When data are central to scientific discussions, as is typically the case, then the relevant data should be open to all.
OK, we don’t have to be totally rigid about this. People may sink a lot of effort into building a data set so it’s reasonable for data builders to milk their data monopoly for some grace period. In my opinion, you get one publication. Then you put your data into the public domain.
And public domain means public domain. It’s not OK to hide your data from people you don’t like, from people you think are incompetent, from people you suspect of having engaged in acts of moral turpitude, etc.. You post your data so everyone can have them.
If you put your data into the public domain and someone does something stupid with it then it’s fine to say that. It’s a virtue to be nice but being nice isn’t a requirement. But as far as I’m concerned you share your data or you’re not doing science.
Readers of the blog should be well aware that there has been a dispute about the decline of war (or not), primarily between Steven Pinker and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. You can track my participation in this debate from a bunch of my blog entries and the links they contain. I’m in the middle of preparing a conference talk on this subject, and I’ll post the slides later this week….so more is coming.
I planned a little data work to support the talk so I emailed Taleb asking him for the data he used to launch his attack on Pinker’s work. Here is his reply.
1) It is not professional to publish a “flaw” without first contacting the authors. You did it twice.
2) Your 2 nitpicking “flaws” betrayed total ignorance of the subject.
So I will ask you to fuck off.
He is referring to this post (which did contain an error that I corrected after a reader pointed it out.)
What can I say?
The main thing is that if he wants to do science then it’s not OK to just declare someone to be ignorant and withhold data.
Beyond that I’d say that if he still objects to something in my post he should be specific, either in the comments or to me directly. As always, I’ll issue a correction or clarification if I get something wrong.
Third, it isn’t really standard to clear in advance criticisms of someone’s work with the person being criticized. Doing this could be a reasonable strategy in some cases. And it’s reasonable to send criticism to the person being criticized. Correcting errors, as I do, is essential.
Anyway, I take away from this episode that Taleb isn’t doing science and also that he probably doesn’t have great confidence in his work on this subject or else he wouldn’t hide his data.