OWW Lab NotebookTomorrow, July 10th at noon EDT, we’ll be having another one of our open town hall meetings at OWW. Anyone is invited to take part in the meeting, either via conference call or online chat. Details to get connected can be found here.

This month’s meeting will be focused around Lab Notebooks. We’ll be discussing what has already been done at OpenWetWare and what features should be added (or removed!), among other things…

If you happen to be interested in this topic, feel free to join in on the conversation and share your thoughts. If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can either leave your comments on this blog post or on the wiki, here.

Eva Amsen over at easterblot has made a really cool video about Lab waste that includes a list of ways we can reduce the amount of waste we generate in the lab.


Lab Waste from Eva Amsen on Vimeo.

All (or almost all) the elements in the video are licensed via Creative Commons, including the video. You can see the credits to the audio and visual elements here.

PLoSJust a few days ago, an article by Declan Butler was published in Nature regarding PLoS‘ open-access publishing model. This article was not well accepted by various open access advocates and science bloggers in general.

Johnathan Eisen from The Tree of Life was the first (that I noticed) to responde to the article and then many others followed along the same line.

Shortly after, Timo Hannay posted a “take two” at Nature’s Nascent that seemed to settle things down.

What I find to be the most notorious aspect in this whole string of events is that there is quite a large community of science bloggers that are ready to offer their “peer-review” in situations such as these. Is this a good thing? I would like to believe so…

Anyhow, I’ve only mentioned a few of the reactions. You can find plenty more reactions over at Bora’s Blog Around the Clock.

LaTeX logoIn the May/June issue of the Mathematics Association of America‘s news magazine MAA Focus, you’ll find an article titled “Student Collaboration using a LaTeX wiki” [pdf].

The article demonstrates the usefulness of the LaTeX extension for MediaWiki by enabling this great syntax to be used online in a collaborative environment such as a wiki.

It just happens that the LaTeX extension referenced in the article was written by Austin Che, a member of OpenWetWare’s steering committee. Which means that we’ve had a LaTeX enabled wiki for quite a while now :)

If you don’t know what LaTeX is, I’d first suggest a read at Wikipedia’s LaTeX page.

If you’ve got a grasp of what LaTeX is, I’d recommend you head over to OWW’s LaTeX page where you’ll find information on the advantages and disadvantages, software for writing LaTeX, PhD thesis LaTeX templates and more…

Jonathan over at Working the bench has just recently posted about how impressed he is by OpenWetWare and the available protocols:

It takes a little digging, but the website is really sweet simply because it gives you the feel that, for any given protocol, you are looking at something that works. It’s been tested, validated, and in many cases even commented on and modified by any number of additional people.

Jonathan makes a good point here where he mentions that you are looking at something that has been tested, validated and in many times worked on collaboratively by a group of OWW members.

What Jonathan doesn’t mention is that although OWW is a great resource for protocols, there are other great features like the materials section, indexed reference sources and above all, a large community of researchers from all over the world.

A couple of prominent names of the open access movement, Bora Zivkovic and John Wilbanks, have recently published articles in the Journal of Science Communication regarding the future of the scientific paper and copyright, respectively.

Peter Murray-Rust shares his view regarding the latter where he expresses his thoughts about licensing schemes and how they hinder scientific data management:

If we try and apply ANYTHING other than the public domain to scientific facts we shall no be able to manage scientific data. Problems include aggregation, restrictions (however reasonable) on re-use, cascading attribution, different jurisdictions.

Other great articles I would recommend are Alessandro Delfanti’s take on Collaborative web science and Elisabetta Tola’s run on science blogging.

Every year since 2004, groups of students have been getting together to compete in what is now known as iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition.

Many of the groups set up camp on OpenWetWare to work collaboratively on their projects. Doing so allows others to follow their work from the early brainstorming process to the daily grind of lab work via lab notebooks.

Past and present projects can be found on the OWW iGEM page or at the official iGEM website.

Piotr Przanowski from the University of Warsaw’s 2008 team has produced a brilliant illustration that summarizes the iGEM spirit:

FriendFeedI’m going to assume that only those currently using FriendFeed will understand the self reference in the title but if you didn’t that’s OK. Just keep on reading, you’ll get it, eventually.

If you happen to be interested or work in the life sciences area I’d recommend you take a few minutes to read Cameron Neylon‘s great post about FriendFeed and how it’s been embraced by the life sciences community.

I won’t go into the details of how FriendFeed works, but it’s been rapidly gaining momentum as a medium for groups of users to network and discuss each other’s shared content.

FriendFeed’s about page states:

FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends

The life sciences community has picked up on this great website like wildfire. A recently created room called The Life Scientists grew in a very short period (a week?) from just a few active online colleagues to a whooping 100+ users.

FriendFeed rooms offer a way to share on-topic content and further discussion via comments. Commenting can be done on any shared items (yours or others). This has proven to be useful for rapid input and idea sharing amongst the room’s users.

Amongst the 100+ users of the Life Scientists room, both Cameron from Science in the Open and Pedro from Public Rambling have found FriendFeed to be useful and explain why it works. Both great reads.

It’s almost officially Summer here in the northern hemisphere but there is still time to do some spring cleaning.

As you can see, we’ve changed the name of our main blog from Steering Committee to Community, to reflect what we thing it should be about – Not only the steering committee’s views and operations but what the OWW community at a whole has to show the world.

The name change is just the first step among many new features we’ll be bringing to the OWW Community blog over the next weeks. To keep up-to-date, we suggest that you visit us regularly or subscribe to our feed.

Note: Although we’ve changed the title and subsequently the blog’s address, our RSS subscribers should not see much of a glitch. If you do happen to find anything broken, please let us know.

With the ability to get information anywhere in the world in seconds, and the virtually immediate obsolescence of any printed work, why are journals such an important part of academic research?

This question, under the heading “Are Academic Journals Obsolete?” was posted yesterday on Ask Slashdot. As you might expect, the comments are wide ranging and interesting.

When page layout software was first introduced and do-it-yourself desktop publishing became popular, many people wondered if publishers would become obsolete. Now, twenty years later, we have blogs, newsfeeds, and even better DIY publishing tools like blurb.com. Anyone can publish anything and reach a wider audience than ever before. And publishers still exist.

The arguments about whether academic journals are obsolete is a long and complex one, and you’ll see a wide range of opinions on this and other questions like it. Perhaps the print journal is a vanishing breed, for many of the reasons stated in the Slashdot posting. But much of the value, such as peer review, that academic publishers bring to their work is still very valid. Either way, until the systems for academic tenure and funding change, the academic journal in print or web-based form is unlikely to vanish.

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