O'Really?

July 31, 2015

Wikipedia Science Conference @WellcomeTrust in London, September 2nd & 3rd 2015 #wikisci

There is growing interest in Wikipedia, Wikidata, Commons, and other Wikimedia projects as platforms for opening up the scientific process [1]. The first Wikipedia Science Conference will discuss activities in this area at the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre in London on the 2nd & 3rd September 2015. There will be keynote talks from Wendy Hall (@DameWendyDBE) and Peter Murray-Rust (@petermurrayrust) and many other presentations including:

  • Daniel Mietchen (@EvoMRI), National Institutes of Health: wikipedia and scholarly communication
  • Alex Bateman (@AlexBateman1), European Bioinformatics Institute: Using wikipedia to annotate scientific databases
  • Geoffrey Bilder (@GBilder), CrossRef, Using DOIs in wikipedia
  • Richard Pinch (@IMAMaths), Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. Wikimedia versus academia: a clash of cultures
  • Andy Mabbett (@PigsOnTheWing), Royal Society of Chemistry / ORCID. Wikipedia, Wikidata and more – How Can Scientists Help?
  • Darren Logan (@DarrenLogan), Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Using scientific databases to annotate wikipedia
  • Dario Taraborelli (@ReaderMeter), Wikimedia & Altmetrics, Citing as a public service
  • … and many more

I’ll be doing a talk on “Improving the troubled relationship between Scientists and Wikipedia” (see slides below) with help from John Byrne who has been a Wikipedian in Residence at the Royal Society and Cancer Research UK.

How much does finding out more about all this wiki-goodness cost? An absolute bargain at just £29 for two days – what’s not to like? Tickets are available on eventbrite, register now, while tickets are still available. 

References

  1. Misha Teplitskiy, Grace Lu, & Eamon Duede (2015). Amplifying the Impact of Open Access: Wikipedia and the Diffusion of
    Science Wikipedia Workshop at 9th International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), Oxford, UK arXiv: 1506.07608v1

June 18, 2013

Peter Suber’s Open Access book is now freely available under an open-access license

Peter Suber's Open Access book

Open Access by Peter Suber is now open access

If you never got around to buying Peter Suber’s book about Open Access (OA) publishing [1] “for busy people”, you might be pleased to learn that it’s now freely available under an open-access license.

One year after being published in dead-tree format, you can now get the whole digital book for free. There’s not much point writing yet another review of it [1], see Peter’s extensive collection of reviews at cyber.law.harvard.edu. The book succinctly covers:

  1. What Is Open Access? (and what it is not)
  2. Motivation: OA as solving problems and seizing opportunities
  3. Varieties: Green and Gold, Gratis versus libre 
  4. Policies: Funding mandates (NIH, Wellcome Trust etc)
  5. Scope: Pre-prints and post-prints
  6. Copyright: … or Copyfight?
  7. Economics: Who pays the bills? Publication fees, toll-access paywalls and “author pays”
  8. Casualties: “OA doesn’t threaten publishing; it only threatens existing publishers who do not adapt”
  9. Future: Where next?
  10. Self-Help: DIY publishing

Open Access for MACHINES!

A lot of the (often heated) debate about Open Access misses an important point about open access being for machines as well as humans, or as Suber puts in Chapter 5 on Scope:

We also want access for machines. I don’t mean the futuristic altruism in which kindly humans want to help curious machines answer their own questions. I mean something more selfish. We’re well into the era in which serious research is mediated by sophisticated software. If our machines don’t have access, then we don’t have access. Moreover, if we can’t get access for our machines, then we lose a momentous opportunity to enhance access with processing.

Think about the size of the body of literature to which you have access, online and off. Now think realistically about the subset to which you’d have practical access if you couldn’t use search engines, or if search engines couldn’t index the literature you needed.

Information overload didn’t start with the internet. The internet does vastly increase the volume of work to which we have access, but at the same time it vastly increases our ability to find what we need. We zero in on the pieces that deserve our limited time with the aid of powerful software, or more precisely, powerful software with access. Software helps us learn what exists, what’s new, what’s relevant, what others find relevant, and what others are saying about it. Without these tools, we couldn’t cope with information overload. Or we’d have to redefine “coping” as artificially reducing the range of work we are allowed to consider, investigate, read, or retrieve.

It’s refreshing to see someone making these points that are often ignored, forgotten or missed out of the public debate about Open Access. The book is available in various digital flavours including:

References

  1. Suber, Peter. Open Access (MIT Press Essential Knowledge, The MIT Press, 2012). ISBN:0262517639
  2. Clair, Kevin. (2013). Kevin Michael Clair reviews Open Access by Peter Suber The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39 (1) DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.11.017

June 1, 2012

An Open Letter to the Royal Society: Please employ a wikipedian in residence

Dear Professor Nurse

Fellows of the Wiki Society?

To improve public engagement with Science and Scientists, the Royal Society should employ a wikipedian in residence. Here’s why:

The Royal Society is a National Academy of Science which represents some of the world’s leading scientists. The stated aim of the society is to:

“recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.”

Despite the elitist nature of many scientific societies, a significant part of what the Royal Society does is engage with members of the general public of all ages through a wide range of events. The annual Summer Science exhibition, Royal Society Blogs, Policy Centre and Royal Society television channel are just a few examples from amongst many more.

Many Fellows are of interest to the general public and already have extensive biographies in wikipedia which are up to date, well-written, well-referenced and conform to the wikipedia guidelines for the biographies of living persons. Wikipedia biographies often appear top of the list of google search result for a scientists name, for example see:

However, many other scientists do not have pages about them on wikipedia. Unfortunately, alternative sources of information such as academic homepages are often out of date and not particularly engaging. Most scientists are too busy doing Science to spend time updating their home pages, as neatly illustrated by cartoonist Jorge Cham. At the time of writing, less than half of the notable and distinguished Fellows elected in 2012 have biographies on wikipedia, see below of details.

Putting scientific information into wikipedia isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Alex Bateman at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute [1], PLoS Computational Biology [2] and many others [3] have already made considerable progress in improving the scientific content of wikipedia. This information is immediately accessible to a huge global audience.

Wikipedia is arguably one of the greatest ever opportunities for public engagement in Science. By employing a wikipedian in residence, the Royal Society could improve and influence the scientific content of wikipedia, while engaging even more with the general public around the world, who are often just as interested in the scientists as the science itself. As the current president of the society I hope you will consider this proposal.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. Duncan Hull
University of Manchester, UK

(this letter has also been sent by email)

References

  1. 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
  2. Wodak, S., Mietchen, D., Collings, A., Russell, R., & Bourne, P. (2012). Topic Pages: PLoS Computational Biology Meets Wikipedia PLoS Computational Biology, 8 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002446
  3. Xiao, L., & Askin, N. (2012). Wikipedia for Academic Publishing: Advantages and Challenges. Online Information Review, 36(3), 2. Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Appendix: Fellows of the Wiki Society

As of June 2012, only 21 out of the 52 of the Royal Society Fellows elected in 2012 have a biographical page on wikipedia. Where biographies currently exist, they are linked to below

Of course, 2012 is just the tip of the iceberg, there are also the Fellows elected in 20112010 and so on back 350 years to 1660.

March 8, 2010

Cambridge Science Festival, 8th-21st March 2010

Cambridge Science Festival, 8-21 March 2010Madder than the Mad March Hare, more entertaining and surreal than Alice down-a-rabbit-hole in Wonderland: today marks the start of this years Cambridge Science festival:

“Delve into the diversity of science at the Cambridge Science Festival 2010! All aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be available to visitors of all ages at more than 150 mostly free events over two weeks. This year is the International Year of Biodiversity and the Festival is celebrating this by inviting you to learn more about the colourful creatures on the land and beneath the waves at the many events on offer in University departments and museums.

This year, a Schools Zone has been added into the programme of events, where pupils from local schools will be showcasing their work with interactive exhibits at the University Centre on the 20th March.

Also look out for scientists from the BBSRC in the Grafton Centre during the Festival, who will be on hand to answer your tricky science questions. Watch out for video and audio coverage before and during the Festival on the Guardian website.”

A team of scientists and engineers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and The EBI will be participating, on Saturday 13th March with a session on DNA, diversity and you and also tackling the thorny issue of Who Owns Science? on Friday 19th March. So if you’re in or near Cambridge over the next couple of weeks, come and say hello, and check out the  details in the full programme.

October 14, 2008

Open Access Day: Why It Matters

Open Access Day 14th October 2008Today, Tuesday the 14th of October 2008, is Open Access Day. Like many others, this blog post is joining in by describing why Open Access matters – from a personal point of view. According to the wikipedia article Open Access (OA) is “free, immediate, permanent, full-text, online access, for any user, web-wide, to digital scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals. OA means that any individual user, anywhere, who has access to the Internet, may link, read, download, store, print-off, use, and data-mine the digital content of that article. An OA article usually has limited copyright and licensing restrictions.” What does all this mean and why does it matter? Well, in four question-and-answer points, here goes… (more…)

October 10, 2008

PhD studentships at EMBL-EBI, UK

EMBL-EBIAny budding biomedical scientists out there, interested in doing a PhD, take note: The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) – European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is having an open day on Monday 3rd November 2008. According to their website the EBI is “happy to welcome all Master students to this day”. Some talks at this open day include:

The EMBL-EBI lies in the 55 acres of landscaped parkland in rural Cambridgeshire that make up the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus. The Campus also houses the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, making it one of the world’s largest concentrations of expertise in genomics and bioinformatics. See also PhD Studies in Bioinformatics at the EBI. If you are interested in attending, sign up at the registration page before the 20th October.

See also PhD Opportunities at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge.

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…)

March 28, 2008

How much does a Genome cost?

Dollars by PfalaBack in 2003 The Human Genome cost approximately $500 million, years of work and huge international effort to produce. How much does a genome cost now, and what might it cost in the future? (more…)

October 20, 2006

Manchester Biocentre Launch

MIB: Spot the test tubeThe Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) is officially opening on 25/26th October 2006. The centre has been about a decade in the making, and aims to be a world-class research centre, with around £37 million (~$70 million) of initial funding from the Wellcome Trust charity, UK Research Councils and others. If you’re looking for a bioinformatics job, PhD, PostDoc etc in the UK, MIB is continuously hiring and looks like a good place to work, if the opening programme (which follows) is anything to go by.

Unfortunately the MIB web pages aren’t quite world class yet, the promotional launch material is only available in pdf format, *sigh*, see references below. So I’m blogging the MIB Symposium launch programme here to put the stuff online. Talks scheduled for the second day of the opening, 26th October 2006, are listed below, and these can be attended by free registration (see references):

Session 1: Bio-molecular machines, 9.00-11.00

Session chaired by Alan North, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences

  • John E. Walker (MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Cambridge, UK): Biomolecular rotary motors.
  • Yoshi Nakamura (Tokyo University, Japan): Aptamer as RNA-made super antibody for basic and therapeutic applications
  • John McCarthy, (Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre): Molecular mechanisms underlying post-transcrptional gene expression.
  • Refreshment break

Session 2: Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, 11.00-12.40

Session chaired by Bob Ford, Professor of Structural Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences.

Session 3: Systems and Information, 13.35-15.45

Session chaired by John Perkins, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Session 4: Biocatalysis, 16.10-17.00

Session chaired by Hans Westerhoff, Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre

  • Nigel Scrutton (MIB and Faculty of Life Sciences): ‘Squeezing’ barriers – a dynamical view of enzyme catalysis.
  • Gill Stephens, (MIB and School of Chemical Engineering): Redox biocatalysis – the next generation of enzymes for manufacturing pharmaceutical intermediates and specialty chemicals.

Session 5: Bionanoscience and engineering: 17.00-18.00

Session chaired by Peter Fielden, Chemical Engineering

  • Joseph Wang (Arizona State University, USA): Nanomaterials for monitoring and controlling biomolecular interactions.
  • Milan Stojanovich (Columbia University Medical School, New York, USA): Deoxyribozyme-based devices.

Session 6: Postgenomic Analytical Technologies, 18.00-19.10

Session chaired by Roy Goodacre, MIB and School of Chemistry

  • Ruedi Aebersold (ETH Zürich): Quantitative Proteomics and Systems Biology
  • Simon Gaskell, MIB and School of Chemistry: New analytical science in proteomics and metabolomics.
  • Concluding remarks.

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