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From CC-BY to CC-Zero

I’ve never been satisfied with “attribution” part of Creative Commons licenses and obviously I’m not alone in this camp. The main issue is that while CC terms require attribution in the manner required by author, parties resharing the creative work rarely check these requirements. Frequently authors of images posted to Flickr complain that some high profile site used “nickname at flickr” instead of whatever author had asked for. Very recently I’ve had an interesting discussion on the same topic, but it didn’t end with anything else than a common feeling that the system is a bit broken (or completely broken, depends who you ask).

However, instead of going back to copyrighting my work again (pretty frequent move in graphics communities), I’ve decided to follow good practice (of Bill Hooker‘s for example) and waive all the rights to the original content of this blog in the form of Creative Commons Zero waiver. It didn’t make sense to use CC-BY anymore if I hadn’t been happy with it.

This move had quite a few inspirations (such as a recent thread on scholarly articles and public domain on Open Science mailing list), the discussion mentioned above, public domain dedications coming from bloggers with high-traffic sites etc. So, yes, I’m aware that I’m just joining the wave. However with an aim of making it stronger.

Going beyond a single scientific journal or scientific community

Reading scientific journals on a kindle of course
Image by Rain Rabbit via Flickr

I’ve written previously about an utopian idea of having one scientific journal and one scientific community. And while it’s hard to expect this vision comes true anytime soon, surprisingly we are getting closer to it day by day. Sciverse is currently excited about NPG launching new journal called Scientific Reports, which resembles PLoS ONE so much it was already called Nature ONE. One more journal doesn’t sound like a step in good direction, but given that PLoS ONE became in 2010 the largest scientific journal (or very close to it), SR is surely going to attract large chunk of manuscripts, that could be published elsewhere. That hopefully will at least limit an astonishing number of newly created journals (Wiley’s blog says it’s around 400-500 a year).

Anyway, what I’m currently interested in is more about going beyond “scientific” whatever. In spare time I try to help in shaping structure of a new educational ecosystem (whatever it means, details will follow in a few months) and I’ve realized that some of its solutions are extremely close to citizen science, some other resemble open notebook science, while some other are borrowed from Maker Faire community. The other thing is that online science things (like blogs, social networking, wikis and others) are in fact kind of science outreach or science journalism. Open data movement is balancing between two aspects: open data for more efficient research and open data for more transparent government (the latter includes setting up policies concerning important topics like health, food safety or pollution, which require strong and transparent evidence). And if I remember correctly, discussions about assessing impact of science spending start to revolve about measuring social aspects too, in the same manner as spending for culture is assessed (cannot find an example at the moment).

So, summarizing: direction science is currently taking, is surprisingly well connected to areas outside of science. And it’s for me quite interesting to observe how compartmentalization is in some areas slowly vanishing. Are we going to see the world organized by tags?

A short note on data dynamics

I’ve just checked that at least 400 proteins in Uniprot had their sequence updated since beginning of this year. It could be more, but I work on a subset of human proteins that consists of ca. 1500 proteins, so probably I see only portion of changes. So, instead of wrapping up the paper, I’m redoing analysis to make sure conclusions in the manuscript are still valid. Given that it happened already second time this year, I sense two areas I might look into next year. One would be data dynamics. Instead of focusing on data stability, I hope to look if one can predict/assess if newly updated data can significantly change conclusions from particular experiment, without redoing analysis from the scratch (at certain point computing becomes expensive). The second area would be identification of manuscripts with obsolete conclusions – a good exercise for text mining skills I’m just acquiring.

Launching a Polish fork of Science 3.0 portal

With the momentum gained after launching an aggregator of Polish science blogs, together with Mark we’ve decided to launch a Polish fork of Science 3.0 portal. It took significantly more work than the aggregator alone, but hopefully it was worth it. My hope is to create a common discussion space for people interested in an online and open science. We lack such space in Polish internet, but it looks like there’re already enough of them to expect a dialog not monolog.

The initial set of users are mostly PhD students attending my lectures on Science 2.0 (I give three lectures on practical aspects of internet revolution in science to PhD students of the Ochota campus – a separate blog post is on the way). There’s a requirement for them to have points awarded for attending these lectures – they need to register on the site, start a blog with at least one blog post, join the group on Science2.0/3.0 related issues and then collaboratively create a comprehensive notes from the lectures on the group’s wiki. Will it work? Let’s watch the work in progress – the last lecture I have is on November 8th.

Too many open loops or new type of science?

I guess all online scientists struggle to find a balance between a number of projects they are willing to commit to and a number of projects they are physically able to work on. What used to be the case for high-profile people (visibility increases number of interesting offers coming to you), it’s currently the case for everyone engaged in online conversation. Something interesting appears on the horizon and it’s just a matter of time you jump in and start exploring. For example see this conversation on FriendFeed and especially Neil’s comment: “Could not resist further exploration. (…)”. Neil obviously is much better at project management than I am, but I found this fascinating that his reaction was exactly what I would do if I had at least an hour of uninterrupted time. I had to resist, but Björn’s problem is an interesting one (and honestly it’s as interesting as the previous one he had and I’ve started to work and still haven’t uploaded results file to his research wiki).

And while the most obvious solution to is to use higher thresholds for commiting to projects or to limit amount of time online (less time consuming, more time producing), I wonder if that’s actually the best way of dealing with open loops. I wonder if a new wave of research might appear in which snippets of research much smaller than least publishable unit can self-organize into new discoveries? These scraps of information appearing from endless number of small projects aren’t necessarily random and maybe some emergent structure can form because all of them are online, are searchable and soon might be able to find themselves on their own (via metadata)?

I don’t know. As for me, I’ll try to start some new projects (once I get around sending the snippets back to interested researchers) and post them online, like I did at Freelancing Science blog. Let’s feed the system and see what happens.

Launching an aggregator of Polish science blogs

Launching an aggregator of Polish science blogs took less than six hours from an idea to the alfa state we have released to the public. It’s available at www.science3point0.com/bloginaukowe. Mark Hahnel, the admin of S3.0 portal, created the site, graphics, layout etc., while I’ve contributed the list of blogs and some translations to Polish. It’s the third language version of science blogs aggregator (after English and German ones).

I’m very happy I could help, because I really liked the Mark’s idea of putting several blogs in different languages under the same domain. After all, science expressed in different languages is still the same science.