As of today, the Neuroscience Devils site is closing its gates. This blog started as an experiment that Neuroskeptic and I discussed after I ended my spell as the Devil’s Neuroscientist. It was an attempt to give a voice to people with contrarian views, those unsettled by the fast changes affecting science and academia, or those who feel they might have been victimized by “data parasites” and “methodological terrorism”. The offer of giving people a protected platform to voice their concerns anonymously was genuine and well-intended. But the experiment has failed. That’s fine – most experiments do.
The furor about the Susan Fiske letter and some other vocal opposition to elements of open science, nevertheless highlights the desperate need for more discussion of these issues. The scientific community appears to be quite polarized these days. Perhaps not as badly as some other aspects of political life but there are clear fault lines. Dr Fiske’s letter was unnecessarily aggressive and her choice of words (especially in the infamous “leaked” version) unseemly for someone in her position – but it wouldn’t necessarily have been for an anonymous devil. The whole issue clearly underlined for me that there remain many people with concerns about where science is going. One of the main criticisms of her letter was that she painted “data detectives” in broad strokes and briefly hinted at unverifiable anecdotes of people being victimized. Such general, anonymous accusations are unhelpful. In my view, however, anonymous posts about some specific events could have been far more useful to spark a serious discussion. I had hoped that by giving this anonymous platform to people who are afraid to speak up against the open science zeitgeist (and trust me, I know a good number of such people) this could take us forward.
But I can understand that people are also uncomfortable speaking up even under these conditions. There could be many factors at play, perhaps not least of all the fact that some may not have trusted me to maintain their cover. I would reject any insinuations on that front, as I would have protected any author’s identity with all my power and I would have also accepted anonymous submissions. But still, maybe I was the wrong person to run this project. Then again, perhaps people simply felt this was pointless – and perhaps it was. However, the fact that only tumbleweed inhabits these parts also suggests to some that there simply aren’t any real stories to be told and that all these assertions of post-publication peer abuse are hogwash. I don’t know what the truth is but I can’t blame anyone for sharing this interpretation. Either way, it seems blatantly obvious that there remains a great need to continue this discussion because something remains to be very rotten in the state of science. All is definitely not well with open science either. Several months ago a friend of mine said that for post-publication peer-view to succeed “there is a need for more forgiveness”. I wholeheartedly agree. It is perhaps telling that even though this friend planned to write a blog post about this, they never did.
Anyway, I will leave this blog for posterity but as of now it is discontinued. While it wasn’t much work (obviously), I simply don’t want this drain on my attention anymore. The political uproar of recent months has caused me to withdraw from much of the open science social media, especially in the past month. I still believe this movement is important but I simply can’t bring up the will or the emotion to care about this very much right now. I will conserve any mood I have for this for my own blog. So hereby I bid you farewell. I am deeply grateful to the author of the sole submission to this blog for their contribution.