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The Open Science Endurance Event – Team JC-C

4 September 2008 10 Comments

So far we’ve had a fun week. Jean-Claude arrived in the UK on Thursday last, followed up with a talk at Bath University to people at UKOLN on Friday. The talk kicked off an extended conversation which meant we were very late to lunch but it was great to follow up on issues from a different perspective to that. Jean-Claude will be making a screencast of the talk available on his Drexel-CoAs Podcast blog.

On Friday afternoon we headed into London in preparation for Science Blogging 2008 which was a blast. A very entertaining keynote by Ben Goldacre of Bad Science was followed up by a fascinating series of sessions on everything from Open Notebooks to connecting up conversations separated in time and space to creativity, blogging boredom, and unicycling giraffes. The sessions were great fun and there was lots of back chat on friendfeed but in many ways the best part of this for me was the chance to meet people (if in many cases very briefly) that I knew well but had never actually met in person. Too many to mention all but in particular it was a pleasure to finally meet Michael Barton, Richard Grant, Heather Etchevers, Matt Wood, Graham Steel, and many people from NPG as well as to meet many old friends. There is pretty good coverage of the meeting itself so I will simply point at the technorati tag and be done with that.

I was one of the people on the final panel with Peter Murray-Rust, Richard Grant, and moderation from Timo Hannay. This was a fun conversation with lots of different perspectives. I think the overall conclusion was that the idea that ‘blogging is bad for your career’ is shifting towards ‘why do you put all this work in?’ There was a strong sense that some people had made real personal gains out of blogging and online activities and that many organisations are starting to see it as a valuable contribution. Nonetheless it is not an activity that is widely valued, or indeed even known about. To this end the panel offered a challenge – to persuade a senior scientist to start writing a blog. One prize will be to be featured in next year’s Open Lab 2008 – the best of science writing on the web. The other prize – which caused an extensive collective intake of breath – will be an all expenses paid trip to Scifoo next year for both blogger and the encourager. The announcement will probably be made with details by the time I get to post this.

In the pub on the Saturday night, Peter M-R grabbed me and JC and Egon Willighagen and said ‘why don’t you come up to Cambridge tomorrow?’ So we all did and I and Egon have written briefly about that already. More work to do, and some interesting things to discuss, which I hope to follow up later.

Sunday afternoon- dash back to Southampton for the introductory dinner for the Open Science Workshop held at Southampton Uni on Monday. This was a really great meeting from my perspective with a real mix of tools people and ‘practicing’ scientists, computer scientists, chemists, biologists, and people with business degrees. There is more at the Wiki and on Friendfeed – but this will need a write up of its own. Hopefully slides will be made available for most of the talks and we will point to them from both Wiki and Friendfeed.

Tuesday, more meetings and planning, with a great meeting with Dave De Roure of Southampton Electronics and Computer Science and in particular the PI for the MyExperiment project.  Some good stuff will come out of this – and the contact between Dave and Chemspider has been made. The MyExperiment team are keen on delivering more for chemistry so that link will be important. However I was particularly taken with a throw away comment Dave made that workflows (and makefiles) have a direct equivalence with spreadsheets. This made me think immediately of that great divide between ‘those who use excel for everything’ and ‘those who run screaming in the other direction and would rather hard code in perl on a clay tablet’ for analysis. If we could actually leverage the vast number of analytical spread sheets sitting on a million hard drives we might be able to do some very interesting stuff. Hopefully more on this in a future post.

Wednesday we did some experiments – its mostly up online now so you can go see if you are interested. And today we are heading up to London to see the folks at Nature Publishing Group which should be fun. More opportunity to talk in detail about ideas from Saturday and the role of the publisher and papers in the future.  Had a lovely lunch with the NPG web publishing people, talks seemed to go reasonably well, and a quick chat with the people from Nature Chemistry

But it doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow JC goes to Manchester to give a talk, then heads to Edinburgh for the e-Science All Hands Meeting, including a workshop on ‘The Global Data Centric View’. Then he heads to Oxford for another meeting  and talk before finally heading back to Philadelphia. On Sunday I fly to Toronto, with a Nature Network pub session on the Sunday evening (wow I am going to be on scintillating form for that!) followed by Science in the 21st Century for the following week.

I think we are going to need a rest when we get to our respective homes again…