Open Science is More Than
Open Publishing: Meet CoLab
DJ Strouse
Casey Stark
Why So Secret?
Why So Secret?
Technologica
l
Limitations
Why So Secret?
Technologica
l
Limitations
Cultural
Constraints
The Childhood of Science
You
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Childhood of Science
Technological Limitation Cultural Constraint
Time-consuming to produce
communication
Sparse commu...
The Web
The Web
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Web
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Web
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Web
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
The Web
You
Colleague
Scientific Community
So What Are We Doing?
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
The State of Open Science
Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab
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Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab

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lightning talk delivered by Casey Stark and I at the Open Science Summit 2010 on Thursday, July 29, 2010.

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  • This presentation is half a pitch for doing science on the web and half a pitch for a website we built to allow you to do so.
  • Let's consider a typical scientific project and its exposure to the rest of the world.
  • First, you get an idea.
  • You search through the literature to see if others have had similar ideas and if so, what types of investigations they did.
  • Satisfied that you're able to make an original contribution, you start doing some science.  At this stage, you might list the project on your website or talk about it at conferences, but generally the bulk of the work is kept private.
  • Gradually, you collect interesting results and eventually you have enough to publish.  By now, you've probably mentioned the project to some colleagues and friends but the project is still unknown to great majority of your scientific community.
  • You spend time writing up your results, submit them to a journal, and undergo the long and arduous process of peer review.  At this stage, a few anonymous individuals are added to the privileged set of scientists who know about your work.
  • Finally, your project breaks out of the lab and is published.  Your scientific colleagues are now free to use your ideas for inspiration, refute your results, or seek new collaborations.
  • Of course, you'll continue your work.  For those investigations that turn out to be more difficult than you expected or don't yield sufficient results for publication, you quietly sweep them under the rug to avoid embarrassment.
  • The key thing to notice is just how little of the scientific process sees the light of day.
  • Why so secretive?
  • Many will point to the protection of proprietary results (getting scooped) and the incentive structure (publications = currency of academia), but we argue that the roots of this secrecy can be found in technological limitations and convenience.
  •  So let's take a look at the historical context in which much of early scientific culture developed and focus on how technological limitations constrained scientific communication.
  • Tradition: much of the culture of modern science was developed in its earliest days. When Galileo, Newton, and the gang were building classical physics, the only means of communication were letters and messengers. 
  • So if you wanted to communicate with a colleague...
  • ....or the rest of your scientific community, you had to do so by letter.
  • But there were many disadvantages to writing letters.
    Continuously writing and communicating ideas and partial results would have been so difficult and time-consuming that there would be no time left for the science itself.
  •  The high latency of letter exchange would have forced conversation to occur much more slowly than the speed of thought, seriously limiting its role in the brainstorming and troubleshooting characteristic of the scientific process.
  • This kind of environment would have encouraged either strictly local collaborations or none at all.
  • And very few individuals had the means to disseminate their ideas, so sharing science with a wider audience required the support of an academic journal.
  • Additionally, the high latency and barriers to sharing created many somewhat isolated research communities and opened up opportunities for taking ideas from one community, tweaking them slightly, and masquerading them as your own in another community. Now in business, this action is called arbitrage and is considered a clever move. However, in science, we call this “scooping” someone and it’s one of the most heinous crimes a scientist can commit.
  • So in summary, we can understand many of the features of early scientific culture as direct consequences of technological limations.
  • But technological limitations have changed. The internet enables many new things that letters did not.
  • Communication is now fast and easy to produce.
  • It occurs with zero latency, enabling the speed of communication to keep up with thought (and even exceed it as many have noticed).
  • Furthermore, its just as cheap and easy to make your work available to the entire scientific community as it is to a single colleague.
  • And finally, its much harder to get away with “idea arbitrage” for very long when communities are more closely linked.
  • So what are we doing with these newfound technological capabilities?
  • Which pieces of the scientific process are we working on making more open?
  • Open access journals such as PLoS are working on making the most public part of science even more public.
  • Twitter and Friendfeed are mostly being used to discuss and share new publication results.
  • Wordpress and other blogging services have enabled many scientists to set up small research pages that roughly outline a few of their current projects.
  • Services like Mendeley and CiteULike help researchers share collections of papers, limiting the time needed to be spent doing your own comprehensive literature search.
  • But take a look at how much of the scientific process is still hidden from view! We have yet to begin sharing the actual process of doing science yet. MyExperiment & OpenWetware enable the sharing of protocols, but as project-specific brainstorming and communication and the all important failures and missteps of science, those remains hidden.
  • And that is actually what we hope to change with CoLab.
  • One example worth exploring in deeper detail is the PolyMath Project. In January 2009, University of Cambridge mathematician Tim Gowers proposed a question: is massively collaborative mathematics possible? In other words, can many mathematicians working together on the web solve problems that individuals may not be able to? He also proposed a particular problem (an alternate proof to a important known result in combinatorics) and a set of rules, set up a blog and a wiki, and invited anyone to participate. Due in part to the prestige of Gowers and a collaborator on the project, Terrence Tao, word of the project spread very quickly and over the next month, 27 people contributed about 800 significant comments. By mid-March, the problem was solved. But the most interesting part is how it was solved. When the project began, Gowers, Tao, and others predicted the general flow of the argument they expected, but the end result turned out to be quite different than any of these ideas. In other words, the idea that emerged from the minds of many was qualitatively different the ideas of the individuals. The take home message is that not only is doing science online possible, but massively collaborative science may enable us to solve problems in novel ways as well.
    Notice that these first experiments in online science do one of two things; they either apply a general tool to the specific realm of science or they adapt a tool designed for something completely different to doing science. Remember: PolyMath was just a hacked together blog-wiki chimera. These early hacks are great because they help us to understand what works and what doesn’t in doing online science. But we can do better. We can take these lessons and use them to design web tools that cater to the specific needs of the scientific community. And that is exactly what we are trying to do with CoLab.
  • Open science is more than open publishing - Meet CoLab

    1. 1. Open Science is More Than Open Publishing: Meet CoLab DJ Strouse Casey Stark
    2. 2. Why So Secret?
    3. 3. Why So Secret? Technologica l Limitations
    4. 4. Why So Secret? Technologica l Limitations Cultural Constraints
    5. 5. The Childhood of Science You
    6. 6. The Childhood of Science You Colleague
    7. 7. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    8. 8. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    9. 9. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    10. 10. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    11. 11. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    12. 12. The Childhood of Science You Colleague Scientific Community
    13. 13. The Childhood of Science Technological Limitation Cultural Constraint Time-consuming to produce communication Sparse communication High latency Emphasis on local collaborations Hard to share Rise of the journal High latency + hard to share Fear of scooping
    14. 14. The Web
    15. 15. The Web You Colleague Scientific Community
    16. 16. The Web You Colleague Scientific Community
    17. 17. The Web You Colleague Scientific Community
    18. 18. The Web You Colleague Scientific Community
    19. 19. The Web You Colleague Scientific Community
    20. 20. So What Are We Doing?
    21. 21. The State of Open Science
    22. 22. The State of Open Science
    23. 23. The State of Open Science
    24. 24. The State of Open Science
    25. 25. The State of Open Science
    26. 26. The State of Open Science
    27. 27. The State of Open Science
    28. 28. Meet CoLab

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