Science Online 2011 Thoughts
On January 15, 2011 I co-moderated a Science Online 2011 session on Open Notebook Science with Antony Williams and Carl Boettiger. The projector failed so we did our best to introduce the topic without relying on visual aids. My main objective was to demonstrate that it is not necessary for researchers (or their machines) to interface with the actual lab notebook to benefit from the information generated from the work. By introducing simple and rapid abstraction steps, both solubility and reaction information can be converted to web services for a variety of uses. As long as a link to the original lab notebook page (including the raw data) is attached, no information is lost and details can be investigated on demand.
One of the most powerful tools to use in this context is the tracking of chemical entities as ChemSpider IDs. This enables direct access to many other web services which Andrew Lang and I have leveraged to generate our own services. Tony spoke a bit more about this in his part and outlined some of the benefits and frustrations with crowdsourcing. Carl spoke eloquently about his experiences with Open Notebook Science as a graduate student for computational projects. The slides from all of us are provided below.
The overall tone of the discussion during our session was quite positive and productive. This was the case with all of the other sessions I attended, as it has been in prior years. The Science Online conference has evolved to attract a large proportion of people advocating Open Science. The presenters and the audience feel that they are among friends and the result is usually a free and easy exchange of ideas. Not all conferences and symposia relating to the online aspects of science share this. I have seen many examples where the "online science" theme is overrun by Closed Science proponents, for example commercial databases or Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) vendors. Hopefully this conference will retain its Open Science focus in the future.
Kaitlin Thaney proved to be a very effective moderator during her session on "The Digital Toolbox: What's Needed?" and she stirred up some insightful discussion. I also enjoyed Steve Koch's session (co-moderated with Kiyomi Deards and Molly Keener) on "Data Discoverability: Institutional Support Strategies". Steve shared a particularly compelling example of the collaborative benefits of Open Notebook Science, where a computational research group came across images and videos from one of his group's notebooks and incorporated these in their paper - with all due credit acknowledged.
I very much appreciated the opportunity to catch up with old friends and some new. I had never met Carl Boettiger in person before and we had some very interesting discussions about Open Science and Open Education. It was good to meet Mark Hahnel from FigShare and explore possible paths for data sharing. I had some nice chats with Antony Williams, Steve Koch, Steven Bachrach, Heather Piwowar and Ana Nelson.
The Saturday evening banquet proved to be surprisingly entertaining. Despite the sedate title of her talk, "Out on a Limb: Challenges of Training Scientists to Communicate", Meg Lowman pounded the audience with a hilarious performance. Science comedian Brian Malow kicked this up a notch with some very clever material. Later on, using a brilliant comedic judo technique, he repeated some choice derisive comments he received from his performances on YouTube. I hope he comes back next year!