A week of not the normal stuff

Post number 1 of new group blog! This site is intended as a stop-gap until UEA can provide me with an internally hosted dynamic group website. Maybe next week, maybe next century(!).

I have for the most part not been think about about the usual marine/biogeochemical/earth-system science stuff for the last few days, but rather my other interest in open/online science. This started last Thursday with a very interesting first meet up of the new Norwich research communications group (so new that the name is still TBC), organised by Peter Moore Fuller of MADE Agency in Norwich and a Norfolk Network ambassador. Representatives from UEA, Norwich Research Park, Cefas, the Tyndal Centre and local design, marketing and other businesses participated.

Discussion varied from how best to communicate with different audiences (e.g. with info graphics) through to the future of the academic publishing industry. In particular there was a debate about the value of press embargoes, with the more traditional press-focussed contributors being largely in favour of embargoes, but a decent chunk of the audience questioning the wisdom of traditional approaches to disseminating research work and of embargoes in particular. Everyone recognised that the development of alternative peer review methods such as post-publication peer review pretty much wrecked the idea of embargoing discoveries (and no bad thing in my opinion). This seems like it’s going to be a very interesting and productive network within Norfolk which I’m excited to be a part of. More on this meeting later.


By Chalkietom[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Chalkietom[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

All this fed very nicely into Friday and Saturday’s activities – attending the excellent SpotOn London conference at the British Library organised by Lou Woodley of Nature Network and associates. [note: links to sessions can be followed through to videos of the sessions if you want to catch up!]. After a rip-roaring keynote in plenary from Salvatore Mele, Head of Open Access at CERN, talking about CERN’s 5 decade long open access policy: “1 boson, 50 years, 50,003 scientists: understanding our universe through global scientific collaboration and Open Access“, the conference split into three tracks: science policy, tools, and outreach. Many aspects of science online were discussed across multiple sessions. Particular highlights from my point of view were “Open, Portable, Decoupled – How should peer review change?” in which I discovered various great online alternative peer review tools, the most exciting of which from my point of view is Libre;  “What should the scientific record look like in the digital age” from which a full, citeable record is available at Figshare, created by the super-cool WriteLatex.com; and both of the data sharing sessions, for short: carrot and stick. Each of these merits a blog post of its own, and I will aim to record my thoughts and impressions here over the next week.

Overall though, a few things seemed to keep coming back in many of the sessions: 

  1. traditional academic publications may (in many cases) not be fit for purpose – more, smaller ‘pieces’ might be better as research output (the terms “nanopublication” and “micro attribution” came up a few times)
  2. ‘metrics’, whether traditional or alternative, measure attention, or possibly impact, but NOT quality;
  3. Twitter is ubiquitous
  4. (my impression) we are along way from a unified vision of where the online scientific revolution should take us and how we should get there.

I will reflect more on these in future posts. I am very sorry to have missed the lego workshop at the end of day 2 😦 It was great to reconnect with some old friends and colleagues, to put faces some twitter accounts and to make new friends and contacts too.

Finally, today, as well as starting this new blog,  I’m attending (online) the Climate Friendly Research Conference, discussing low-carbon alternatives to travel and how to keep academic carbon GHG emissions down. It;s open to anyone, so head along there – will be running afternoons all this week.


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