Erac

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Erac (from electronic research and collaboration, or eager research and collaboration) is an Internet community and website for doing research and sharing pre-published information among scientists. The work is based on the method of open assessment, where the research is divided into distinct research questions. Each research question is presented as an information object (typically a variable or method) on its own web page. All information objects have a uniform structure (name=identifier, scope=research question, definition=information for finding an answer, result=current hypothesis about the true answer). In principle, any scientific information can be presented in this form. Erac website is a protected website for collaboration related to unpublished material. After publishing, the material is moved to the Opasnet website, which is open for everyone. However, original data that is not published together with articles, may remain on the Erac website.

Major functionalities of Erac include a method for formal argumentation about scientific disputes; flexible page-level read and write protection by the owner of a project or piece of data; a large file management system for material that is not formatted according to the open assessment method (e.g. PDF publications and CSV data files); and a result database for quantitative results, which can then be used to derive results for other variables.

The ownership of a piece of information remains with the person who originally brought the information into the Erac system. Therefore, there is a strict rule that people are only allowed to bring in information that is owned by them, unless it is publicly available. Also, the users of the website may use the information found from the Erac website only within the website. If they want to use it elsewhere, they must make an agreement with the owner of the information. Such agreements are warmly encouraged, as they are believed to result in new fruitful collaboration and more and better publications than what the original owner could have achieved alone.

There is also new information that is created directly from collaboration on the website. There should be a fair way to determine the ownership (and thus scientific merit and authorships in subsequent articles) of this kind of information. Established procedures do not yet exist, but one of the tasks the Erac community is to develop these procedures.

How to join

Most researchers in the Erac community are working on the fields of environment or health. However, this is not a limitation, and we encourage people from other disciplines to join. If you are interested, please contact Jouni Tuomisto.

History

The Erac website and community was launched in the Environmental Risk Assessment Centre (ERAC) in November, 2006. The first project in the Erac website was Finmerac about metal health and ecological risks around Harjavalta industrial park.