No longer on the side lines: E-research and Open Science

Added by Branwen Hide on 24 September 2008 18:20

One can not help but read an article on e-research or open science at the moment.

The opening of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) seems to have brought these areas into the mainstream and subjects that were mostly discussed in blog or online forums by enthusiasts are now special issues (Big Data, Nature 3 September 08) and appearing in non-scientific magazines (User generated Science, the Economist 18 September 08 ). 
 
E-research and open-science are rapidly evolving, and the past month there have been a number of meetings in the UK and abroad devoted to one or both of the areas. On top of attending Southampton Open science workshop, which I wrote about the other week, I recently attended multi-disciplinary, international conference on e-Research hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute in collaboration with a number of interested groups. To confirm the emerging importance and uptake of e-research the organisers expected about 50-60 participants and ended up with ~120 attendees.

The keynote speakers were very good and offered a wide range of opinions on a number of wide topics including: is big data the end of theory (Wired 23 June 2008), will the data deluge influence scholarship and enable new forms of scholarly communications, what are the implications of disseminating data before you have the whole picture, the inability of new technology to read or interact with old technology, and virtual witnessing, to list but a few of the ideas being thrown around.   
 
The research being done was also very interesting and the papers and slides are available on the conference website, and I would highly recommend having a look at them. I learned a fair bit from the paper sessions and have highlighted a few interesting sessions.

  • Nick Pearce  surveyed a number of researchers at the University of Lancaster about their usage of web 2.0 technology and showed that researchers tend to use a wide variety of different tools to collaborate and communicate with colleagues which differed across different disciplines.
  • Neil Hong is looking at how people perceive e-research and develop models of good practise with an aim to ultimately provide software and support to enable a sustainable future for the UK e-science community. 
  • Mike Thelwell and Jenny Fry presented a method for using web evidence to monitor the impact of e-research using hyperlink patterns and comparing them with similar sites. 
  • Theresa Velden presented work from a pilot study comparing scientific communication cultures using a combination of ethnographic methods and network analysis. She demonstrated that there are a number of different research communities and people varied from feeling strongly-weakly associated to them, such that the concept of community was not clearly defined and was fuzzy. There were also very different communications practises between similar communities (e.g. materials chemistry vs. physical chemistry) and that even within a single laboratory there were different levels of openness about data and data sharing.

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