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I’m proud to announce I have a new article over at Palaeontology [Online]

The Palaeontology [Online] logo – by the P [O] team, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Posts at ‘P [O]‘ are primarily aimed at public-engagement and since the site was launched back in July 2011, with sponsorship and support from the Palaeontology Association, one post per month has been featured on site. This month [December], I’ve written a rather different type of post for them. Not so much about fossils, creatures, classification and rocks – but instead on how palaeontology and science-as-a-whole is made available with respect to Open Access, Open Data, Open Source (code), and Open Educational Resources (OERs). Incidentally, I think it’s also the first P [O] post with embedded video content too – really making using of the digital medium!

I’ve tied these strands together with an explicit acknowledgement that Creative Commons has legally enabled all this Open content and that it’s a fantastic achievement. Consider it my early birthday present to celebrate that it’s now been nearly 10 years since Creative Commons first launched (#cc10 on Twitter btw for related news & events).

I’m hoping it will raise awareness that citizens & scientists alike can directly read the primary scientific literature themselves (via Open Access journals and articles) and they should be encouraged to – given as taxpayers they’ve paid for most of it to be created! Also more than just mere engagement, I’ve highlighted that uniquely with an Open philosophy there’s nothing stopping ‘amateur’ or citizen science contributions in palaeontology – it’s sad that more of the literature, data, code and educational resources in this area aren’t openly available for re-use – arguably the world would know a lot more about palaeontology if they were.

With specific reference to http://opendefinition.org/ I try and make it clear what open actually means in this context. There’s been a lot of openwashing this year. Open is clearly a desirable state, and a label which will help sell and ‘add value’ to products, therefore both innocent and malicious temptation abounds to mistakenly label or brand things as ‘open’ when they are de facto not open. Education and awareness-raising clearly has a significant role to play here in preventing this problem.

 

During the production of the article some interesting points were raised, which in the end didn’t make it to the ‘final’ version of the post, so I’ll blog them here instead.

 

On Open Access:

For the sake of simplicity I neglected to point out that in actuality the definition of OA is slightly narrower and more specific than just open as per http://opendefinition.org/ . OA is defined by the BOAI-definition which does not require nor allow(?) the ShareAlike (SA) clause. It does however require the Attribution clause (BY):

the relevant excerpt…

… The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited. …

see Mike Taylor’s excellent posts over at SVPOW for more.

 

On Open Data:

I wonder if perhaps there is still a perception out there that there are still technical barriers to sharing data openly?

Particularly with regard to very very large datasets & data files. I decided this was too niche a point for inclusion in the main post but in case anyone’s wondering – you can easily share *any* filesize these days.

Journals like GigaScience specialise in publishing ‘big data’ studies and already make available petabytes (=1 million gigabytes) worth of data. Data archives like figshare allow unlimited filesize uploads (only limited to 1GB if you keep it private), I’m sure Dryad would also be willing to archive large files. Want proof? Look no further than this 21GB database of microbial data that’s been downloaded at least 10 times as made available via BioTorrents - I couldn’t find anyone seeding it just now, but if there was greater institutional support for p2p data sharing I’m sure this would take off.

 

On Open Source (code):

There’s an excellent editorial in PLoS Computational Biology that regrettably I only just became aware of too late to include. It’s by Andreas Prlić & Hilmar Lapp the latter of whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently at NESCent in Durham, North Carolina. Its a short paper and Open Access so I recommend you all read at least the Why Do We Support Open-Source Scientific Software? section – it’s an excellent clear and concise summary of the greater value of open in this area.

 

On MOOCs: 

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have some online courses available here, and whilst they’re probably of the very highest quality, they are neither MOOCs nor OERs because they’re not open, nor free. Each course costs $495 plus a $25 one-time registration fee. Grad credit is also available at an additional cost.

Perhaps one day the AMNH might be persuaded to run one of these courses as a MOOC? If not to help advertise and drive interest in the other courses but also to demonstrate their quality. If MIT can do it…

I should also refer interested readers to the excellent set of seminars on phylogenetics over at phyloseminar. I’ve virtually-attended (live, over-the-internet but not there in person) a few of these and have enjoyed recordings of others. It’s not a complete course (so not a MOOC) but depending upon exact licencing details could perhaps be classed as OER-like material.  The next one will be soon: 5pm (UK time) Wednesday 5th December Understanding biodiversity patterns using the Tree of Life given by Hélène Morlon.

 

 

All the posts over at P [O] are of very high-quality and are worthy academic contributions. As such I’m going to list my post there on my CV as soon as I update it. It’ll sit nicely in my publications list alongside articles in BMC Research Notes, Nature, and The Systematist. I deliberately intermix peer-reviewed publications and non-peer-reviewed publications to make people reconsider and examine the relative merits of each, rather than just counting volume or (worse) the journal Impact Factor which is of course irrelevant.

I encourage everyone else who’s published an article at P [O] to also proudly display it on their CV.