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OKCon 2013 Guest Post: Is Open Source Drug Discovery Practical?

Guest - August 30, 2013 in Events, Join us, OKCon, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Science

The following guest post is by Matthew Todd, Senior Lecturer at the School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney and Sydney Ambassador of the Open Knowledge Foundation. As part of OKCon 2013 Matthew will host a satellite event entitled ‘Is Open Source Drug Discovery Practical?’, taking place on on Thursday 19 September from 09:00 – 12:00 at the World Health Organization (WHO) – UNAIDS HQ. (Find instructions about how to get there below, and register to attend the event here).


IsOpenSourceDrugDiscoveryPracticalIf we value collaboration as a way of speeding scientific progress, we should all embrace open science since it promises to supercharge the collaboration process, both by making data available to anyone but also by allowing anyone to work on a problem. Open science can obviously promise this because of its essential and defining condition: openness. We, as humans, default to this way of interacting with each other, but such norms can be overridden where there is some advantage in keeping secrets. A possible advantage might be financial, meaning there may be an incentive to work in a closed way if something one has done can be capitalized on for financial reward, leading to the idea of “intellectual property” and its protection through patents.

So we appear to have two opposing forms of enquiry. One that is open (without patents) and one that is closed. Clearly there are examples of great things arising from both.

One of the areas of science that has been of late dominated by the private sector is the pharmaceutical industry. Many effective medicines have been developed using the current model, but is it the only way? Might drug discovery that aligns with open source principles be possible?

My lab has been involved in trying to answer this question, both in developing ways to improve how we make medicines and how we discover new ones. The latter project, Open Source Malaria, directly challenges the idea that something new and of potential value to health should be sequestered away from public involvement. The OSM project abandons the protection of intellectual property so we may take advantage of the greatest number of people working on the problem in a barrierless, meritocratic collaboration.

There are historical arguments that patents are not necessary to drug discovery. Therapeutics of great value have been developed without patents, such as penicillin and the polio vaccine. The ability to patent molecular structures (rather than the methods used to make them) is a relatively recent invention. Patents have been accused of allowing companies to innovate less frequently.

But is an open approach really possible for the development of a new drug? Who would pay for the clinical trials? Who would invest money in the medicine if there is no monopoly on selling it downstream? Is there a realistic economic model that can take a promising new therapeutic and turn it into a medicine for treating millions of people? If open drug discovery is possible for diseases such as malaria, where there is little prospect of a profit, can the same model be applied to a disease like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, where the predicted profit would be very high under the current model?

These questions will all be addressed at a session I am hosting at the Open Knowledge Conference. This satellite event, taking place on the Thursday, is entitled “Is Open Source Drug Discovery Practical?“. I am very excited to have assembled a highly knowledgeable panel to discuss these issues, and in some ways it is lucky that OKCon is taking place in Geneva, where so many of the people most relevant to the current method of finding new medicines are located. The speakers are from the World Health Organisation, the Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, GlaxoSmithKline, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the Structural Genomics Consortium. If anyone is able to answer the session’s main question, these speakers can.

These panel members will have 10 minutes to speak about their organization’s efforts related to a more open approach to drug discovery. We will then have some coffee, and then turn to addressing some of the key questions above. There will be ample chance for members of the audience to take an active role in the discussion. If you are interested in the quandary of how we are going to find the drugs that we most need for the coming generations, and how we might be able to use open data and open research to do that, then this session is for you. The subject is so interesting because the discovery of effective new medicines is very hard: we assume, then, that the best way to do the research is using a massively distributed collaboration with lots of open data, yet that model is a real challenge today because of the structures we have put in place to support the industry.

Please join us! The session will take place at WHO’s main headquarters from 09:00 till 12:00. So we ensure we don’t overflow the room, please register to attend here, where you will also find more detail of the specific items for discussion and the panel members.

Location: Initially sign in at the WHO main building then go across to the WHO-UNAIDS building, meeting room D46031 (take lift 33/34 to go to the 4th floor).

Instructions on getting to WHO by public transport

[Picture credit]

Network Summit

Naomi Lillie - July 19, 2013 in Network, Open GLAM, Open Government Data, Open Humanities, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Open Science, Our Work, Talks, Working Groups

Twice-yearly the whole community of the Open Knowledge Foundation gathers together to share with, learn from and support one another. The Summer Summit 2013 took place in Cambridge (UK) last week (10th-14th July), with staff updates on the Thursday and network representatives joining on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It was so inspiring to hear what our network has been doing to further the Open movement recently and over the last 6 months!

We heard from Local Groups about how these groups have been effecting change in all our locations around the world:

  • Alberto for OKFN Spain has been promoting open transparency in budgets, including their own, and using the power of events to gather people;
  • OKFN Taiwan, represented by TH (who we believe travelled the furthest to be with us in person), has also been investing in many large events, including one event for developers and others attracting 2,000 people! They have also been supporting local and central governments on open data regulation;
  • Charalampos of OKFN Greece highlighted the recent support of their works by Neelie Kroes, and took us through crashmap.okfn.gr which maps accidents using data from police departments and census data along with crowd-sourced data;
  • Pierre at OKF France reported that they have been helping redesign the national open data portal, as well as developing an open data portal for children and young people which kids which may align well with School of Data;
  • OpenData.ch, the Swiss Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation of course is hosting OKCon in September, and Hannes updated on exciting developments here. He also reported on work to lobby and support government by developing visualisations of budget proposals, developing a federal-level open data strategy and policy, and promoting a national open data portal. Thanks to their efforts, a new law was accepted on open weather data, with geodata next up;
  • David updated on OKFN Australia where there is support from government to further the strong mandate for open scientific data. The newspaper the Age has been a firm ally, making data available for expenses and submissions to political parties, and a project to map Melbourne bicycle routes was very successful;
  • Francesca of OKF Italy has been working alongside Open Streetmap and Wikimedia Italy, as well as with parliament on the Open Transport manifesto. They have also been opening up ecological data, from “spaghetti open data”;
  • OKFN Netherlands was represented by Kersti, who reported a shared sense of strength in open government data and open development, as well as in the movement Open for Change (where OKCon is listed as the top ‘Open Development Event’!);
  • Dennis, for OKF Ireland, has been pushing the local events and gathering high-profile ‘rock stars’ of the open data world as well as senior government representatives. He has also presented on open data in parliament;
  • OKF Scotland is a growing grassroots community, as conveyed by Ewan – an Open Data Day asserted the importance of connecting to established grassroots communities who are already doing interesting things with data. They are also working closely with government to release data and organised local hackdays with children and young people;
  • Bill joined us remotely to update on OKF Hong Kong, where regular meet-ups and hackdays are providing a great platform for people to gather around open knowledge. Although not able to join us in person (like Everton / Tom from OKF Brasil) Bill was keen to report that OKF Hong Kong will be represented at OKCon!
  • OKF Austria‘s update was given by Walter, who informed us that transport data is now properly openly licensed and that several local instances of the international Working Groups have been set up. Which segues nicely, as…

It wasn’t just during the planned sessions where community-building and networking occurred: despite the scorching 30°C (86°F) heat – somewhat warmer than the Winter Summit in January! – people made the most of lunchtimes and breaks to share ideas and plan.

We also heard from Working Groups about how crossing international boundaries is making a difference to Open for all of us:

  • Open Sustainability was represented by Jack who explained Cleanweb (an initiative to use clean technologies for good, engaging with ESPA to open up data) and has set up @opensusty on Twitter as a communication route for anyone wanting to connect;
  • Ben, newly involved with Open Development, explained about the group’s plans to make IATI‘s released data useful, and bringing together existing initiatives to create a data revolution;
  • Open Science, represented by Ross, has been very active with lobbying and events, with the mailing list constantly buzzing with discussions on open data, licensing and convincing others;
  • Daniel explained that Open Government Data, being one of the largest groups with 924 mailing list members, has provided an important role as being at the heart of the Open Government Data movement, as a place for people to go to for questions and – hopefully! – answers. Daniel will be stepping down, so get in touch if you would like to help lead this group; in the meantime, the Steering Committee will be helping support the group;
  • OpenGLAM has also developed an Advisory Board, said Joris. There is good global reach for Open GLAM advocacy, and people are meeting every month. Documents, case studies, slide-decks and debates are available to new joiners to get started, and the Austrian instance of the Working Group demonstrated the process works. (Joris has now sadly left Open Knowledge Foundation ‘Central’, but we are delighted he will stay on as volunteer Coordinator for this group!);
  • Public Domain, with Primavera reporting, has been working on Public Domain Calculators in partnership with the government. PD Remix launched in France in May, and Culture de l’Europe will present at OKCon;
  • Primavera also updated on Open Design, where future planning has taken priority. The Open Design Definition has been a highlight but funding would help further activity and there are plans to seek this proactively. Chuff, the Open Knowledge Foundation Mascot, was pleased to get a mention…

It should be noted that these activities and updates are brief highlights only – distilling the activities of our groups into one or two sentences each is very much unrepresentative of the amount of things we could talk about here!

We also made time for socialising at the Summit, and much fun was had with Scrabble, playing frisbee and punting – not to mention celebrating Nigel‘s birthday!

As an aside, I was going to state that “we only need an Antarctic representative and the Open Knowledge Foundation will have all seven continents in our network”; however, it appears there is no definitive number of continents or agreed land-masses! An amalgamated list is Africa (Africa/Middle East and North Africa), America (Central/North/South), Antarctica, Australia (Australia/Oceania) and Eurasia (Europe/Asia)… but, however you wish to define the global divisions (and isn’t it pleasing that it’s difficult to do so?), Antarctica is the only area the Open Knowledge Foundation is not represented! Are you reading this from an outstation at the South Pole, or know someone there, and want to contribute to open knowledge? Apply to become an Ambassador and be the person to cement the Open Knowledge Foundation as the fully global demonstration of the Open movement.

If you’re in an unrepresented area – geographic or topic – we’d love to hear from you, and if you’re in a represented area we’d love to put you in touch with others. Get Involved and connect with the Open Knowledge Foundation Network – and maybe we’ll see you at the next Summit!

Images 1, 4-7 and front page: Velichka Dimitrova. Images 2 and 3: Marieke Guy, CC-BY-NC-ND

Rigour and Openness in 21st Century Science

Jenny Molloy - June 25, 2013 in Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

Here’s a few great videos from a recent conference attended by members of our Open Science Working Group, about Rigour and Openness in 21st Century Science.

Science is great, open it (open science)

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford and University of Koblenz recently joined forces to organise an event on ‘Rigour and Openness in 21st Century Science‘ examining whether and how recent developments in open science can lead to increased reproducibility and rigour in scientific research.

While the key themes of open access and data were addressed, other sessions touched on the question of how to ensure data collected and analysed by citizens is validated, the role of openness in innovation and pre-competitive commercial environments and new technical services that are being built to facilitate sharing, analysis and further application of research outputs.

Over 90 people registered to attend the sessions, which were flanked by an opening address from Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Advisor and a closing address from David Willetts MP, UK Government Minister for Science and Universities. These provided an interesting and positive insight into how the UK Government is thinking about issues around open science.

In addition, six eminent speakers debated the issue of the future of scholarly publishing in a public event held in the Oxford Union debating chamber – will we see progress by evolution or revolution of the current system?

Here are some great videos, and further sessions can be found on youtube and the University of Oxford podcasts site.


Sir Mark Walport – Opening Address


David Willetts MP – Opening Address


Evolution or Revolution? The Debate at Oxford’s conference Rigour and Openness in 21st Century Science


Chas Bountra on open innovation


Helen Roy on citizen science

G8 Science Ministers Support Open Data in Science

Jonathan Gray - June 14, 2013 in Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

As you may have seen, open data and transparency is set to be a major topic of discussion at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland next week.

We were pleased to see a joint statement from the G8 science ministers released yesterday – expressing a strong commitment to open data in science. The third section of the statement says:

Open Scientific Research Data

Open enquiry is at the heart of scientific endeavour, and rapid technological change has profound implications for the way that science is both conducted and its results communicated. It can provide society with the necessary information to solve global challenges. We are committed to openness in scientific research data to speed up the progress of scientific discovery, create innovation, ensure that the results of scientific research are as widely available as practical, enable transparency in science and engage the public in the scientific process. We have decided to support the set of principles for open scientific research data outlined below as a basis for further discussions.

i. To the greatest extent and with the fewest constraints possible publicly funded scientific research data should be open, while at the same time respecting concerns in relation to privacy, safety, security and commercial interests, whilst acknowledging the legitimate concerns of private partners.

ii. Open scientific research data should be easily discoverable, accessible, assessable, intelligible, useable, and wherever possible interoperable to specific quality standards.

iii. To maximise the value that can be realised from data, the mechanisms for delivering open scientific research data should be efficient and cost effective, and consistent with the potential benefits.

iv. To ensure successful adoption by scientific communities, open scientific research data principles will need to be underpinned by an appropriate policy environment, including recognition of researchers fulfilling these principles, and appropriate digital infrastructure.

We decide to build on the existing work to coordinate and enable international data collaboration.

It is encouraging to see such high level support for open access to scientific research and for open data in science. We hope that in the coming months this high level support translates into policies that mandate compliance with principles such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative 10 Year Recommendations and our own Panton Principles for Open Data in Science.

If you’d like to join discussion about open data in science you can sign up to our open-science mailing list:

Panton Fellowships: Apply Now!

Ross Mounce - June 12, 2013 in Featured, Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

The Open Knowledge Foundation is delighted to announce the launch of the new Panton Fellowships!

CCIA

Funded this year by The Computer & Communications Industry Association, Panton Fellowships will be awarded to scientists who actively promote open data in science, as per the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science.

Visit the Panton Fellowships home page for more information including details of how to apply.

Further Details

We firmly believe that “open data means better science”. The Panton Fellowships have been created in order to support scientists – particularly graduate students and early-stage career scientists – to explore this idea, and to tackle those barriers which currently prevent science data from being made open.

Dr Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director at PLOS, and one of the Panton Fellowships Advisory Board, commented on the ‘real potential’ of the Fellowships to influence practice surrounding open data in the scientific community:

‘Panton Fellowships will allow those who are still deeply involved in research to think closely about the policy and technical issues surrounding open data.’

By allowing scientists the scope both to explore the ‘big picture’ – gathering evidence to promote discussion throughout the community – and also to work on specific technical solutions to individual problems, the Panton Fellowship scheme has the potential to make a real impact upon the practice of open data in science.

Panton Fellows will have the freedom to undertake a range of activities, and prospective applicants are encouraged to formulate their own work plan. As Fellows will continue to be employed and/or study at their current institution, activities undertaken for the Panton Fellowship should ideally complement and enhance their existing work.

Fellowships will be held for one year, and will have a value of £8k p.a. For more details and information on how to apply, please visit http://pantonprinciples.org/panton-fellowships/. Read about the work of our previous Panton Fellows; Sophie Kershaw here (PDF), and Ross Mounce here.

 

Open Knowledge may yet come to medicine – let’s help make it happen

Iain Hrynaszkiewicz - May 20, 2013 in Campaigning, Open Data, Open Science

Today is International Clinical Trials Day. To mark the event, here’s a post from Iain Hrynaszkiewicz reviewing the current state of open knowledge in medicine. You can see an earlier version on F1000’s blog.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the organisation which approves drug license applications from the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, has made important progress towards more open science. They hope to release anonymised data from drug trials online, but are faced with widely divided opinions on how data sharing should happen, as well as legal challenges in making it happen. The Open Knowledge community has a chance to help produce better outcomes for the beneficiaries of medical research.

On 30 April 2013 the EMA published advice documents, which cover five different aspects of clinical data sharing and are designed to help the EMA craft their policy on data release. The advice was sourced from around 200 volunteers from across the drug industry, academic research, publishing, and patient advocacy communities. I’ll be the first point out this is not an open data policy – it’s a data sharing or data access policy. The EMA is, along with most medical research, a long way from implementing an Open Knowledge-compliant data policy – with data rapidly released in machine-readable formats to the public domain. But amongst the documents released there are some pertinent developments – worrying and promising in equal measures – that the open science community should recognise now.

Copyright and licenses

One suggestion in the EMA’s legal advisory group was that all data submitted to the EMA would be protected by copyright under the EU Database Directive. This seems unlikely, as it assumes all trial data are in a database. Data take many forms within and without databases. Whether copyright applies to data is a much debated issue depending on, amongst other things, the legal jurisdiction. However, Creative Commons CC0 was proposed to the EMA as possible solution to this problem. Data repositories Dryad and figshare were used as examples along with the journal F1000Research, which was the first journal to use the CC0 public domain dedication waiver for data it publishes.

Data formats and standards

Data standards breed efficiency – efficient reuse, sharing, understanding and computation. The advice to the EMA on data formats includes some promising recommendations. The advisory group was quick to recognise the importance of clinical data standards such as CDSIC and file formats that can be read with open source software. But to avoid delays in implementing the policy it seems likely that such standards will not be required and “any format shall be acceptable for all data until the policy is applied by stakeholders”. PDF, a format widely discouraged for data, was even recommended by some as a format for some types of data.

Many other issues were covered, and the documents are available with full version history.

Making more science data and research results available openly ultimately means faster progress in solving the most difficult problems facing the world. In medicine the benefits of doing more reliable science through open data are the most tangible. People’s health is improved. But much of the clinical research community are not even used to sharing or being able to share – publish – the reports of their work (papers in journals) let alone their raw data.

Publication bias, where positive trials are more frequently published than negative trials, has been found in more than 50 different treatments including widely prescribed antidepressants and anitvirals. A lack of available platforms is not the barrier. Many journals accept or encourage negative results – including F1000Research which just launched a fee waiver for negative results –and various repositories can accept negative data.

The EMA’s initiative comes at a time when there is unprecedented attention on access to information from medical research in the UK and EU. The UK Government’s Science and Technology Select Committee is reviewing large amounts of oral and written evidence on its recent inquiry on clinical trials. The Alltrials campaign for the reporting and registration of all trial results – an initiative of Sense About Science, BMJ and others and fronted by Dr Ben Goldacre – has amassed more than 50,000 signatures.

Medical research is finally moving, albeit slowly, to a new default of open. The open science and open knowledge community should support and guide the EMA and other interested parties in taking these important steps towards open data. And to mark International Clinical Trials Day, go sign the Alltrials petition! This is a real chance to change medical evidence for the better.

The White House Seeks Champions of Open Science

Ross Mounce - May 8, 2013 in Open Access, Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

Here at the Open Knowledge Foundation, we know Open Science is tough, but ultimately rewarding. It requires courage & leadership to take the open path in science.

Nearly a week ago on the open-science mailing list we started putting together a list of established scientists who have in some way or another made significant contributions to open science or lent their esteemed reputation to calls for increased openness in science. Our open list now has over 130 notable scientists, among whom 88 are Nobel prize winners.

In an interesting parallel development, the White House has just put out a call to help identify “Open Science” Champions of Change — outstanding individuals, organizations, or research projects promoting and using open scientific data for the benefit of society.

whitehouseOPENSCIENCE

Anyone can nominate an Open Science candidate for consideration by May 14, 2013.

What more proof do we need that open science is both good, and valued in society? This marks a tremendous validation of the open science movement. The US government is not seeking to reward any scientist; only open scientists actively working to change the world for the better will win this recognition.

We’re still a long way from Open Science being the norm in science. But perhaps now, we’re a crucial step closer to important widespread recognition that Open Science is good, and could be the norm in the future. We eagerly await the unveiling of the winning Open Science champions at the White House on the 20th June later this year.

Science Europe denounces ‘hybrid’ Open Access

Ross Mounce - May 2, 2013 in Open Access, Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

Recently Science Europe published a clear and concise position statement titled: Principles on the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications

This is an extremely timely & important document that clarifies what governments and research funders should expect during the transition to open access. Unlike the recent US OSTP public access policy which allows publishers to apply up to a 12 month access embargo (to the disgust of some scientists like Michael Eisen) on publicly-funded research, this new Science Europe statement makes clear that only up to a 6 month embargo at maximum should be accepted for publicly funded STEM research. The recent RCUK (UK research councils) open access policy also requires 6 months embargo at most, with some caveats.

But among the many excellent principles is a particularly bold and welcome proclamation:

the hybrid model, as currently defined and implemented by publishers, is not a working and viable pathway to Open Access. Any model for transition to Open Access supported by Science Europe Member Organisations must prevent ‘double dipping’ and increase cost transparency

Hybrid options are typically far more expensive than ‘pure’ open access journal costs, and they don’t typically aid transparency or the wider transition to open access.

The Open Knowledge Foundation heartily endorses these principles as together with the above they respect, and reinforce the need for free access AND full re-use rights to scientific research.

About Science Europe:

Science Europe is an association of European Research Funding Organisations and Research Performing Organisations, based in Brussels. At present Science Europe comprises 51 Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations from 26 countries, representing around €30 billion per annum.

Opening up the wisdom of crowds for science

Francois Grey - April 22, 2013 in Featured, News, Open Data, Open Science, Our Work, PyBossa, Releases

We are excited to announce the official launch of Crowdcrafting.org, an open source software platform – powered by our Pybossa technology – for developing and sharing projects that rely on the help of thousands of online volunteers.

crowdcrafting logo

At a workshop on Citizen Cyberscience held this week at University of Geneva, a novel open source software platform called Crowdcrafting was officially launched. This platform, which already has attracted thousands of participants during several months of testing, enables the rapid development of online citizen science applications, by both amateur and professional scientists.

Applications already running on Crowdcrafting range from classifying images of magnetic molecules to analyzing tweets about natural disasters. During the testing phase, some 50 new applications have been created, with over 50 more under development. The Crowdcrafting platform is hosted by University of Geneva, and is a joint initiative between the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, a Geneva-based partnership co-founded by University of Geneva. The Sloan Foundation has recently awarded a grant to this joint initiative for the further development of the Crowdcrafting platform.

Crowdcrafting fills a valuable niche in the broad spectrum of online citizen science. There are already many citizen science projects that use online volunteers to achieve breakthrough results, in fields as diverse as proteomics and astronomy. These projects often involve hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers over many years. The objective of Crowdcrafting is to make it quick and easy for professional scientists as well as amateurs to design and launch their own online citizen science projects. This enables even relatively small projects to get started, which may require the effort of just a hundred volunteers for only a few weeks. Such initiatives may be small on the scale of most online social networks, but they still correspond to many man-years of scientific effort achieved in a short time and at low cost.

“By emphasizing openness and simplicity, Crowdcrafting is lowering the threshold in investment and expertise needed to develop online citizen science projects”, says Guillemette Bolens, Deputy Rector for Research at the University of Geneva. “As a result, dozens of projects are under development, many of them in the digital humanities and data journalism, some of them created by university students, others still by people outside of academia.”

An example occurred after the tropical storm that wreaked havoc in the Philippines late last year. A volunteer initiative called Digital Humanitarian Network used Crowdcrafting to launch a project called Philippines Typhoon. This enabled online volunteers to classify thousands of tweets about the impact of the storm, in order to more rapidly filter information that could be vital to first responders. “We are excited about how Crowdcrafting is assisting the digital volunteer community worldwide in responding to natural disasters,” says Francesco Pisano, Director of Research at UNITAR.

“Crowdcrafting is also enabling the general public to contribute in a direct way to fundamental science,” says Gabriel Aeppli, Director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), a joint venture between UCL and Imperial College. A case in point is the project Feynman’s Flowers, set up by researchers at LCN. In this project, volunteers use Crowdcrafting to measure the orientation of magnetic molecules on a crystalline surface. This is part of a fundamental research effort aimed at creating novel nanoscale storage systems for the emerging field of quantum computing.

Commenting on the underlying technology, Rufus Pollock, founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said, “Crowdcrafting is powered by the open-source PyBossa software, developed by ourselves in collaboration with the Citizen Cyberscience Centre. Its aim is to make it quick and easy to do “crowdsourcing for good” – getting volunteers to help out with tasks such as image classification, transcription and geocoding in relation to scientific and humanitarian projects”. The Shuttleworth Foundation and the Open Society Foundations funded much of the early development work for this technology.

Francois Grey, coordinator of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, says, “Our goal now, with support from the Sloan Foundation, is to integrate other apps for data collection, processing and storage, to make Crowdcrafting an open-source ecosystem for building a new generation of browser-based citizen science projects.”

For further information about Crowdcrafting, see Crowdcrafting.org.

Panton Fellowship wrap up: Ross Mounce

Joris Pekel - April 16, 2013 in Featured, Open Science, WG Open Data in Science

 

The Panton Fellowships have come to an end. The work that our two Panton Fellows, Ross Mounce and Sophie Kershaw have done over the past year to promote openness in the sciences has far surpassed what any of us expected. Here Ross details his wide-ranging experiences and achievements over the past year, and you can read Sophie’s report on the last year here.

So… it’s over.

For the past twelve months I was immensely proud to be one of the first Open Knowledge Foundation Panton Fellows, but that has now come to an end. In this post I will try and recap my activities and achievements during the fellowship.

okfhelsinki

The broad goals of the fellowship were to:

  • Promote the concept of open data in all areas of science
  • Explore practical solutions for making data open
  • Facilitate discussions surrounding the role and value of openness
  • Catalyse the open community, and reach out beyond its traditional core

and I’m pleased to say that I think I achieved all four of these goals with varying levels of success.

 

Achievements:

Outreach & Promotion – I went to a lot of conferences, workshops and meetings during my time as a Panton Fellow to help get the message out there. These included:

Conferences

At all of these I made clear my views on open data and open access, and ways in which we could improve scientific communication using these guiding principles. Indeed I was more than just a participant at all of these conferences – I was on stage at some point for all, whether it was arguing for richer PDF metadata, discussing data re-use on a panel or discussing AMI2 and how to liberate open phylogenetic data from PDFs.

One thing I’ve learnt during my fellowship is that just academic-to-academic communication isn’t enough. In order to change the system effectively, we’ve got to convince other stakeholders too, such as librarians, research funders and policy makers. Hence I’ve been very busy lately attending more broader policy-centred events like the Westminster Higher Education Forum on Open Access & the Open Access Royal Society workshop & the Institute of Historical Research Open Access colloquium.

Again, here in the policy-space my influence has been international not just domestic. For example, my trips to Brussels, both for the Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists workshop (which may help shape the direction of future FP8 funding), and the ongoing Licences For Europe: Text and Data Mining stakeholder dialogue have had real impact. My presentation about content mining for the latter has garnered nearly 1000 views on slideshare and the debate as a whole has been featured in widely-read news outlets such as Nature News. Indeed I’ve seemingly become a spokesperson for certain issues in open science now. Just this year alone I’ve been asked for comments on ‘open’ matters in three different Nature features; on licencing, text mining, and open access from an early career researcher point-of-view – I don’t see many other UK PhD students being so widely quoted!

Another notable event I was particularly proud of speaking at and contributing to was the Revaluing Science in the Digital Age invite-only workshop organised jointly by the International Council for Science & Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, September 2012. The splendour was not just in the location, but also the attendees too – an exciting, influential bunch of people who can actually make things happen. The only downside of such high-level international policy is the glacial pace of action – I’m told, arising from this meeting and subsequent contributions, a final policy paper for approval by the General Assembly of ICSU will likely only be circulated in 2014 at the earliest!

 

helsinkiTALK

The most exciting outreach I did for the fellowship were the ‘general public’ opportunities that I seized to get the message out to people beyond the ‘ivory towers’ of academia. One such event was the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, September 2012 (pictured above). Another was my participation in a radio show broadcast on Voice of Russia UK radio with Timothy Gowers, Bjorn Brembs, and Rita Gardner explaining the benefits and motivation behind the recent policy shift to open access in the UK. This radio show gave me the confidence & experience I needed for the even bigger opportunity that was to come next – at very short notice I was invited to speak on a live radio debate show on open access for BBC Radio 3 with other panellists including Dame Janet Finch & David Willetts MP! An interesting sidenote is that this opportunity may not have arisen if I hadn’t given my talk about the Open Knowledge Foundation at a relatively small conference; Progressive Palaeontology in Cambridge earlier that year – it pays to network when given the opportunity!

 

Outputs

The fellowship may be over, but the work has only just begun!

I have gained significant momentum and contacts in many areas thanks to this Panton Fellowship. Workshop and speaking invites continue to roll in, e.g. next week I shall be in Berlin at the Making Data Count workshop, then later on in the month I’ll be speaking at the London Information & Knowledge Exchange monthly meet and the ‘Open Data – Better Society’ meeting (Edinburgh).

Even completely independent of my activism, the new generation of researchers in my field are discovering for themselves the need for Open Data in science. The seeds for change have definitely been sown. Attitudes, policies, positions and ‘defaults’ in academia are changing. For my part I will continue to try and do my bit to help this in the right direction; towards intelligent openness in all its forms.

What Next?

I’m going to continue working closely with the Open Knowledge Foundation as and when I can. Indeed for 6 months starting this January I agreed to be the OKF Community Coordinator, Open Science before my postdoc starts. Then when I’ve submitted my thesis (hopefully that’ll go okay), I’ll continue on in full-time academic research with funding from a BBSRC grant I co-wrote partially out in Helsinki(!) at the Open Knowledge Festival with Peter Murray-Rust & Matthew Wills, that has subsequently been approved for funding. This grant proposal which I’ll blog further about at a later date, comes as a very direct result of the content mining work I’ve been doing with Peter Murray-Rust for this fellowship using AMI2 tools to liberate open data. Needless to say I’m very excited about this future work… but first things first I must complete and submit my doctoral thesis!

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