Last Saturday, The Royal Institution of Great Britain (R.I.) hosted a conference called Science Online London (#solo09) co-organised by mendeley.com and network.nature.com. The event centred around the fantastic Faraday Theatre which according to the R.I. is a “beautiful, historic theatre [which] has deeply raked seating that creates an intimate atmosphere, even when full to capacity”. Absolutely. Just like last year, this event attracted delegates and speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in science, publishing and communication from around the world. This post is an approximately alphabetically ordered link-fest of some of the people involved. People are, after all, the most interesting thing about any conference. If you’re not listed here it’s not because I don’t like you (honest!) it’s because we didn’t speak or I didn’t listen or (unlike many people) you’re not vain enough  to have a have a blog (yet) :-)
- Nico Adams, The University of Cambridge, is blogging for impact.
- Euan Adie, Product Manager, Nature Publishing Group, see recent interview.
- Dr. Aust, Cretacean Mud Slinger from the “University of Gloomingham”.
- Enrico M. Balli speaker in the Just what the hell is a scientific paper after all? session.
- Virginia Barbour, PLoS.org, speaker in the Real-time statistics in Science session
- Rachel Cavill, Imperial College London, data miner
- Katharine Barnes, Nature Protocols and speaker in the What is a Scientific Paper? session
- Geoffrey Bilder, CrossRef.org, opening speaker in the author identity session 
- Petra Boynton drpetra.co.uk speaker in The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Science Blogging. I’d love to blog more about this but they asked not too, because as they say, “This Is Not Legal Advice: (T.I.N.L.A.)“
- Theo Bloom, Chief Editor PLoS Biology and speaker in the What is a Scientific Paper? session
- Matt Brown, organiser of the Scientific Pub Crawl of London and author of a couple of interesting articles about the RI [3,4].
- David Colquhoun, who loves the NHS but noted that this years conference was “more corporate” (too many publishers?) and had an unhealthy obsession with public relations (PR) – a form of “paid lying“.
- Maxine Clark, Nature editor extraordinaire and one of the brains behind the Nautilus blog at Nature.
- Mo Costandi, who blogs at Neurophilosophy
- Martin Davies, Royal Institution, played host to the whole event
- AJ Cann, University of Leicester see his report, unpacking solo09 at Science of the Invisible
- Lee-Ann Coleman, Head of Scientific, Technical & Medical Information at British Library speaker in the What is a Scientific Paper? session
- Joe Dunckley, BioMedCentral.com, nice to meet the face behind the great photos on flickr and I’m reet chuffed a fellow West Country bumpkin appreciated my “Alright My Luvver” T-shirt. See his solo report at Cotch.net and reflections on what is a scientific paper?
- Alf Eaton, Nature Publishing Group, Ghostly Image Magician
- Kevin Emamy of citeulike.org
- Martin Fenner, University of Hannover Medical School, organiser and opening speaker who has written a nice conference summary here.
- Paul Foeckler one of the founders of Mendeley.
- Alexander Griekspoor, Mekentosj, was strongly agreeing with the “get rid of the journal” undercurrents at the conference this year
- David Allen Green, aka Jack of Kent gave a talk on The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Science Blogging. I’d love to blog more about this but he asked people not too. As they sometimes say, “This Is Not Legal Advice: T.I.N.L.A.“
- Reynold Guida, Thomson.com, talked about ResearcherID.com etc in the author identity session
- John Gilbey, The University of Rural England, speculated about the future… quote “the difference between speculation and prediction is that you have to pay more for the latter….”
- Richard P. Grant, F1000, Speaker in the Real-time statistics in Science session
- Michael Habib, Elsevier, gave a talk on Scopus ID in the author identity session
- Mark Henderson Science Editor, The Times (of London). Times science blog isn’t just a dumping ground for B-list material that isn’t good enough for the paper. The comments left on the blog are much higher quality than the rubbish that often gets posted in the main paper.
- Victor Henning, Mendeley.com, co-organiser and speaker see his words and excellent pictures here
- Brian Kelly, UKOLN, UK Web Focus see The Back Channels for Science Online 2009 conference
- Li Kim Lee, dutifully staffed the front desk all day
- Corie Lok, Nature Publishing Group, speaker in the Cat Herding: The Challenges and Rewards of Managing Online Scientific Communities session
- Phil Lord, University of Newcastle, who gets very unhappy when he visits London. Grumpy Old Man? Very possibly – cheer up Phil!
- Allyson Lister, University of Newcastle, the mind wobbles (some jokingly call her “Roboblogger” on account of the prolific blog output), keep our minds wobbling Ally!
- Ijad Madisch, speaker in the Cat Herding: The Challenges and Rewards of Managing Online Scientific Communities session
- Arikia Millikan, formerly scienceblogs.com, another speaker in the Cat Herding: The Challenges and Rewards of Managing Online Scientific Communities session
- Ian Mulvany, Nature Publishing Group, speaker in the Google Wave sesssion.
- Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge, A Scientist and the Web. He feels the force of Roboblogger (aka Allyson Lister)
- Dave Munger, founder of researchblogging.org, gave a presentation with his “blogging optimist” hat on in the blogging for impact session. Dave pointed out that blogs don’t have to be controversial to have an impact, or time consuming, for example posting just once a month can be enough to have an impact. That’s part of the beauty of the pub-sub model of publishing. See Dave’s (telepresent) report.
- Daniel MacArthur of The Sanger and Genetic Future. Daniel gave a great talk with his “blogging realist” hat on (to follow on from the blogging optimist talk) in the Blogging for Impact session. Daniel pointed out that there is never enough time to blog everything that is interesting and that time spent blogging is time not spent doing experiments, coding, analysis, grant-writing etc. In the blogosphere (as elsewhere) controversy sells (but this means you can annoy colleagues and peers off in your community). Inacurrate, exaggerated or even perfectly valid criticism can damage careers.
- Cameron Neylon, Google Wave: Just Another Ripple or Science Communication Tsunami?
- Mike Peel from Jodrell Bank Observatory and speaker in the Citizen science session I missed.
- Cindy Rubbens, Mendeley.com, staffed the front desk
- Graham Steel, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Alliance , blogs at McBlawg, dammit Graham I didn’t get the chance to ask you about the CJD alliance. Maybe next year…
- Arfon Smith University of Oxford, speaker in the Citizen science session about GalaxyZoo. Would have loved to have gone to this, but it was running parallel to our session on author identity.
- Chris Thorpe, The Guardian, he’s busy riding the Google Wave.
- Gudmundur Thorrison, aka “Mummi”, University of Leicester, Gen2phen project, see interesting stuff on digital identity at gen2phen.org
- Stewart Wills, Online Editor at Science Magazine, AAAS.
- Matt Wood, Mekentosj.com, wot no scibarcamb this year?
Now I’m told the presentations mentioned above will be on Nature Precedings in due course, which will be good. Thanks to all the organisers, speakers and participants this year that made Science Online London 2009 well worth attending. Hopefully see some more of you again next year!
- Carly Simon (1972) You’re So Vain
- Geoffrey Bilder (2006). In Google We Trust? Journal of Electronic Publishing, 9 (1) DOI: 10.3998/3336451.0009.101
- Matt Brown (2008). Venerable institute gets a refit Nature, 453 (7195), 568-569 DOI: 10.1038/453568a
- Matt Brown (2008). Reimagining the Royal Institution Nature, 453 (7195), 595-595 DOI: 10.1038/453595a
- Duncan Hull (2009). Slides from the author identity session: Authenticating Scientists with OpenID
- Jennifer Rohn and Richard P. Grant (2009). Pre-conference video: Live Roof Surfing at Mendeley Fringe Frivolous
The fourth International Science Foo Camp (scifoo) 2009 has just concluded. Here are some very brief and incomplete notes and links from some of the sessions on the second day (Saturday), see the scholarly kitchen for a report on the first day. With seven parallel sessions, most people at this event miss most (six sevenths) of the sessions, but here is a summary of the (one seventh) sessions I managed to get to:
- Larry Page ran a session on Making Artificial Intelligence happen. In brief, Larry argued that not enough people are working on this problem. Marvin Minsky joined in talked about his book The Emotion Machine. I’d write more about this, but Larry asked for what he said to be off-the-record so he could speak more freely.
- Following on from this Harry Collins and Lee Smolin ran a session titled: The Social Nature of Knowledge, Science and Artificial Intelligence. As David Colquhoun pointed out in the session, you “need to be something of a sado-masochist” to attend a session on the sociology of Science but there was some interesting discussion on the Science (truth?) vs. Belief (religion) debate. Henry Thomspson pointed out: some argue that “Knowledge is true belief” which can make it hard to distinguish between Science and Religion. Jamie Heywood described his simple “truth formula” where truth = cost to make a claim divided by the cost to disprove claim.
- Next up Douglas Kell did a session on Data-driven Science. This discussed the relationship and balance between hypothesis driven science (hypothetico-deductive) and data driven science (via inductive reasoning and machine learning for example) . Attendees in this session included Tony Tyson (Director of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope), Craig Rowell (BioRad), George Poste, Julia Lane (NSF), James Wilsdon (Royal Society), David Colquhoun, Nat Torkington, the six-minute-genome guy from Halcyon Molecular whose name I can’t remember and Annalee Newitz. Much of the discussion was about the over-reliance on hypothesis driven science (e.g. 92% of NIH R01 grants have to be hypothesis-driven) which can make the “fishing-trip” or “data-driven” science difficult to do. One conclusion from this presentation was that both types of science are required and complementary.
Then it’s time for lunch, not just any old food, but some yummy Google Food.
- In the afternoon, I ran a session on The Invisible Scientist: Personal Digital Identity on the Web, Problems and Solutions. After a short set of introductory slides we discussed some solutions to identifying scientists digital contributions, not just electronic journal publications but wiki edits, blog posts, software development, ontology and database curation etc. Participants in this session included Cameron Neylon, Julie Lant (NSF) who will reuse some of my data in a report she is writing (Yay!), Nicola McCarthy (Senior editor of Nature Reviews Cancer), Shirley Wu, Michael Rogan, Mackenzie Cowell and Chris Holmes. The last time I was at Science Foo Camp (back in 2007) I felt slightly phased by the stellar company (nobel prize winners, billionaires, entrepreneurs, silicon valley A-listers, venture capitalists, artists, policy makers, movers and shakers) that I didn’t present anything. I’m very glad I made the effort this year, it forced me to think harder about the problem of digital identity (and solutions), which included a useful chat with Googler Ben Laurie (a cryptography person) who gave me the lowdown on OpenID, PKI and the like. Very useful stuff – thanks Ben and thanks to everyone who turned up at my session.
- The second session of the afternoon was on Google Wave with Cameron Neylon. I won’t say too much about this, because it will probably be blogged by Cameron and others – but it was an interesting peek into some of the current strengths and weakness of this software – especially from the point of view of scientists.
- The last two sessions of the day, I stayed in the Lightning Talks organised by Nat Torkington (see blog). These were great, probably my favourite part of scifoo this year. Each speaker got a very strict five minutes, including Natahan Wolfe, Ben Fry on visualisation, George Dyson on Darwin, Christopher Stumm on astronomical metadata, Adam Summers on fish, Linda Stone on unhealthy computing, Ed Lu, Brian Uzzi and Fiorenzo, Shelley Batts, Larry Weiss, Saul Griffith, Chris DiBona on telemedicine, Joshua Bloch on Java puzzlers, Christian Bok on poetry and Gregory Benford.
In the evening there were further demonstrations and talks, including sodium acetate crystals (ChEBI:32594) (with Theodore Gray – see picture above) and a talk by Bob Metcalfe (of Metcalfe law fame) on the “Enernet: Internet Lessons for Solving Energy”. One of the take home messages from this is that the energy industry should be much more decentralised (like the internet is). Bob argued that the huge centralised powerplants we have today are beginning to look as dated and obsolete as mainframe computers.
So in summary, saturday at scifoo was a fantastic action-packed day, started early in the morning and went on late into the night. It’s almost impossible to capture it all in a blog post, so if you’re interested my scifoo 2009 photo set on flickr has more details. My mind has been blown into lots of little pieces again – thanks to all the organisers and participants for another great day.
- Kell, D., & Oliver, S. (2004). Here is the evidence, now what is the hypothesis? The complementary roles of inductive and hypothesis-driven science in the post-genomic era BioEssays, 26 (1), 99-105 DOI: 10.1002/bies.10385
This is a brief report and some links from the second day of Network Applications and Tools in Biology (NETTAB 2009) in Catania, Sicily. There were two keynotes on the RNA WikiProject  by Alex Bateman and myExperiment  (by me) as as well as presentations by (I think but I wasn’t concentrating enough) Dietlind Gerloff, Guiliano Armano, Frédéric Cadier and Leandro Ciuffo.
Alex Bateman (wikipedia user:Alexbateman) did an entertaining talk on the RNA wikiproject: Community annotation of RNA families where they have taken data from the Rfam database , and put it all into regular wikipedia. This project got quite a lot of media attention back in February. In this case, the primary advantages of “letting go of data” by giving it to wikipedia are that it is read by everyone who uses Google (where pages are frequently the top search result) and wikipedia gets lots more traffic than biological databases like rfam.sanger.ac.uk do. Thanks to wikirank which tells you what is popular on wikipedia, it is also possible to quickly compare the popularity of pages, see RNA vs. Ribosomal RNA vs Micro RNA vs SnoRNA for an example. The Rfam project have some interesting stats on who makes the most edits to the Rfam pages, it isn’t always the scientists who make important contributions, but anonymous users and machines (e.g. like Rfambot, Smackbot and Citation bot) who are often doing most of the hard work. There is a very long tail of contributors who make small contributions – which supports the 90% of users in on-line communities are lurkers who never contribute rule and is reminiscent of Citizen Science and Muggles. I wanted to put the slides from this talk on slideshare, but they contain some unpublished data. You can, however, subscribe to the feed of the Rfam and Pfam blog at xfam.wordpress.com, if you’d like to keep up to date on developments in this area.
After the keynote there were presentations by Dietlind Gerloff on Open Knowledge (a new agent-based infrastructure for bioinformatics experimentation – nice pictorial intro using lego here) and Guiliano Armano? on ProDaMa-C – a collaborative web application to generate specialised protein structure datasets.
The next keynote was on myexperiment.org, “Where Experimental Work Flows” – my slides on Who are you, Managing collaborative digital identities in bioinformatics with myexperiment are embedded below.
I followed this presentation with a live 30 minute demonstration and discussion of myexperiment. The most interesting question people asked was Why use OpenID instead of full blown Public Key Infrastructure? (answer: OpenID is currently a lot easier and provides good-enough security). The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, I’m with Tim Bray in enjoying the monster adrenaline high of public speaking, but with all that ChEBI:28918 coursing through my veins it can be difficult to think straight (immediately before, during or after a talk)… so you’ll have to take a look at the proceedings for the full details of what happened in the afternoon – but they included Make Histri (great name!), SBMM: Systems Biology Metabolic Modeling Assistant  by Ismael Navas-Delgado and Biomedical Applications of the EELA-2 project.
By the evening time, there was some Opera dei Pupi (traditional sicilian puppet theatre), a trip to Acireale and a delicious italian feast in a ristorante (the name of which I can’t remember) to round off an enjoyable day.
- Daub, J., Gardner, P., Tate, J., Ramskold, D., Manske, M., Scott, W., Weinberg, Z., Griffiths-Jones, S., & Bateman, A. (2008). The RNA WikiProject: Community annotation of RNA families RNA, 14 (12), 2462-2464 DOI: 10.1261/rna.1200508
- De Roure, D., & Goble, C. (2009). Software Design for Empowering Scientists IEEE Software, 26 (1), 88-95 DOI: 10.1109/MS.2009.22
- Gardner, P., Daub, J., Tate, J., Nawrocki, E., Kolbe, D., Lindgreen, S., Wilkinson, A., Finn, R., Griffiths-Jones, S., Eddy, S., & Bateman, A. (2009). Rfam: updates to the RNA families database Nucleic Acids Research, 37 (Database) DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkn766
- Reyes-Palomares, A., Montanez, R., Real-Chicharro, A., Chniber, O., Kerzazi, A., Navas-Delgado, I., Medina, M., Aldana-Montes, J., & Sanchez-Jimenez, F. (2009). Systems biology metabolic modeling assistant: an ontology-based tool for the integration of metabolic data in kinetic modeling Bioinformatics, 25 (6), 834-835 DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btp061