemistry. However, it is essential that a definition be created. Their willingness, as a group, to engage in this scholarship is evidence of their efforts to define and establish their revolutionary work. If they fail to do this on their own, they may be subject to others creating and perpetuating a definition and purpose for them. Once this community establishes a working definition of what they are already doing, their collective power will aid them in receiving funding for labs and projects. Therefore, the definition I propose is this: Open Chemistry is collaborative information that remains free, accessible, and re-usable.
Beth: You’ve done really good work on this paper. It’s been fun to see your thoughts develop during the semester. As noted in my comments throughout, you have a very clear argument, and it’s well supported. The problems that remain are really pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. However, addressing these problems will go a long way toward moving this from course paper to a potentially publishable article. And many of the changes (such as the remaining organization issues) would be good ones to make even for a course paper. This is very rich, interesting subject matter, and I enjoyed reading the excerpts from blogs.
In short, this is very good as a course paper; my comments and grade reflect the work that would need to be done to move it from course paper to potentially publishable article.
Paper grade: B+ (308)
Presentation grade: 100/100. Excellent presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and your use of technology has motivated me to do more with voice/audio next time I teach online. The slides were well designed, and your narration was easy to follow
Participation grade: 150/150. Your participation in the class was exemplary. You set the pace and tone for the class, especially in your forum postings, and served as an excellent role model in doing so.


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[[#_ftnref3|[3]]] For the purposes of this study, I will only focus on chemistry produced in academic institutions. Further study on corporate chemistry is recommended, but is not a part of the scope of this project.