Open Source Gaining Ground Among Scientific Community

7 06 2007

As more innovators use open business models to develop innovative methods for seeking and solving vexing problems, researchers are finding that “openness” is improving response time and quality of research conducted under these new more open systems. This is often due to collaboration at the intersection of specialties.

In a recent paper entitled, “The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving,” Karim R. Lakhani, Lars Bo Jeppesen, Peter A. Lohse & Jill A. Panetta from the Harvard Business School, Copenhagen Business School, and (see previous post on InnoCentive’s business model) offered the following analysis:

Openness and free information sharing amongst scientists are supposed to be core norms of the scientific community. However, many studies have shown that these norms are not universally followed. Lack of openness and transparency means that scientific problem solving is constrained to a few scientists who work in secret and who typically fail to leverage the entire accumulation of scientific knowledge available.
We present evidence of the efficacy of problem solving when disclosing problem information. The method’s application to 166 discrete scientific problems from the research laboratories of 26 firms is illustrated. Problems were disclosed to over 80,000 independent scientists from over 150 countries.

We show that disclosure of problem information to a large group of outside solvers is an effective means of solving scientific problems. The approach solved one-third of a sample of problems that large and well-known R & D-intensive firms had been unsuccessful in solving internally. Problem-solving success was found to be associated with the ability to attract specialized solvers with range of diverse scientific interests. Furthermore, successful solvers solved problems at the boundary or outside of their fields of expertise, indicating a transfer of knowledge from one field to others.

Follow this link to read the previous post on InnoCentive’s open source approach to biochemistry.

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