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Four short links: 11 June 2010

Delicious Absolution, Open Data Incentives, Curious iPad, and Desktop Web Apps Again

  1. Joshua at Seven on Seven — Delicious creator Joshua Schachter participated in a Rhizome “Seven on Seven” recently. He was paired with artist Monica Narula and together they explored guilt and absolution with the help of the Mechanical Turk. Check out the presentation PDF for the quick summary.
  2. How to Align Researcher Incentives with Outcomes (Cameron Neylon) — the open science data movement battles entrenched forces for closedness. We need more sophisticated motivators than blunt policy instruments, so we arrive at metrics. [...] What might the metrics we would like to see look like? I would suggest that they should focus on what we want to see happen. We want return on the public investment, we want value for money, but above all we want to maximise the opportunity for research outputs to be used and to be useful. We want to optimise the usability and re-usability of research outputs and we want to encourage researchers to do that optimisation. Thus if our metrics are metrics of use we can drive behaviour in the right direction. It sounds good, but I have one question: I remember The Rise of Crowd Science. Alex Szalay didn’t have to change researcher incentives to promote shared astronomical data. I’d ask: what can the other sciences learn from astronomy?
  3. Making an iPad HTML5 App and Making it Really Fast (Thomas Fuchs) — some curious hard-won facts about iPad web development, like that touch events are delivered faster than click events. (via Webstock newsletter)
  4. Appcelerator — open source platform for building native mobile and desktop apps with web technologies. Local filesystem access and native controls, but built with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, and Ruby. OS X, Linux, Blackberry, iPad, …. I’ve not tried it, but it may be the variation on desktop web apps whose time has come. (via ptorrsmith on Twitter)
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  • Cameron Neylon

    Nat, I think that the two big success stories for open data, astronomy and biological sequence data, are special cases. Both depend (or at least depended) on very high cost infrastructure at the hundreds of millions level. Public funders have an absolute stranglehold on policy in these situations, at least where the data is of a highly consistent and shareable form natively.

    So in the DNA sequencing case a small set of funders, Wellcome and NIH mainly, along with a few strong community members (Sulston, Collins) were able to almost unilaterally say the data will be open because a) it isn’t so hard to make it available and b) if you don’t you won’t get your sequencing centre renewal. In the astronomy case you have image data and the need for new telescope instrumentation playing a similar role.

    Now in another area where the infrastructure is expensive but the experiments are very different, X-ray synchrotrons and neutron sources, despite the fact that the infrastructure is expensive the data are very diverse so sharing hasn’t had the same impetus. In the case where data are consistent, protein x-ray crystallography there has been a push for sharing, first through the PDB, and later for raw(er) data.

    So I think astronomy (and DNA) are a special case. The lesson we learn IMO is that where funders have real centralised power and researchers need ongoing investment in infrastructure, and the data is easy (enough) to share then much faster progress is made. Where the data are very diverse and there are a wider diversity of funders it is harder to get coordinated action. Hence my argument that we need to motivate action towards coordination, rather than mandate it from the top.