May 21, 2010

myExperiment: The Videos

myExperiment is a research project that is exploring models, techniques and infrastructure for sharing digital items associated with  research , especially scientific workflows. The project is funded by the Joint Information Standards Committee (JISC) as part of a series of projects building Virtual Research Environments (VRE’s) and is run by Dave De Roure and Carole Goble at the Universities of Southampton and Manchester in the UK.

Last year, JISC made some professional videos describing the project. Needless to say, the videos were much more fun to make than the accompanying papers [1,2,3] and a probably more informative too. The best way of linking the research papers to the videos on youtube is to blog about them, so here they are. The first video (below) talks about the project generally:

The second video (below) discusses the data used in tackling African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in cattle.

The videos include interviews with Carole Goble, Dave De Roure, Paul Fisher, Andy Brass and yours truly.


  1. David De Roure, Carole Goble, & Robert Stevens (2007). Designing the myExperiment Virtual Research Environment for the Social Sharing of Workflows IEEE International Conference on e-Science and Grid Computing, 603-610 DOI: 10.1109/E-SCIENCE.2007.29
  2. David De Roure, Carole Goble, Jiten Bhagat, Don Cruickshank, Antoon Goderis, Danius Michaelides, & David Newman (2008). myExperiment: Defining the Social Virtual Research Environment IEEE Fourth International Conference on eScience, 2008. eScience ’08., 182-189 DOI: 10.1109/eScience.2008.86
  3. Goble, C., Bhagat, J., Aleksejevs, S., Cruickshank, D., Michaelides, D., Newman, D., Borkum, M., Bechhofer, S., Roos, M., Li, P., & De Roure, D. (2010). myExperiment: a repository and social network for the sharing of bioinformatics workflows Nucleic Acids Research DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkq429

May 26, 2009

Grants on the Web: Transparent Scientific Funding?

Lord Drayson by DIUSGOVUKAll over the Britain, politicians are getting ready to publish their expenses on the Interweb. Why? Because they are trying to regain their lost credibility, after making some incredibly dodgy and embarrassing expense claims [1-7]. Scandals aside, this is all well and good since this money has come from the UK taxpayers pocket, and politicians are public servants, doing public work which is supposedly in the public good.

Scientists, like politicians, also provide a public service, spending public money, for the public good. Science is public knowledge after all and scientists spend quite a lot of public money. At least £3 billion was spent on scientific research in the UK during 2008 (see Who Funds Science in Britain?) and that was just research, not teaching. Wouldn’t it be great if anyone who was interested could see what all this money had been spent on, who spent it and what the outcomes were?

Thankfully you can already do this for some areas of research. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which currently spends around £740 million a year on everything from “mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering” has a system called Grants on the Web @ gow.epsrc.ac.uk. You can find out who spent the money and how much money was spent since the system was set up, see an EPSRC example here. Some of the original grant proposals are there too, which can be enlightening. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) also has a similar system (called oasis), though it is not as easy to use and link to – see a BBSRC example here. The trouble is, if you can’t easily link to it, it doesn’t get indexed by search engines. If it doesn’t get indexed by search engines, then it’s almost invisible. Fortunately, the BBSRC are working on improving this, with a new system due for release in the autumn of 2009.

Other organisations are putting grant information on the web too. Recently, thanks to the UK’s PubMed Central database you can also see the published results of publicly funded biomedical research. The funders pages at ukpmc.ac.uk/funders give a breakdown of published results from different funding bodies, as described in this article by Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust and this one by Alison Henning.

Now not all the research councils seem to publish their grants on the Web in a transparent manner*, and some of those that do, leave lots of room for improvement. But it is still useful to be able to see where some of that public money went and what the outcomes of the research were. More transparent spending of public money like this isn’t just a desirable extra, it should come as standard.

* (It is difficult to find the details of grants awarded by JISC, NERC, MRC and STFC, but please leave a comment below if you know where this information is published. More commentary on this post over at friendfeed.)

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Baron Paul Drayson, currently UK Science Minister from DIUSGOVUK.]


  1. The Daily Telegraph (2009) MPs’ expenses: all the gory details from the Daily Telegraph
  2. The Guardian (2009) Grauniad datablog: MP’s expenses as spreadsheet and Free Our Data: Make taxpayers’ data available to them
  3. Wikipedia (2009) MPs’ expenses in wikipedia
  4. BBC News (2009) MPs’ expenses: A triumph of journalism? A week after its opening salvo, the Daily Telegraph is still reaping great benefit from its exclusive expose of MPs’ expenses.
  5. BBC News (2009) Q&A: MP expenses row explained: Revelations in the Daily Telegraph about exactly what MPs have been claiming on expenses has prompted a public outcry and a pledge to reform the “gentlemen’s club” at Westminster
  6. BBC Newsnight (2009) Stephen Fry dismisses MPs’ expenses row, accusing journalists of hypocrisy
  7. The Guardian (2009) Censored version of MPs’ expenses will break the law, Hugh Tomlinson QC warns

August 12, 2008

Who funds Science in Britain?

Unon Jack by bambi851The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is full of scientists. All kinds of scientists working in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as plenty of mathematicians, engineers and technologists too work in the UK. They make their living in good old Blighty, pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge, wherever and whenever they can. Nanotechnology, astronomy, molecular biology, primatology, climatology and lots of other ‘ologies can all be found in Britain. Who is it that pays them and how much money do they spend? Here is a list of funding bodies in 2008, along with their annual budgets and chief executives. It is not a comprehensive list, because it does not include all charities, European money and privately funded Science. However, it does cover most of the larger funding bodies… (more…)

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