eResearch Australasia Conference 2008 – Tuesday morning (30 September)

John Wilbanks – Uncommon Knowledge and e-Research

Once again, John Wilbanks gave an informative and dynamic presentation. It was geared towards the audience in attendance here at the eResearch Australasia Conference (who are somewhat more IT and science focused than the audience at the OAR conference last week) and so described in detail many aspects of the NeuroCommons Project. If you are interested, I suggest that you see the Neurocommons website. I don’t think any summary that I could provide here would do the project justice. But here are some notes from the beginning of John’s presentation:

Why “eResearch”?

1. eResearch is a requirement imposed on us by the flood of data

  • the web doesn’t give us the same results for science as it does for culture
  • so what can we do?
  • We can…collaborate
  • Eg – Watson and Crick – their success was composed, by building on a series of blocks of knowledge that were available to them from a range of sources
  • But humans can’t build models to scale anymore
  • We need to utilize digital resources

One way to think about eResearch is that it is about:

  • Finding the right collaborator;
  • making big discoveries;
  • getting credit for one’s work

2. We need to convert what we know into digital formats that support model buildings

  • “the web” – no organising topics – hyperlinking allows us to organise things in a dynamic way
  • all the data and all the ides: building blocks
  • open access attempts to solve the legal problems – giving credit where credit is dues; allows humans to read the papers; allows publicly funded research to be accessed by the public
  • but it doesn’t solve the technical problem of paper-based formats that cannot be read by machines
  • we need to develop machine-searchable formats

Kerstin Lehnert, Columbia University – New Science Communities for Cyberinfrastructure: The Example of Geochemistry

Kerstin described eResearch as a vision to provide a genuine infrastructure of highly reliable, widely accessible ICT capabilities to assist researchers in their work – ultimately about people

She discussed the cultural issues involved in sharing data. She identified data citation (what I would call “attribution”) as a big problem. How can all scientists and contributors be cited? Many want to be attributed personally (not just by a project), but there are so many contributors and this quickly becomes a big and messy problem. This observation reflects the problem that we at the OAK Law and Legal Framework to eResearch Projects identified in assessing whether Creative Commons licences could be applied to data compilations. Attribution is an important condition of the CC licence. Researchers and research projects need to decide and identify (before applying a CC licence) how the data compilation is to be attributed, otherwise users could run into all sorts of problems and confusion.

Jane Hunter (UQ) – National Committee for Data in Science (NCDS)

A committee of the Australian Academy of Science – established in February 2008; member of CODATA

Mission – to promote enduring access to Australia’s scientific data assets in order to drive national research and innovation
And to provide a National Data Science voice
Encourage and facilitation cross-fertilisations, between specific science disciplines and other data generation/management disciplines

Future activities include engaging with Chairs of other national committees, including looking at what role they can play within ANDS (Australian National Data Service) to support their goals.

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