SpotOn London 2012 in brief

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Published on: November 15, 2012

This weekend, Ruth and I were in London for SpotOn London 2012 at the Wellcome Trust. There were too many incredible sessions to attend, let alone to cover on this little blog – but all the talks were recorded and you can see them on the SpotOn youtube channel. There will be Storifies aplenty before the end of the week, which I will tweet if they cross my path.

I plan to write at least one ‘proper’ post about the sessions I attended, but for now here are some brief summaries of the topics most discussed in the sessions I attended at SpotOn 2012.

Open data: All the speakers and delegates assumed that everyone else understood and supported open access publishing. What was more interesting was the discussions of other issues in open science – digital licensing, openness in peer review, accessibility of raw data. A longer blog post on this is forthcoming, but I recommend Ross Mounce’s blog, in particular this post on price and ‘openness’ in open access journals, for more information about open science.

Crowd-funding: Around the fringes of publically funded science are small projects supported by funds raised by the researchers. Crowd-funded science is very much in the minority, but in the UK the University of Buckingham has survived for over thirty years without government support, including research programmes. For crowd-funding, excellent marketing and PR are crucial. If you have a public-good, sexy, relatively low-cost research project in your to-do list, and you have a flair for public relations and promotion, it is worth considering. You also need to be able to reward donations in some small way. Check out crowd-funded projects by Matthew Partridge (Cranfield University) and Ethan Perstein (Princeton) to find out more, or donate to their projects. Kickstarter is the best platform to raise your funds.

Twitter: I attended two sessions on using Twitter for a scientific context. The first was a fun session on injecting personality to an institution. If anyone is doing outreach, it might be worth considering – otherwise, it’s just fun to see @spotticusNH, @NHM_Dippy, and lots of other fun, informative Tweeters. Science140 is a great outreach project that culminated in the first ever book written on Twitter, A Neutron Walks Into a Bar. For those curious (or cross!) with Twitter and all associated things, read this article from LSE, in which Melissa Terras says that Tweeted research papers received 11-times more downloads than papers that were not Tweeted.

Fraud: I will write a more detailed post on the fraud session, which I found fascinating but more than a little detached from real life in a lab. But there is a good Q&A with the research scientist here.

Citizen Science: Crowd-sourcing data is becoming an established method of data collection in environmental science. The Ashtag app is an excellent example of crowd-sourcing in plant science. The consensus from the workshop was that real citizen science is more than just ‘data harvesting’ from the public. I didn’t think any convincing examples were given of non-social science projects which involved the public from conception until conclusion, however it would be a great piece of outreach and a potential minefield of novel ideas. Look at The Public Laboratory for examples and tools.

Tools and resources: After Ben Goldacre’s wonderfully eccentric keynote lecture on transferring the best of medical trials to policy development, Kamila Markram delivered a slick presentation on scientific publishing in the digital age. She co-founded Frontiers, a publisher-slash-social network that has an open approach to academic publishing and has embraced the digital era. Reviewers are named on final papers, and the review consists of a real-time exchange between the authors and the (then anonymous) reviewers.

I spoke to Dina Fejes about the Colwiz platform, which looks like a very useful tool. Researchers can use it for all aspects of their work, from citations to collaborations. It’s free, so if you struggle to keep up with Dropbox, email, and differences in preferred reference managers and calendars, this platform will make your life a lot easier.

Image Credits: Anne Osterrieder, Charis Cook


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  1. […] London – a global conference by Jon Tennant | #solo12 reflection by A J Cann | SpotOn London 2012 in brief by Charis Cook, and […]

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