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Introducing ContentMine

- July 20, 2015 in ContentMine, Guest post, projects

contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature.

We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able to do so with a machine.

We want to make this right a reality and enable everyone to perform research using humanity’s accumulated scientific knowledge. The extracted facts are CC0.

The Content Mine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

The ContentMine Team & Helen Turvey, Executive Director, Shuttleworth Foundation at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Research which relies on aggregating large amounts of dynamic information to benefit society is particularly key to our work – we want to see the right information getting to the right people at the right time and work with professionals such as clinical trials specialists and conservationists. ContentMine tools, resources, services and content are fully Open and can be re-used by anybody for any legal purpose.

ContentMine is inspired by the community successes of Wikimedia, Open StreetMap, Open Knowledge, and others and encourages the growth of subcommunities which design, implement and pursue their particular aims. We are funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, a philanthropic organisation who are unafraid to re-imagine the world and fund people who’ll change it.

Content Mine welcome session

ContentMine Wellcome Trust Workshop

There are several ways to get involved with ContentMine. You can find us on GitHub, Google Groups, email, Twitter and most recently, we have a variety of open communities set up here on Discourse.

Introducing ContentMine

- July 20, 2015 in ContentMine, Guest post, projects

contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature.

We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able …

Introducing ContentMine

- July 20, 2015 in ContentMine, Guest post, projects

contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature. We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able to do so with a machine. We want to make this right a reality and enable everyone to perform research using humanity’s accumulated scientific knowledge. The extracted facts are CC0.
The Content Mine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

The ContentMine Team & Helen Turvey, Executive Director, Shuttleworth Foundation at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Research which relies on aggregating large amounts of dynamic information to benefit society is particularly key to our work – we want to see the right information getting to the right people at the right time and work with professionals such as clinical trials specialists and conservationists. ContentMine tools, resources, services and content are fully Open and can be re-used by anybody for any legal purpose. ContentMine is inspired by the community successes of Wikimedia, Open StreetMap, Open Knowledge, and others and encourages the growth of subcommunities which design, implement and pursue their particular aims. We are funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, a philanthropic organisation who are unafraid to re-imagine the world and fund people who’ll change it.
Content Mine welcome session

ContentMine Wellcome Trust Workshop

There are several ways to get involved with ContentMine. You can find us on GitHub, Google Groups, email, Twitter and most recently, we have a variety of open communities set up here on Discourse.

Introducing ContentMine

- July 20, 2015 in ContentMine, Guest post, projects

contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature. We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able to do so with a machine. We want to make this right a reality and enable everyone to perform research using humanity’s accumulated scientific knowledge. The extracted facts are CC0.
The Content Mine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

The ContentMine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Research which relies on aggregating large amounts of dynamic information to benefit society is particularly key to our work – we want to see the right information getting to the right people at the right time and work with professionals such as clinical trials specialists and conservationists. ContentMine tools, resources, services and content are fully Open and can be re-used by anybody for any legal purpose. ContentMine is inspired by the community successes of Wikimedia, Open StreetMap, Open Knowledge Foundation, and others and encourages the growth of subcommunities which design, implement and pursue their particular aims. We are funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, a philanthropic organisation who are unafraid to re-imagine the world and fund people who’ll change it.
Content Mine welcome session

ContentMine welcome session

There are several ways to get involved with ContentMine. You can find us on GitHub, Google Groups, email, Twitter and most recently, we have a variety of open communities set up here on Discourse.

Introducing ContentMine

- July 20, 2015 in ContentMine, Guest post, projects

contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature. We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able to do so with a machine. We want to make this right a reality and enable everyone to perform research using humanity’s accumulated scientific knowledge. The extracted facts are CC0.
The Content Mine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

The ContentMine Team & Helen Turvey, Executive Director, Shuttleworth Foundation at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Research which relies on aggregating large amounts of dynamic information to benefit society is particularly key to our work – we want to see the right information getting to the right people at the right time and work with professionals such as clinical trials specialists and conservationists. ContentMine tools, resources, services and content are fully Open and can be re-used by anybody for any legal purpose. ContentMine is inspired by the community successes of Wikimedia, Open StreetMap, Open Knowledge, and others and encourages the growth of subcommunities which design, implement and pursue their particular aims. We are funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, a philanthropic organisation who are unafraid to re-imagine the world and fund people who’ll change it.
Content Mine welcome session

ContentMine Wellcome Trust Workshop

There are several ways to get involved with ContentMine. You can find us on GitHub, Google Groups, email, Twitter and most recently, we have a variety of open communities set up here on Discourse.

Opening up India’s Science and Technology Outputs

- February 9, 2015 in Guest post

Sridhar Gutam is a Senior Scientist at Indian Council of Agricultural Research and ambassador for OKFN India. He is the founder and convenor of Open Access India. He has written a post sharing how India’s science and technology outputs are now under Open Access. oaIndiaAs a new year 2015 gift to the scholars of the world, the two departments (Department of Biotechnology [DBT] and Department of Science and Technology [DST]) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India had unveiled Open Access Policy to all its funded research.

The policy document dated December 12, 2014 states that “Since all funds disbursed by the DBT and DST are public funds, it is important that the information and knowledge generated through the use of these funds are made publicly available as soon as possible, subject to Indian law and IP policies of respective funding agencies and institutions where the research is performed“. As the Ministry of Science and Technology funds basic, translational and applied scientific research in the country through various initiatives and schemes to individual scientists, scholars, institutes, start-up, etc., this policy assumes very significance and brings almost all the science and technology outputs (here published articles only) generated at various institutes under Open Access. The policy underscores the fact that by providing free online access to the publications is the most effective way of ensuring the publicly funded research is accessed, read and built upon. The Ministry under this policy has set up two central repositories of its own (dbt.sciencecentral.in and dst.sciencecentral.in) and a central harvester (www.sciencecentral.in) which will harvest the ful-text and metadata from these repositories and other repositories of various institutes established/funded by DBT and DST in the country. According to the Open Access policy, “the final accepted manuscript (after refereeing, revision, etc. [post-prints]) resulting from research projects, which are fully or partially funded by DBT or DST, or were performed using infrastructure built with the support of these organizations, should be deposited“. The policy is not only limited to the accepted manuscripts, but extends to all scholarship and data which received funding from DBT or DST from the fiscal year 2012-13 onwards. As mentioned above that many of the research projects at various institutes in the country are funded by DBT or DST, this policy definitely, encourage the establishment of Open Access Institutional Repositories by the institutes and opening up of access to all the publicly funded research in the country. This post originally appeared on the Open Knowledge India blog.

The great potential of citizen science

- November 12, 2014 in citizen science, Guest post, research

This is a guest post by Benedikt Fecher of The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and is re-posted from the HIIG blog Citizen science is nothing new What do Benjamin Franklin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Francis Bacon have in common? All were amateur scientists. Franklin invented the lightning rod, Goethe discovered the incisive bone and was moderately successful as an art theorist and Bacon can be considered as nothing less than the father of empiricism, or can he? Either way, the three shared a passion for discovering things in their spare time. None of them earned their pennies as professional scientists, if that profession even existed back then.  
Discovery is a matter of thirst for adventure

Discovery is a matter of thirst for adventure

Citizen science is in fact old hat. It existed long before disciplines existed and could be described as the rightful predecessor of all empirical science. It laid the foundations for what we know today as the scientific method: the rule-governed and verifiable analysis of the world around us. Still, amateurs in science have often become marginalized over the past 150 years, as scientific disciplines have emerged and being a scientist has become a real thing to do (read more here). Citizen science’s second spring Today, citizen science is experiencing a second spring and it is no surprise that the internet has had a hand in it. In recent years, hundreds of citizen science projects have popped up, and they’re encouraging people to spend their time tagging, categorizing and counting in the name of science (see here and here). Some unfold proteins in an online game (Foldit), while others describe galaxies from satellite images (GalaxyZoo and here) or count wild boars in Berlin and deliver the numbers to an online platform (Wild boars in the city). Citizen science has moved online. And there are thousands of people in thousand different places that do many of funny things that can alter the face of science. The Internet is where they meet.
Berlin Wall; East Side Gallery

Berlin Wall; East Side Gallery

The logic of Internet-based citizen science: Large scale, low involvement Citizen science today works differently to the citizen science of Goethe’s or Franklin’s time. The decentralised and voluntary character of today’s citizen science projects questions the way research has been done for a long time. It opens up science for a multitude of voluntary knowledge workers that work (more or less) collaboratively. In some respect, the new kind of citizen science is drawing on open innovation strategies developed in the private sector. In their recent Research Policy article, Franzoni and Sauermann refer to this type of amateur science as crowd science. The the term is extremely effective at capturing the underlying mechanics of most citizen science projects, which involve low-threshold-large-scale-participation. Today, participation of volunteers in science is scalable. The advantages of citizen science When it comes to data collection, social participation and science communication, citizen science is promising. For scientists, it is an excellent way to collect data. If you visit one of the citizen science directories (for example here and here) and scroll through the projects, you will see that most of them involve some kind of documenting. These citizen scientists count rhinoceros beetles, wild boars, salamanders, neophytes, mountains and trees. There is nothing that cannot be quantified, and a life solely devoted to counting the number of rhinoceros beetles in North America would indeed be mundane for an individual scientist, not to speak of the travel expenses. Citizen scientists are great data sensors. For citizen scientists it is a way of partaking in the process of discovery and learning about fields that interest them. For example, in a German project from the Naturschutzbund (German Society for the Conservation of Nature), sports divers are asked to count macrophytes in Northern German lakes. The data the divers collect help monitoring the ‘state of health’ of their freshwater lakes. In follow-up sessions, the divers are informed about the results. The case illustrates how citizen science works. Volunteers help scientists and in return receive first-hand information about the results. In this regard, citizen science can be an excellent communication and education tool. Citizen science brings insight from without into the academic ivory tower and allows researchers and interested non-researchers to engage in a productive dialogue. This is a much-needed opportunity: for some time now, scholars and policy makers have been saying how challenging it is to open up science and involve citizens. Still, what makes the new kind of internet-enabled citizen science science, is rather the context volunteers work in than the tasks they perform. The honey bee problem of citizen science The old citizen scientists, like Franklin, Goethe or Bacon asked questions, investigated them and eventually discovered something, like Goethe did with his incisive bone. In most citizen science projects today, however, amateurs perform rather mundane tasks like documenting things (see above), outsourcing computing power (e.g. SETI@home) or playing games (e.g. Foldit). You can go to the Scientific American’s citizen science webpage and search for the word ‘help’ and you will find that out of 15 featured projects, 13 are teasered help scientists do something. The division of roles between citizens and real scientists is evident. Citizen scientists perform honey bee tasks. The analytic capacity remains with real researchers. Citizen science today is often a twofold euphemism. That is not to say that collecting, documenting and counting is not a crucial part of research. In many ways the limited task complexity even resembles the day-to-day business of in-person research teams. Citizen scientists, on the other hand, can work when they want to and on what they want to. That being said, citizen science is still a win win in terms of data collection and citizen involvement. An alternative way to think of citizen science: Small scale, high involvement A second way of doing citizen science is not to think of volunteers as thousands of little helpers but as knowledge workers on a par with professional researchers. This small-scale type of citizen science is sometimes swept under the mat even though it is equally promising. Timothy Gower’s Polymath Project is a good case for the small-scale-high-involvement type of citizen science. In 2009, Gowers challenged the readers of his blog to find a new combinatorial proof of the density version of the Hales-Jewett theorem. One has to know, that Gowers is a field medallist in math and apparently his readers share the same passion. After seven weeks, he announced that the problem had been solved with the help of 40 volunteers, a number far too small to count as massively collaborative. Nevertheless, Gower’s approach was successful. And it designated an form of citizen science in which a few volunteers commit themselves for a longer period to solve a problem. This form of citizen science is fascinating regarding its capacity to harvest tacit expert knowledge that does not reside in a scientific profession. The participation is smaller in scale but higher in quality. It resembles Benkler’s commons-based peer production or the collective invention concept from open innovation. The core challenges for this kind of citizen science is to motivate and enable expert volunteers to make a long-term commitment to a scientific problem. Both strategies, the large scale low involvement participation as well as the small scale high involvement participation have the capacity to alter science. The second however would be a form of citizen science that lives up to its name. Or did you never want to discover your own incisive bone?
Goethe and the incisive bone

Goethe and the incisive bone

Pictures
  1. Franklin with kite: Franklin’s Experiment, June 1752
  2. Wall: Own picture
  3. Goethe dozing on stones: Goethe in the Roman Campagna (1786) by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.
  4. Incisive bone, Gray’s Anatomy, 1918
Thanks to Roisin Cronin, Julian Staben, Cornelius Puschmann, Sascha Friesike and Kaja Scheliga for their help.

Improving openness, transparency and reproducibility in scientific research

- October 24, 2014 in Guest post, Reproducibility, research, tools

This is a guest post by Sara Bowman of the Open Science Framework.

Understanding reproducibility in science

Reproducibility is fundamental to the advancement of science. Unless experiments and findings in the literature can be reproduced by others in the field, the improvement of scientific theory is hindered. Scholarly publications disseminate scientific findings, and the process of peer review ensures that methods and findings are scrutinized prior to publication. Yet, recent reports indicate that many published findings cannot be reproduced. Across domains, from organic chemistry ((Trevor Laird, “Editorial Reproducibility of Results” Organic Process Research and Development) to drug discovery (Asher Mullard, “Reliability of New Drug Target Claims Called Into Question” Nature Reviews Drug Development) to psychology (Meyer and Chabris, “Why Psychologists’ Food Fight Matters” Slate), scientists are discovering difficulties in replicating published results. Various groups have tried to uncover why results are unreliable or what characteristics make studies less reproducible (see John Ioannidis’s “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” PLoS, for example). Still others look for ways to incentivize practices that promote accuracy in scientific publishing (see Nosek, Spies, and Motyl, “Scientific Utopia II: Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability” Perspectives on Psychological Science). In all of these, the underlying theme is the need for transparency surrounding the research process – in order to learn more about what makes research reproducible, we must know more about how the research was conducted and how the analyses were performed. Data, code, and materials sharing can shed light on research design and analysis decisions that lead to reproducibility. Enabling and incentivizing these practices is the goal of The Open Science Framework, a free, open source web application built by the Center for Open Science.

The right tools for the

The Open Science Framework (OSF) helps researchers manage their research workflow and enables data and materials sharing both with collaborators and with the public. The philosophy behind the OSF is to meet researchers where they are, while providing an easy means for opening up their research if it’s desired or the time is right. Any project hosted on the OSF is private to collaborators by default, but making the materials open to the public is accomplished with a simple click of a button.
Here, the project page for the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology demonstrates the many features of the Open Science Framework (OSF). Managing contributors, uploading files, keeping track of progress and providing context on a wiki, and accessing view and download statistics are all available through the project page.

Here, the project page for the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology demonstrates the many features of the Open Science Framework (OSF). Managing contributors, uploading files, keeping track of progress and providing context on a wiki, and accessing view and download statistics are all available through the project page.

Features of the OSF facilitate transparency and good scientific practice with minimal burden on the researcher. The OSF logs all actions by contributors and maintains full version control. Every time a new version of a file is uploaded to the OSF, the previous versions are maintained so that a user can always go back to an old revision. The OSF performs logging and maintains version control without the researcher ever having to think about it – no added steps to the workflow, no extra record-keeping to deal with. The OSF integrates with other services (e.g., GitHub, Dataverse, and Dropbox) so that researchers continue to use the tools that are practical, helpful, and a part of the workflow, but gain value from the other features the OSF offers. An added benefit is in seeing materials from a variety of services next to each other – code on GitHub and files on Dropbox or AmazonS3 appear next to each other on the OSF – streamlining research and analysis processes and improving workflows.
 Each project, file, and user on the OSF has a persistent URL, making content citable. The project in this screenshot can be found at https://osf.io/tvyxz.

Each project, file, and user on the OSF has a persistent URL, making content citable. The project in this screenshot can be found at https://osf.io/tvyxz.

Other features of the OSF incentivize researchers to open up their data and materials. Each project, file, and user is given a globally unique identifier – making all materials citable and ensuring researchers get credit for their work. Once materials are publicly available, the authors can access statistics detailing the number of views and downloads of their materials, as well as geographic information about viewers. Additionally, the OSF applies the idea of “forks,” commonly used in open source software development, to scientific research. A user can create a fork of another project, to indicate that the new work builds on the forked project or was inspired by the forked project. A fork serves as a functional citation; as the network of forks grows, the interconnectedness of a body of research becomes apparent. Openness and transparency about the scientific process informs the development of best practices for reproducible research. The OSF seeks both to enable that transparency, by taking care of “behind the scenes” logging and versioning without added burden on the researcher – and to improve overall efficiency for researchers and their daily workflows. By providing tools for researchers to easily adopt more open practices, the Center for Open Science and the OSF seek to improve openness, transparency, and – ultimately – reproducibility in scientific research.

Knowledge Creation to Diffusion: The Conflict in India

- February 28, 2014 in Comment, development, Guest post, incentive structures, india, Open Access, Policy

facebook-cover This is a guest post by Ranjit Goswami, Dean (Academics) and (Officiating) Director of Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Nagpur, India. Ranjit also volunteer as one of the Indian Country Editors for the Open Data Census. Developing nations, more so India, increasingly face a challenge in prioritizing its goals. One thing that increasingly becomes relevant in this context, in the present age of open knowledge, is the relevance of subscription-journals in dissipation and diffusion of knowledge in a developing society. Young Aaron Swartz from Harvard had made an effort to change it, that did cost him his life; most developed nations have realized research funded by tax-payers money should be made freely available to tax-payers, but awareness on these issues are at quite pathetic levels in India – both at policy level and among members of academic community. Before one looks at the problem, a contextual understanding is needed. Today, a lot of research is done globally, including some of it in India, and its importance in transforming nations and society is increasingly getting its due recognition across nations. Quantum of original application oriented research, applicable specifically to the developing world, is a small part of overall global research. Some of it is done locally in India too, in spite of two obvious constraints developing nations face: (1) lack of funds, and (2) lack of capability and/or capacity.

Tax-funded research should be freely available

This article argues that research outcomes, done in India with Indian tax-payers money, are to be freely available to all Indians, for better diffusion. Unfortunately, the present practice is quite opposite. The lack of diffusion of knowledge becomes evident in absence of any planned efforts, to make the research done in local context available in open platforms. Here when one looks at the academic community in India, due to the older mindset where research score and importance is given only for publishing research papers in journals, often even in journals of questionable quality, faculty members are encouraged to publish in subscription-journals. Open access journals are considered untouchables. Faculty members mostly do not keep a version of the publication to be freely accessible – be it in their own institute’s website, or in other formats online. More than 99% of Indian higher educational institutes do not have any open-access research content in their websites. Simultaneously, a lot of academic scams get reported, more from India, as measuring research contribution is a difficult task. Faculty members often fall prey to short-cuts of institute’s research policy, in this age of mushrooming journals.

Facing academic challenges

India, in its journey to be an to an open knowledge society, faces diverse academic challenges. Experienced faculty members feel, that making their course outlines available in the public domain would lead to others copying from it; whereas younger faculty members see subscription journal publishing as the only way to build a CV. The common ill-founded perception is that top journals would not accept your paper if you make a version of it freely available. All of above act counter-productive to knowledge diffusion in a poor country like India. The Government of India has often talked about open course materials, but in most government funded higher educational institutes, one seldom sees even a course outline in public domain, let alone research output. Question therefore is: For public funded universities and institutes, why should any Indian user have to cough up large sums of money again to access their research output? And it is an open truth that – barring a very few universities and institutes – most Indian colleges, universities and research organizations or even practitioners cannot afford the money required to pay for subscribing most well-known journal databases, or afford individual articles therein. facebook-cover It would not be wrong to say that out of thirty-thousand plus higher educational institutes, not even one per cent has a library access comparable to institutes in developed nations. And academic research output, more in social science areas, need not be used only for academic purposes. Practitioners – farmers, practicing doctors, would-be entrepreneurs, professional managers and many others may benefit from access to this research, but unfortunately almost none of them would be ready or able to shell out $20+ for a few pages by viewing only the abstract, in a country where around 70% of people live below $2 a day income levels.

Ranking is given higher priority than societal benefit

Academic contribution in public domain through open and useful knowledge, therefore, is a neglected area in India. Although, over the last few years, we have seen OECD nations, including China, increasingly encouraging open-access publishing by academic community; in India – in its obsession with university ranks where most institutes fare poorly, we are on reverse gear. Director of one of India’s best institutes have suggested why such obsessions are ill-founded, but the perceptions to practices are quite opposite. It is, therefore, not rare to see a researcher getting additional monetary rewards for publishing in top-category subscription journals, with no attempt whatsoever – be it from researcher, institute or policy-makers – to make a copy of that research available online, free of cost. Irony is, that additional reward money again comes from taxpayers. Unfortunately, existing age-old policies to practices are appreciated by media and policy-makers alike, as the nation desperately wants to show to the world that the nation publishes in subscription journals. Point here is: nothing wrong with producing in journals, encourage it even more for top journals, but also make a copy freely available online to any of the billion-plus Indians who may need that paper.

Incentives to produce usable research

In case of India, more in its publicly funded academic to research institutes, we have neither been able to produce many top category subscription-journal papers, nor have we been able to make whatever research output we generate freely available online. On quality of management research, The Economist, in a recent article stated that faculty members worldwide ‘have too little incentive to produce usable research. Oceans of papers with little genuine insight are published in obscure periodicals that no manager would ever dream of reading.’ This perfectly fits in India too. It is high time we look at real impact of management and social science research, rather than the journal impact factors. Real impact is bigger when papers are openly accessible. Developing and resource deficit nations like India, who need open access the most, thereby further lose out in present knowledge economy. It is time that Government and academic community recognizes the problem, and ensures locally done research is not merely published for academic referencing, but made available for use to any other researcher or practitioner in India, free of cost. Knowledge creation is important. Equally important is diffusion of that knowledge. In India, efforts to resources have been deployed on knowledge creation, without integrative thinking on its diffusion. In the age of Internet and open access, this needs to change. facebook-cover Prof. Ranjit Goswami is Dean (Academics) and (Officiating) Director of Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Nagpur – a leading private B-School in India. IMT also has campuses in Ghaziabad, Dubai and Hyderabad. He is on twitter @RanjiGoswami

Building an archaeological project repository I: Open Science means Open Data

- February 27, 2014 in Guest post, research

This is a guest post by Anthony Beck, Honorary fellow, and Dave Harrison, Research fellow, at the University of Leeds School of Computing. In 2010 we authored a series of blog posts for the Open Knowledge Foundation subtitled ‘How open approaches can empower archaeologists’. These discussed the DART project, which is on the cusp of concluding. The DART project collected large amounts of data, and as part of the project, we created a purpose-built data repository to catalogue this and make it available, using CKAN, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open-source data catalogue and repository. Here we revisit the need for Open Science in the light of the DART project. In a subsequent post we’ll look at why, with so many repositories of different kinds, we felt that to do Open Science successfully we needed to roll our own.

Open data can change science

Open inquiry is at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Publication of scientific theories – and of the experimental and observational data on which they are based – permits others to identify errors, to support, reject or refine theories and to reuse data for further understanding and knowledge. Science’s powerful capacity for self-correction comes from this openness to scrutiny and challenge. (The Royal Society, Science as an open enterprise, 2012)
The Royal Society’s report Science as an open enterprise identifies how 21st century communication technologies are changing the ways in which scientists conduct, and society engages with, science. The report recognises that ‘open’ enquiry is pivotal for the success of science, both in research and in society. This goes beyond open access to publications (Open Access), to include access to data and other research outputs (Open Data), and the process by which data is turned into knowledge (Open Science). The underlying rationale of Open Data is this: unfettered access to large amounts of ‘raw’ data enables patterns of re-use and knowledge creation that were previously impossible. The creation of a rich, openly accessible corpus of data introduces a range of data-mining and visualisation challenges, which require multi-disciplinary collaboration across domains (within and outside academia) if their potential is to be realised. An important step towards this is creating frameworks which allow data to be effectively accessed and re-used. The prize for succeeding is improved knowledge-led policy and practice that transforms communities, practitioners, science and society. The need for such frameworks will be most acute in disciplines with large amounts of data, a range of approaches to analysing the data, and broad cross-disciplinary links – so it was inevitable that they would prove important for our project, Detection of Archaeological residues using Remote sensing Techniques (DART).

DART: data-driven archaeology

DART aimed is to develop analytical methods to differentiate archaeological sediments from non-archaeological strata, on the basis of remotely detected phenomena (e.g. resistivity, apparent dielectric permittivity, crop growth, thermal properties etc). The data collected by DART is of relevance to a broad range of different communities. Open Science was adopted with two aims:
  • to maximise the research impact by placing the project data and the processing algorithms into the public sphere;
  • to build a community of researchers and other end-users around the data so that collaboration, and by extension research value, can be enhanced.
‘Contrast dynamics’, the type of data provided by DART, is critical for policy makers and curatorial managers to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes, and helps to address European Landscape Convention (ELC) commitments. Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along the lines of that developed for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations under development by the European Space Agency. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner. It is critical that policy makers and curatorial managers are able to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes. This need is wrapped up in national commitments to the European Landscape Convention (ELC). Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along similar lines to that proposed by the European Space Agency for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner. The approaches developed in DART to improve the understanding and enhance the modelling of heritage contrast detection dynamics feeds directly into this long-term agenda.

Cross-disciplinary research and Open Science

Such approaches cannot be undertaken within a single domain of expertise. This vision can only be built by openly collaborating with other scientists and building on shared data, tools and techniques. Important developments will come from the GMES community, particularly from precision agriculture, soil science, and well documented data processing frameworks and services. At the same time, the information collected by projects like DART can be re-used easily by others. For example, DART data has been exploited by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) for use in such applications as carbon sequestration in hedges, soil management, soil compaction and community mapping. Such openness also promotes collaboration: DART partners have been involved in a number of international grant proposals and have developed a longer term partnership with the RAU. Open Science advocates opening access to data, and other scientific objects, at a much earlier stage in the research life-cycle than traditional approaches. Open Scientists argue that research synergy and serendipity occur through openly collaborating with other researchers (more eyes/minds looking at the problem). Of great importance is the fact that the scientific process itself is transparent and can be peer reviewed: as a result of exposing data and the processes by which these data are transformed into information, other researchers can replicate and validate the techniques. As a consequence, we believe that collaboration is enhanced and the boundaries between public, professional and amateur are blurred.

Challenges ahead for Open Science

Whilst DART has not achieved all its aims, it has made significant progress and has identified some barriers in achieving such open approaches. Key to this is the articulation of issues surrounding data-access (accreditation), licensing and ethics. Who gets access to data, when, and under what conditions, is a serious ethical issue for the heritage sector. These are obviously issues that need co-ordination through organisations like Research Councils UK with cross-cutting input from domain groups. The Arts and Humanities community produce data and outputs with pervasive social and ethical impact, and it is clearly important that they have a voice in these debates.