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September 30, 2008

Open Science

Via Richard Akerman on Science Library Pad I note that a presentation made to a British Library Board awayday (on 23rd Sept), The Future of Research (Science and Technology), by Carole Goble is now available on Slideshare:

The presentation looks at the way in which scientific and technology-related research is changing, particularly thru the use of the Web to support open, data-driven research - essentially enabling a more immediate, transparent and repeatable approach to science.

The ideas around open science are interesting.  Coincidentally, a few Eduserv bods met with Cameron Neylon yesterday and he talked us thru some of the work going on around blog-driven open labbooks and the like.  Good stuff.  Whatever one thinks about the success or otherwise of institutional repositories as an agent of change in scholarly communication there seems little doubt that the 'open' movement is where things are headed because it is such a strong enabler of collaboration and communication.

Slide 24 of the presentation above introduces the notion that open "methods are scientific commodities".  Obvious really, but something I hadn't really thought about.  I note that there seem to be some potential overlaps here with the approaches to sharing pedagogy between lecturers/teachers enabled by standards such as Learning Design - "pedagogies as learning commodities" perhaps? - though I remain somewhat worried about how complex these kinds of things can get in terms of mark-up languages.

The presentation ends with some thoughts about the impact that this new user-centric (scientist-centric) world of personal research environments has on libraries:

  • We don’t come to the library, it comes to us.
  • We don’t use just one library or one source.
  • We don’t use just one tool!
  • Library services embedded in our toolkits, workbenches, browsers, authoring tools.

I find the closing scenario (slide 67) somewhat contrived:

Prior to leaving home Paul, a Manchester graduate student, syncs his iPhone with the latest papers, delivered overnight by the library via a news syndication feed. On the bus he reviews the stream, selecting a paper close to his interest in HIV-1 proteases. The data shows apparent anomalies with his own work, and the method, an automated script, looks suspect. Being on-line he notices that a colleague in Madrid has also discovered the same paper through a blog discussion and they Instant Message, annotating the results together. By the time the bus stops he has recomputed the results, proven the anomaly, made a rebuttal in the form of a pubcast to the Journal Editor, sent it to the journal and annotated the article with a comment and the pubcast. [Based on an original idea by Phil Bourne]

If nothing else, it is missing any reference to Twitter (see the MarsPhoenix Twitter feed for example) and Second Life! :-).  That said, there is no doubt that the times they are a'changing.

My advice?  You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone :-)


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I wonder how much of this -- open, data-driven research -- will really happen.

Based on my, albeit meager, experience I think too few people are willing to share their data. As a person who has practiced FOSS distribution and open access publication since before the phrases were coined, I whole-heartedly endorse the idea, but I think these are values of people who work in my professional community and not necessarily the scholarly community at large. If this were the case, then I think there would be less of need to advocate for things like (subject or institutional) repositories.

I would sincerely like to be proven wrong.

Eric Lease Morgan
University Libraries of Notre Dame

With respect to the scenario, some serious work will need to be done to develop adaptive personalisation recommendation services, otherwise Paul (the researcher on the bus) will be completely swamped by his syndicated news feed.

In the presentation, there's only a little about 'Literature auto find and mined' - this is surely a big part of the the future of research from an information perspective.

In the future, there will be much less need for integrated search (slide 32) (which facilitaties discovery of information) and instead, there will be much more emphasis on Delivery (of auto-found, relevant, personalised and adapting information).


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