A Novel Idea

I found a rather novel idea today. A person by the name of Darrel Ince is requesting scientists to release the source code for applications used in their research. It’s mostly directed at the Al Gore’s Apocalypse group of “scientists” but is a good idea in general. From the article:

Computer code is also at the heart of a scientific issue. One of the key features of science is deniability: if you erect a theory and someone produces evidence that it is wrong, then it falls. This is how science works: by openness, by publishing minute details of an experiment, some mathematical equations or a simulation; by doing this you embrace deniability. This does not seem to have happened in climate research. Many researchers have refused to release their computer programs — even though they are still in existence and not subject to commercial agreements. An example is Professor Mann’s initial refusal to give up the code that was used to construct the 1999 “hockey stick” model that demonstrated that human-made global warming is a unique artefact of the last few decades. (He did finally release it in 2005.)

A software application is, in essence, little more than a series of mathematical algorithms. No scientist will be taken seriously if they come to a conclusion but refuse to publish the math. Seriously try to get a scientific paper published without including the algorithms you used to come to your conclusion. You’re research paper will hit the shredder faster than the speed of light (Which will require some research into how that happened).

But somehow when the math is done on a computer nobody thinks it needs to be published. Software is never perfect. Computers aren’t good at doing most tasks outside of basic arithmetic. Doing floating point math on a computer without writing a library specifically aimed at the task is an estimation at best. At least if the code is published other people can see the logic being performed and find any bugs that could lead to an improper result. The scientific process need to remain an open debate otherwise it’s no longer science.

I would also go so far as to publish the exact specifications of the computer the software was run on. There have been quite a few problems found in processors that lead to incorrect answers under specific conditions.