BoF Session on enabling uptake of e-science
I went along to a session on enabling uptake, which has evolved out of groups based in education and training. This mainly involved people focussed on education and training and support people. It was mainly focussed on Grid based systems. Two interesting things came out of this I thought. The first was the statement that there are domains of science which are currently not at a stage to exploit e-sciences and that there are additionally areas of e-science that are too early in development to be introduced to novice users. Ironically I would say that the experimental molecular sciences where I work (at least where they are not informatics based or very high throughput) are a good example of this.
The other interesting thing was the parallel between the experience of people in trying to encourage uptake of Grid tools and my experience of trying to bring in new users at ISIS. My role at ISIS is to both encourage new users from the biological sciences and to support biological sciences users who come to use the neutron scattering facilities at ISIS. My view has always been that new users in the biosciences really need a very high level of support to run their first (and possibly second and third) experiments. In essence you would ideally work alongside them to do the experiment, almost to the extent of doing the experiment for them. What was interesting is that the experience of Bruce Beckles who was working with people at Cambridge to increase uptake of e-science tools seemed to exactly parallel my experience at ISIS. There is apparently a significant literature in the social sciences on the cultural issues involved in scientists adopting new methods. Again this reinforces the idea that social scientists may well be able to tell us a lot about how to encourage the type of cultural changes required for research to become more open.