The most famous description of the norms that have developed in the institution of science is that of Robert K. Merton in The Normative Structure of Science (1973a), and I will begin by describing them. For Merton there are four norms (which he calls “institutional imperatives”) that comprise the “ethos of modern science”. The first is Universalism. Essentially, universalism means that scientific claims should be assessed independently of the person making the claim, and that all should be able to contribute. In Merton’s words, “[o]bjectivity precludes particularism.” A good example of the utility of this norm was provided by its being ignored in the post-war Soviet Union. Trofim Lysenko, a biologist, claimed that anybody who disagreed with his views on agricultural heredity were anti-Marxist, and soon his theories were being championed by Stalin who locked up or executed all dissenters. By 1948 it was illegal to challenge his ideas. Political bias trumped universalism. Wheat yields duly fell.
Merton’s norms, or at least something very much like them, are still held to be the basis of good scientific practice. If one were to accept these norms as valid, it is easy to see how moves towards openness could provide support for them. Starting with universalism, open approaches to publication would enable more and more people to contribute to science, regardless of their background. No more would large publication houses be able to choose who contributes, and how much. Big names would no longer be able to monopolise research as, in effect, all would be able to publish. This would lessen the Matthew effect. This effect might also be further negated if open notebooks became the norm, allowing the public to see exactly which piece of research was carried out by which researchers. Further, citizen science initiatives such as the eBird project or Galaxy Zoo, increase the numbers able to contribute even to those outside of the formal institutions themselves.
Criticisms of the Norms
One more thing about openness and norms is reproducibility, which was alluded to as a part of disinterestedness (as you cannot cheat if your peers are checking to see if your experiments can be replicated). If your experiment cannot be replicated, it is open to a withering scientific putdown such as Peter Medawar’s succinct effort, “[t]his work therefore becomes an exhibit in the capacious ill-lit museum of unreproducible phenomena” (1985, pp.186). Open notebooks, open data, pre-registration of methods, open access and open review are all seen as ways to increase the possibilities for the reproduction of research, and therefore to increase the validity of results at all stages of the experimental process.