ScienceOnline 2011 Debrief Part 1: ebooks, blogs and stealthy librarians

Yeah, I'm talking about you, #scio11. The conference that still has significant twitter traffic three days after it's over. I've been to conferences that don't have that kind of traffic while they're happening. In fact, that would be pretty well every other conference.

Every edition of ScienceOnline seems to have a different virtual theme for me and this one seemed to somehow circle back to the blogging focus on earlier editions of the conference. Of course, the program is so diverse and the company so stimulating, that different people will follow different conference paths and perhaps sense different themes or perhaps no theme at all.

This post will contain some fairly disconnected thoughts, mostly directly connected to the program sessions themselves. I'll have another post up soon concentrating on the non-panel parts of the conference.

  • Stealthy Librarians. In the past, the sessions that the library invasive species contingent have organized have often been a bit sparsely attended by non-librarians. Even though we've tried to orient them towards a broader audience, they've usually had the L-Word in the session title. Unfortunately, there's nothing that'll turn off a bunch of savvy online science types faster than the library stuff. They'll tend to feel that it's stuff they've already mastered -- and most of them are certainly self-sufficient in their online activities.

    But, along comes librarian superheroes Molly Keener and Kiyomi Deards and scientist superhero Steve Koch to organize a session on Data Discoverability: Institutional Support Strategies. Essentially the session was about scientists and librarians collaborating to find a way to manage and make accessible large amounts of research data. And it was really well attended, provoked very lively discussion on a lot of important issues. To make things better, I think it got a lot of people thinking that the library is a natural ally in open science.

    By far, this was the best and most successful "library" session at any ScienceOnline. Bravo!

  • eBooks & the Science Community. This was my session, which was organized by Carl Zimmer and also included Thomas Levenson and David Dobbs. Once again, this was a case of a stealthy librarian (i.e., me) getting into a session that's not really about library issues and, I hope, getting some good points in about the things we worry about. Like sustainable business models that work for both content creators and consumers, preservation, open standards and, of course, the mutualized community sharing that are the whole point of libraries when it comes to the content we license and purchase.

    I somehow seem to recall referring to the emerging app ecosystem as "The Dark Side." I may have gotten carried away. Anyways, it was a great session and I'm really glad to have been part of it. Carl Zimmer and Christina Pikas have good summaries of the main points and Christina also has a post with some very kind words of commentary.

  • ScienceSeeker. Dave Munger and Anton Zuiker gave a session introducing the successor to, It seems like a fantastic project about aggregating science blogging content. Run on over and submit and/or claim your blog now.

    It's corrects the main fault with in that in accepts independent blogs and not just network-affiliated ones. My only hope is that they ultimately release the data they aggregate under a CC0 license, which seemed to be a point of some discussion in the session itself. At very least, they should make the data freely and openly available to those that wish to use it for research purposes.

Of course, there were a ton more sessions that I attended and they were mostly all very good. Watch the conference site and blog as a bunch of them were steamed live and will be made available for viewing.

All in all, this conference just gets better and more successful every year. Here's to #scio12!

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@scienceseeker, They have an RSS feed with all of the data right there. Just write a script to create your own database from that. Or you could write a scraper to steal all of the RSS feeds and make the database de novo if you find stealing data from their feed unethical. I found that data release discussion during that session kind of annoying. "The data is our bread and butter," but the data is also freely available in non-aggregate form. Scienceseeker's most novel functions will be in creating user accounts and filtering the good from the bad. They shouldn't get caught up in the "data" because it's not really theirs in the first place and releasing it doesn't hurt them in the slightest.

Hi Brian, good point that someone can effectively recreate what they're doing.

However, that approach doesn't help someone in, say, 2015, from wanting to see 2011-2014 and try and analyze that. The nice thing about open data is that once one person/group collects it and makes it open, it frees other people from having to do that very same thing.

As for how they think about themselves and their data, the impression I got was that they think of themselves more as a media organization (perhaps akin to Thomson Reuters who produce Web of Science) than as a creator of research data. Hence their concerns about openness.

We'll see. I'm pretty confident that they'll ultimately make their data available, at least for research uses.

I wasn't able to attend Science Online this year but am glad to hear this. I was among that invasive species last year and was disappointed in the turnout to library-ish sessions. Re-framing them to be about the researchers rather than the librarians is 100% the way to go. Thanks for posting this.