This blog/site is still very much a thing in progress ; yet I can’t stay silent on what I’ve just read on La Repubblica. For non-Italian speakers: Apparently, prof. Enzo Boschi, head of the Italian Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute, is talking about “not making our data available via Web anymore, because they are used to reach nonsensical conclusions”.
I very much hope journalists are misinterpreting as usual, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if a character like Boschi, who is already known for his pathetically envious defense of the infamous Carlucci debacle, (where he also included patently false information about himself) would actually suggest something so idiotic.
Open access to scientific data is not a merely nice gesture. It should be a mandatory part of the process of science. Science is an open process, where results and theories are openly criticized, commented, analyzed, refuted and improved. It thrives on openness, not secrecy. By choosing to close down accessibility to its data, the IGVI is basically choosing to put in jeopardy its scientific credibility. How can we trust conclusions reached from data which are not openly accessible? How can other laboratories from outside help interpreting the data?
The issue is even more important for data which touch closely the lives of many people, like seismological data.
Of course Boschi is right on an issue: scientific data can, and are, misinterpreted every day, in every field (who works on climate change and has to battle climate change denialists should know it very well). Yet this is no reason at all to close access to data. On the contrary, it is a reason to open not only the data, but the correct methods to interpret them. It is a reason to educate, not to obscure.
Therefore, in the chance that Boschi’s suggestion is not a journalistic boutade but a real decision, I very much give a call to everyone working in Boschi’s institute and sane in his/her mind: Release the data on the Internet and bypass the block. Publish them on Wikileaks, Bittorrent, whatever, the more the merrier. Let us teach people, once again, that in the XXI century, attempting to censor information of public interest is not only idiotic and dangerous: it is useless.