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Kinds of openness in cognitive science

The response to the first few days of open source cognitive science has been gratifying. There are fascinating problems and technical challenges in this area. It is a treat to be able to think about them together with interested colleagues.

Cognitive science could benefit by more fully adopting some of the existing forms of openness:

  1. Open access, where publications are made available on the web without charge (cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad is a champion, with CogPrints being cognitive science’s answer to the Physics pre-print arXiv).

  2. Open courseware is a movement that invites educators to make their course-material directly available on the web. (An example is Tutus Vilis’ completely Flash animated course, The Physiology of the Senses—Transformations for Perception and Action)

  3. Open source hardware and software, where plans for apparatus and tools for analysis are made freely and openly available (Praat, for example, is a GNU GPL licensed signal analysis package which can be used for analyzing speech, generating auditory stimuli, and doing speech synthesis).

  4. Open stimuli, where stimulus sets or corpi are made available for use in replications or new experiments (See the Psychological Image Collection at Stirling (PICS (http://pics.psych.stir.ac.uk/)), or the Irvine Phonotactic Online Dictionary (Vaden, Hickok, and Halpin (2005))).

  5. Open workflows, in which researchers can freely share chains of experimentation, analysis, and visualization. (Talkoot is a collaborative workflow initiative for Earth Science. A quick search of the workflow custom search engine on Google reveals no workflows in the cognitive sciences).

  6. Open data, where individual researchers release their datasets, either as the data is collected, upon publication, or after a suitable embargo period. (An example with a rich dataset would be The Linguistic Atlas of the Iberian Peninsula (ALPI)).

  7. Open model repositories, where computational models from published papers can be centralized. (ISPOC is an open modelling initiative which includes cognitive models).

  8. Open research, where open lab notebooks are used to describe ongoing details of a particular strain of research.

Cognitive science can include up to six areas of research (psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, and sometimes anthropology). One could visualize an 8×6 matrix serving as a preliminary grid for exploration.

Did I miss anything? Other great examples? Your thoughts are welcome.


Boersma, Paul & Weenink, David (2009). Praat: doing phonetics by computer (Version 5.1.11) [Computer program]. Retrieved August 3rd, 2009, from http://www.praat.org/.

Vaden, K.I., Hickok, G.S., & Halpin, H.R. (2005). Irvine Phonotactic Online Dictionary, Version 1.3. [Data file]. Available from http://www.iphod.com.