Thoughts on SciFoo 2008
Now that SciFoo 08 is over here are my thoughts.
On Saturday I had the chance to present an Open Notebook Science session with Cameron Neylon and Antony Williams. It was a small session, which was good in a way because it made it easier for everyone to engage in the discussion. I was especially pleased that Noel Gorelick from Google was there and took the time to speak with us afterwards.
Google is serious about making science more open and we were lucky to have a first look at the Google Research Data project in action. The idea is to provide massive storage space for scientific data, including version control and all the other indexing benefits one would expect. This will allow anyone to generate a stable url to a particular dataset. Very exciting stuff for us, especially for managing the docking data generated by our collaborator Rajarshi Guha.
Like last year there was a lot of discussion about Open Science but it seemed that this year there was more focus on the positive and actually getting things done. Probably the most visible moment of transformation erupted from Chris Patil at the closing session, where he vowed to make his lab notebooks public and organize a collaboration of open research on aging.
My session on Second Life was very well attended and, for the most part, went smoothly. Several people told me that they finally understood how this technology could be useful. Second Life generally requires an experienced user to demonstrate its value in order for a first time user's experience to be positive. Andrew Lang was kind enough to join us online and we were able to show our 5D representation of a dataset, making molecules and the SciFooLivesOn area.
One of the most important opportunities for me was a chance spend 7-8 hours with Tony and Cameron on Friday to thoroughly discuss specific technical implementations of Open Notebook Science. ChemSpider will shortly unveil some very powerful technology to assist us and others to increase the impact of our work. More on that as it materializes...
There were so many inspiring sessions. Jane McGonigal described her quest to make video games process real scientific information and we discussed a possible application in UsefulChem to convert laboratory logs to machine readable formats. Stan Williams gave a mesmerizing presentation of how memristors, solid state devices that function like neurons, could be assembled to approach the computational power of biological brains.
The conference certainly sparked a lot of new ideas and promising collaborations. Now begins the Darwinian process of seeing which ones blossom.
Labels: scifoo scifoo08