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The Invisible Scientist


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Personal Digital Identity on the Web: Problems + Solutions

Published in: Technology, Education
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The Invisible Scientist

  1. 1. The Invisible Scientist Personal Digital Identity on the Web: Problems + Solutions Duncan Hull The University of Manchester Science Foo Camp 2009 The Googleplex Mountain View, California
  2. 2. The Invisible Scientist: Digital Identity • I am not an identity or security expert but… • Introduction: Personal Identity historically and currently • The Problem: – The way we identify scientists on the Web is inefficient and badly broken – Which can make much of their work “invisible” • Some solutions: – URIs – OpenIDs ~15 minutes of slides – Contributor-ID ( ~45 minutes for discussion • Conclusions + What might better digital identities allow?
  3. 3. Tools for sharing data on the Web < 10 yrs old All these social software tools are reliant on digital identity of some form These tools are good but…
  4. 4. Unfortunately • Many biomedical scientists don’t use these tools for serious work – (if at all) • Why? • It’s complicated but…
  5. 5. Scientific publishing has worked this way for centuries • Publishing the main (perhaps only) way of formally identifying people and their work • “Publish or Perish”
  6. 6. First published 1687, over 300 years old
  7. 7. Identity is different • on the Web: • We use URI’s to identify people • • • • • •[author] •[author] Julian Gough • But do all these URI’s identify the same person?
  8. 8. Science is increasingly Digital • Science is increasingly digital – Not just digital publications in electronic journals… – wiki edits (e.g. Rfam and Pfam in wikipedia, robert hoffman wikgenes) – Software development, workflows – Development of databases and ontologies - “data driven science” + “open data” – blog posts • Traditional journal publishing is often inadequate for sharing this kind of data and attributing it to individual people – See “Defrosting the Digital Libray” in PLoS Computational Biology for details – Hull et all (2008) • No good incentives to make digital contributions (besides traditional publishing) • “Micro-attribution” - a large number of small contributions go unrewarded
  9. 9.
  10. 10. Misattribution (part 2) • “Forgotten Password”, “Already Registered”, “Please Login”, “Access Denied” are all recognised as “authors” in Google Scholar
  11. 11. Digital attribution Attribution would seem to be a simple process and yet it represents a major, unsolved problem for information science. Neil Smalheiser and Vetle Torvik Author name disambiguation Chapter published in Volume 43 (2009) of the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) (edited by B. Cronin) which is available from the publisher Information Today, Inc
  12. 12. Digital identity is currently a mess • As well as identifying and attributing with URIs, we also need to: – Attribution: Julian AuthorOf IncrediblyImportantThing – Authentication: is Julian is who he says he is? Or a fake? – Authorisation: is Julian authorised to do stuff? Currently done through combination of username-and-password The average user has [at least] 18 user accounts and 3.49 passwords” Simon Willison (The Guardian)
  13. 13. Digital Identity Really Matters • Digital Identity is a pre-requisite for – Attribution … – Contribution… – Publication … to be recorded and quantified. • Important decisions made on digital identity – Hiring, funding, promotion, collaboration – Selecting appropriate reviewers for grants and publications – attributing published data in an increasingly web-based world • This is the environment which social software / Web 2.0 operates in: – Reliant on accurate and efficient digital identities
  14. 14. What is myExperiment? • Facebook for Scientists? • Collaborative software for sharing and finding experimental protocols on the web
  15. 15. Who is involved in myExperiment? Carole Goble • Small team of developers (2-3 full time) David De Roure • 1500 users have uploaded 560 workflows, 150 files and 40 packs in 130 groups
  16. 16. myExperiment uses OpenID to tackle Digital Identity and attribution
  17. 17. Open ID is quickly becoming widespread “42,235 sites are now enabled to accept OpenID logins” source
  18. 18. But there are usability “issues” 84% + mcsquared OR 16% Password handled by third party OpenID provider Unless you hide it (e.g. Gmail, wordpress)
  19. 19. Crossref solution: DOIs for people Geoffrey Bilder • Crossref has solved a similar problem with identifying publications across different publishers called “Digital Object Identifiers (DOI)” – DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204 – – They are working on something similar for people • DOI’s for scientists “Contributor ID” – Watch this space…
  20. 20. Conclusions • Digital Identity is broken (many biomedical scientists don’t realise) – Important contributions are not properly attributed – Misattribution can lead to invisibility – This can discourage scientists from using the web more • Fixing digital identities could make science more efficient – Recognise digital contributions – Motivate people to make non-publication contributions • Technical problem mostly solved • Discussion: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Things identity might allow… – Over to you!