An appetite for open data…

…is what I have encountered here at Antwerp already. I am currently at the annual meeting of the Dutch Polymer Institute, with which I have been associated in various forms over the best part of five years now. We are the guests of Borealis here in Antwerp and as such, it promises to be an interesting meeting. The morning will be taken up with “Golden Thesis Awards”. The DPI evaluates all PhD thesis it funds by scinetific merit and the best PhD students in a year will be given an award. This is followed by an excursion to Borealis and in the afternoon, there will be thematic sessions: “Polymers and Water” and “Polymers and Time”. The former is self explanatory and the latter concerns mainly molecular simulations of polymers at short and long time scales. This is followed by poster sessions and a Borealis hosted dinner in the evening. Tomorrow then we will have several further talks on bio-based polymers, sustainability and solar cells and in the evening a brain-storm sesssion: “What could polymers mean for the bottom of the pyramid?” I like DPI meetings – they are extremely young…most of the participants are PhDs and Post-Docs and always brimming with energy.

In that spirit, I arrived at my hotel last night and sat down for dinner. It didn’t take long before I was surrounded by old and some new acquaintances and we spent the time catching up and discussing what we have been doing. And inevitably the conversaton turned to polymer informatics and open data. There were many questions: “Will extraction of data from a manuscript cause problems with publication later?”, “Why should I trust you and give you my manuscript or thesis to datamine?”, “How does copyright work out?” “What happens to the publishers – why should they not sell my data?” etc. However, all the minds were open. They see the argument for open data and open knowledge and they agree with it in principle, but there is great uncertainty as to the politics and technicalities associated with open data. The moral of the story is: much more talking needs to be done and much more education. Open access and open data evangelists should put together an FAQ for “mere mortals” i.e. researchers who do not think about this all the time and who should not have to think subtly about the differeneces between “gold OA”, “green OA” “libre OA” and what have you. We need to do much more talking to the science community. Let’s start now. And let’s not weaken our position by OA sophistry. I wil try and blog some more as the meeting goes on and hopefully also provide some photos.

PS: You will see some new and unusual tags at the bottom of this blog post and(UPDATE: no tags apparently) links in the text. I have installed Zemanta to try and make this blog semantically a little richer. The tags and links are autogenerated and I hope the result is worthwhile.

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7 Responses to An appetite for open data…

  1. Mmm… I saw the announcement, and wondered why the DPI goes the Belgium for a conference? With the extra costs they probably could have funded an extra PhD…

    Anyway… what I really wanted to ask, is what Zemanta is doing… I see a reblog icon, but no tags… I also note the links to have “zem_slink” annotation… so, these links are created with Zemanta? But no expression of links with RDF, right? Nothing like ?

  2. Dr Nico Adams says:

    Hi Egon,

    well, the conference was hosted by Borealis, which is a DPI member and sponsors the event. Also, the DPI is an International Organisation with a strong Eindhoven contingent…..;-)…but no matter where they go, there is a lot of travelling involved for everybody.

    As to Zemanta….no, it does not actually expose RDF etc….it in essence pushes the contents of a blog post through an NLP workflow and then autogenerates links etc. to concepts it finds in the post. Links either go to Wikipedia, flickr or other “zemantafied” content….and I thought it would also do tags….but that may have been wrong. I will correct the blog post accordingly…was a bit rushed this morning to get to the conference and maybe not as precise as I should have been….thanks for pointing this out.

  3. Peter Suber says:

    On the FAQ for mere mortals: I’ve tried to fill some of this need with my Open Access Overview. The current edition covers green OA and gold OA, among other topics. I hope to update it soon to include gratis OA and libre OA.

  4. Dr Nico Adams says:

    Hi Peter,

    thank you for pointing this out and keeping up the work – it is tremendously helpful and valuable as is the whole of open access news. I am very grateful for the work you do. But the larger point remains – I think the situation is probably too complex for the average scientist at the moment: the profusion of OA definitions is hard to explain and because of this even people which are fundamentally sympathtic to open access/open data are easily lost.

  5. Dr Nico Adams says:

    By the way, Egon, would be nice to see how Zemanta compares to Tagaroo

  6. Andraz Tori says:


    Andraz from Zemanta here.

    Zemanta automatically recommends:
    – tags
    – images
    – related articles
    – in-text links.

    Tags are not supported in Windows Live Writer plug-in, but on all other platforms Zemanta suggests tags (if your blogging software supports tags or something equivalent). We provide links also to related posts of users that do not use Zemanta. MusicBrainz, CrunchBase.

    About semantics/RDF/RDFa, it’s in the works. Soon. Partly it is already available via Zemanta’s API If anyone is interested in “semantic tagging” or using Zemanta API directly for his own needs, please drop me a mail.

    Have a nice day
    Andraz Tori, CTO at Zemanta

  7. Noortje Peek says:

    Hi Egon,

    Nico is right: on Borealis’ invitation to be this year’s host of DPI Annual Meeting, we went to Antwerp. Borealis also invited us for an excursion to its site. As the Dutch Polymer Institute community is based mostly in Europe and a bit worldwide, we organised our two day annual event in Antwerp in 2008. And also in Antwerp, on November 24, the first Young DPI Community meeting for researchers who recently started working on DPI-projects.

    Speaking of an extra PhD or Post-Doc…? Yesterday, at DPI Annual Meeting, some 250 scientists – predominantly from the field of polymer research – clustered their knowledge and creativity in brainstorms to conjure up tangible solutions for Bottom of the Pyramid countries. The participants searched together for innovative ideas for sanitation, for instance, or electricity generation or the reuse of waste water. The solutions must be both innovative and, equally importantly, feasible (in other words, affordable, using locally produced materials and easy to apply). After a feasibility study, DPI will invest in the best ideas and convert them into realistic DPI projects (meaning: PhD and/or Post-Doc positions). DPI aims to achieve sustainable results to ensure that future generations also profit from the progress. Brainstorm results will soon be published on our website (!

    Hope to see you next year on DPI Annual Meeting 2009,

    Enjoy your day
    Noortje Peek, communications manager DPI

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