When Christopher Lortie was earning his Ph.D. in ecology at the University of British Columbia in the late 1990s, he joined a small consortium of international ecologists who pooled their resources to study the potential effects of climate change on alpine-plant communities around the world. He spent several months trudging up and down mountains in Kluane National Park in the Yukon documenting the health of plants. In 2002, the ecologists combined their research to produce a paper for the scientific journal Nature. It was widely read and cited. They then published the data supporting their findings. It was an experience that set a precedent for Lortie: “It feels good to share.”
Over the past 15 years, Lortie has shared his data and research papers, and collaborated with other investigators in ways that until recently were deemed counterproductive, or insignificant, to personal success in the sciences. He is part of a growing number of scientists who have encouraged members of their profession to make their research more transparent and accessible under the theory that sharing information will expedite scientific discovery. “There will be fantastic discoveries, and that’s all that really matters,” says Lortie.