A GitHub of science

A conversation on scientists’ favorite online tools on Quora led to several ideas on online tools scientists wish existed. The most popular was Marius Kembe’s idea:

Github for scientists – a distributed hosting and version control system for all parts of scientific communication, including writing, code, data, and audio/video/images. So that you could build on somebody else’s work by versioning it! Isn’t that what science is meant to be about?”

As a GitHub user in non-biomedical domains, this makes so much sense to me. Marium went on to describe the idea further on his blog:

“GitHub is a social network of code, the first platform for sharing validated knowledge native to the social web…I believe it represents a demonstrably superior way of distributing validated knowledge than academic publishing. How are these even related? Software developers rarely write applications from scratch. Instead, they often start with various modular bundles of open source code…Scientists never begin a research project from an intellectual vacuum. They stand on the shoulders of giants, building on the knowledge contained in previous publications to form a new, coherent finding…Gems on GitHub are not just code.  They also have authors whose relative contributions are automatically catalogued…This impact graph can let you know precisely which developers are responsible for this awesome-ness…By contrast, current Open Science efforts that ask scientists to ‘share all your data’ have not become mainstream, because they do not appropriately reward knowledge producers.”