Archive for category: Wikis

Bollocks to waiting 10 years for progress

March 23rd, 2011 by
Open Data warrior Mark Hahnel (), the creator of FigShare, explains in this guest post the motivation behind the project and asks researchers why they aren’t publishing their research data.

I read a good quote the other day:

“Bollocks to waiting 10 years for progress. I want people to know about it now, and then do something about it” – Dr Paul Fisher

So why do we wait? Why isn’t there immediate publication, analysis and dissemination of data? Publication of Scientific data as it stands is a broken business model…for the most part. The advent of journals like PLoS and their subsequent success shows that the scientific community is taking note of what steps need to be taken. In my short life as a scientist, there has always been one thing that really annoys me. The inefficiency of scientific publishing and subsequent global sharing of knowledge. In terms of making significant advances available to wide audiences as peer reviewed publications, PLoS has it covered. But what about the rest of your research?

What percentage of the figures that went into your undergrad, masters or doctorate thesis were ever published? The ones that you didnt publish were probably good basic science, or figures that didnt tell a complete story. As a PhD student, I became very aware of the fact that a large amount of my data, although good, would never be published as it did not show significant differences. I then began wondering how many times experiments had been repeated globally unnecessarily. And so FigShare started life as an idea for researchers to publish all of their data that would otherwise never leave their lab books. By categorising and tagging the research, it becomes very searchable and other scientists should not reproduce experiments and waste money when they have been conducted several times by other labs. Following the alpha release, FigShare received a lot of attention and a lot of feedback. This caused the site to develop and it now allows the upload of Figures, Datasets and most recently media (eg. videos).

Why do scientists (not) contribute to Wikipedia?

February 10th, 2011 by

wikipedia logoAn excellent article published last month in the Chronicle celebrates Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary by observing that today the project doesn’t represent “the bottom layer of authority, nor the top, but in fact the highest layer without formal vetting” and, as such, it can serve as “an ideal bridge between the validated and unvalidated Web”. An increasing number of university students use Wikipedia for “pre-research”, as part of their course assignments or research projects. Yet many among academics, scientists and experts turn their noses up at the thought of contributing to Wikipedia, despite a growing number of calls from the scientific community to join the project (see for instance this recent initiative of the Association for Psychological Science or this call for biomedical experts to help contribute rigorous public health information in Wikipedia).

A survey has been launched by the Wikimedia Research Committee to understand why scientists, academics and other experts do (or do not) contribute to Wikipedia, and whether individual motivation aligns with shared perceptions of Wikipedia within different communities of experts. The survey is anonymous and takes about 20 min to complete. Whether you are an active Wikipedia contributor or not, you can take the survey and help Wikipedia think of ways around barriers to expert participation.

LaTeX rendering of equations in Google Wave – LaTeXy

November 2nd, 2009 by

It was a matter of time before someone wrote a robot thatwaveLatexy-images grabbed latex  and returned an image after latex processing. LaTeXy does exactly that and has just increased tenfold the usefulness of wave for academics.

AcaWiki: a wiki that encourages academics to write their stuff for the general public

October 8th, 2009 by

AcaWiki is a new wiki aimed at academics. They are asking for summaries of academic research. This could be an excellent exercise for students (i.e., don’t hand me your paper: post it to acaWiki, and let me know when I can look at it).

From reading the FAQ, It’s not clear to me that they are selling it right to the academic community:

What does AcaWiki offer to academic researchers?

AcaWiki offers a web 2.0 way of interacting with the public to increase impact. Research often languishes in academic journals, perhaps read only a few times by infrequent visitors. AcaWiki allows scholars to increase the impact of their research by enabling them to share summaries, long abstracts and literature reviews of their peer-reviewed work online. AcaWiki also encourages discussion by providing a talk page for each research paper.

Hmm, meh. While these are interesting reasons, I doubt academics will rush to fill in summaries. Discussion is covered by reference management sites such as citeUlike. And, of course, to make this work for academics, contributions to acaWiki must be well-evaluated by hiring committees… which is not going to happen any time soon. When faced when the decision of adding one more line to their CV or dedicating a similar stretch of time doing summaries of their articles for acaWiki, what would most academics do?

I still think this could fill a nice niche for student homework. Instead of leaving their work hidden in the HD of their T.A., posting it to acaWiki could be of use to the community. I often have to reread a paper because I’ve forgot most about it, and a good, crowd-refined summary would definitely help.