Trip report – Open Science Workshop at PSB 2009

The Open Science workshop at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing was held on Monday 5th January 2009 on Big Island, Hawaii. The workshop was organised by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu, and is part of a series of open science workshops being organised across a variety of events in different communities. The workshop materials are available (the links in this summary are to slideshare).

Cameron introduced the workshop with some excellent slides. He didn’t dwell on the definition of Open Science lest this became an obstacle (he sums it up informally as “more stuff, more available, more quickly”, and being about “Open Access, Open Data and Open Process”). Cameron doesn’t insist on what one might call “extreme open science”, but simply observes that more open means better research (eg sharing within labs, sharing across labs) and that those with the the privilege of conducting publicly funded research have a duty to make it publicly accessible.

The keynote talk was by Phil Bourne of PLoS, on Open Science: one Person’s view and what we are doing about it, which set the scene in terms of open access and linking data to publications (Phil had some disturbing figures about the decay of suplemental materials). I presented The myExperiment approach to Open Science, emphasising sharing of process and method as exemplified by workflows and the principle of journeying with the users. Chang Feng Quo’s talk on Community annotation in translational bioinformatics: lessons from Wikipedia considered why the wikipedia approach sits differently in the science context. Nigam Shah from NCBO presented How bio-ontologies enable Open Science including the Open-Biomedical Annotator Web Service. In her talk on Measuring the adoption of Open Science Data, Heather Piwowar provided results of a study into data sharing which gives a really useful evidence base, and pointed out the need to find ways of measuring the adoption of open science (we need quantitative data to convince anyone of anything!)  It always helps to have a critical friend in the room and this role was filled excellently by Steven Brenner in his talk Challenges for Open Science (thoughts from a skeptical supporter). Online you will also find Kaitlin Thaney’s slides (Science Commons) on Laying out the principles of Open Science.

The panel discussion involved the presenters (with Carole Goble in the myExperiment seat this time) and a contribution from Drew Endy (now at Stanford, previously at MIT where OpenWetWare began as the Wiki for his lab). Discussion included “build and they won’t come”, with Carole explaining myExperiment’s solution of working closely with users, the use of user advocates and a willingness to pay experts to bootstrap content.  There was also a discussion of persistence and sustainability, with OpenWetWare as an example, and on the need somehow to cite tools. At the end Cameron asked what is needed to go forward – success stories to convince people of the approach was one of the answers (celebration of success and reflection on failure!)

It was a great workshop – the talks were useful and insightful (not commenting on my own of course!) and showed an appreciation of the social and cultural context, not just technical. Thanks to Cameron and Shirley for organising it, and I recommend that people take a look and build on the success of this event to take open science forward.

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