Mourning Open Notebook Science Pioneer, Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley

Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley, associate professor of chemistryI’ve have more later but I just learned some very sad news from Antony Williams: Drexel University chemist, Jean-Claude Bradley, passed away yesterday.

Antony has some personal reflections of his dear friend at his site but here is the official letter from Drexel:

Dear Members of the Drexel University Community,

It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of Jean-Claude Bradley, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Jean-Claude joined Drexel as an assistant professor in 1996 after receiving his PhD in organic chemistry and serving as a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University and College de France in Paris. In 2004, he was appointed E-Learning Coordinator for Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, helping to spearhead the adoption of novel teaching modalities. In that role, he led the University’s initiative to buy an “island” in the virtual world of Second Life, where students and faculty could explore new methods of teaching and learning.

Jean-Claude was most well known for his “Open Notebook Science”(ONS), a term he coined to describe his novel approach to making all primary research (including both successful and failed experiments) open to the public in real time. ONS, he believed—and demonstrated—could significantly impact the future of science by reducing financial and computational restraints and by granting public access to the raw data that shapes scientific conclusions.

“…In the past, trusting people might have been a necessary evil [of research],” Bradley said. “Today, it is a choice. Optimally, trust should have no place in science.”

In June of 2013, Jean-Claude was invited to the White House for an “Open Science Poster Session,” at which he discussed ONS’ role in allowing he and his collaborators to confidently determine the melting points of over 27,000 substances, including many that were never before agreed upon. Currently, his research lab had been working to create anti-malarial compounds to aid in the synthesis of drugs to fight malaria. His lab’s work on this project was made available to the public on a wiki called UsefulChem, which Jean-Claude started in 2005.

Jean-Claude’s philosophy of free, accessible science translated to an open approach in the classroom as well. Content from his undergraduate chemistry courses was made freely available to the public, and real data from the laboratory was used in assignments to practice concepts learned in the classroom.

In an article in Chemistry World last April, Bradley said: “It is only a matter of time before the internet is saturated with free knowledge for all…People will remember those who were first.”

Indeed, we will remember Jean-Claude as a pioneer in the open access movement, an innovative researcher and colleague, and a kind and dedicated educator. His death impacts all who knew him, and especially the students, faculty and collaborators who worked with him daily. For anyone who may need support in dealing with this loss, we encourage you to reach out to the counseling professionals at Drexel’s Counseling Center at 215-895-1415 (or 215-416-3337 after regular business hours).

Our thoughts are with Jean-Claude’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Donna M. Murasko, PhD
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

What a stunning loss of an open chemistry researcher and educator who was also a terrifically kind gentleman.

Author: David Kroll

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