This blog is focused on science, simply because that is what I do most of my time. The same applies to the "What would [X] look like if it were invented today?" series of blog posts, and while it has not escaped my notice that X=Humanities would be a possible configuration, I did not feel particularly competent to write that part, nor did my infrequent calls for people from the humanities or social sciences to participate in the open science debates here or at Friendfeed result in much feedback from that end. However, I came across a piece recently (and read it today) that has a great potential to fill this gap (a case for UU, as discussed yesterday). It was written in a very personal and engaging style by Lisbet Rausing for a printed magazine (The New Republic), so its major drawback is that it has no hyperlinks and that the only non-text element is this image of a traditional library of paper documents. But the text was explicitly placed in the Public Domain, such that it can be adapted for the web, for which I have set up a document anyone can edit — please feel free to do so, and to tell your colleagues and friends in the humanities and social sciences about it.
For stimulation, I paste in below Lisbet Rausing's original of March 12, 2010 at 12:00 am, entitled "Toward a New Alexandria". The text (which should not be changed, though corrections may be added) is well worth a second read even in this non-enhanced form, and I will leave it to you to judge whether a more webby version can add value to that.
The following is a reply to "On Citizendium", whose comment forms didn't accept me pasting in this comment from my text editor.
Thanks for the constructive feedback. Several points I wish to add:
- Real names are necessary at some point, since they provide a simple and time-honoured way to deal with the situation that "What hasn't kept pace with the technical innovation is the recognition that people need to engage in civil dialogue."
- The only articles about whose quality Citizendium makes any claim are Approved Articles. Currently, there are 121 of these. Yes, this is a very small number, largely due to (1) the small number of active contributors and (2) the complicated approval system, streamlining of which has long been on the agenda, but didn't proceed much because of (1), though we actually have discussed the combination of FlaggedRevisions with expertise as a possible solution. For all non-approved articles, no statement on the quality is made, but the real name requirement keeps vandalism fairly well at bay.
- Real names and Approved Articles are just some of the differentiators. Others include the use of subpages to structure information pertaining to an article's topic (e.g. Related Articles, which essentially replace categories for navigation).
- Larry has announced repeatedly that he will step down as Editor-in-Chief, and a Citizendium Charter is currently being drafted, according to which the project shall develop after this transition. In its current version, it covers aspects like dispute resolution, partnering with external organizations, and integration with teaching and research (activities by sizable communities for which the reliability aspect is essential). Comments very welcome.
"Can Social Networks Tackle our Common Equations?"
Sustainable development or Sustainomics can be defined as the science that analyzes the equations of our future.
Never before in human history, science based predictions have attracted so much interest and had such important consequences on political decision making.
By and large, Climate Change is the most impressive illustration of this paradigm. The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference will start in just a month in Copenhagen. Negotiators from nearly 180 countries hope to nail down the outline of a plan to provide tens of billions of dollars a year to fight climate change. The Climate change challenges are now a mass-media issue, mobilize hundreds of thousands of people and generate millions of jobs worldwide.
However, science based predictions is a new field that requires new scientific processes to operate.
Such is the title of a two-part publication by Brian Whitworth and Rob Friedman. It provides for a fascinating assessment of the state-of-the-art of Information Science over the last ten years, much of it generalizable to other fields. In the following, I will list some quotes from the papers — I will try to comment on them later as time permits: Part I
Such is the title of a recent discussion panel at the Commenwealth Club of California with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, biophysicist Stephen Friend and Science Commons' John Wilbanks, moderated by Tim O'Reilly. It revolves around all the major issues relevant to the adoption of web tools by scientists, and I highly recommend this video especially to young scientists.
When I was notified recently that a new article on vocal learning had appeared in PLoS ONE, I took a brief look and found the study relevant but not interesting enough to actually read it now. However, I accidentally came across the phrase "Large-Scale Assessment of the Effect of Popularity on the Reliability of Research" - the title of a paper published the same day whose abstract and discussion actually got me interested, since they centred around the relationship between the popularity of research topics and the reliability of the corresponding results. This is related to the issues of (i) multiple testing, familiar to anyone working with statistics, and (ii) measuring research impact - a common subject here as well as on other blogs.
Voting has begun in the 2nd Annual Open Web Awards, a unique opportunity for the most accomplished websites and services to receive international recognition for their achievements.
You can participate using the following widget:
This video released by Creative Commons explains how you can contribute to a global cultural heritage and at the same time exercise copyrights to have a say on how your contributions live on when taken up by others.
WAYS is a pretty interactive website (i.e. you can both consume and generate contents in various medias, a concept commonly referred to as Web 2.0) but if you are not sure what all these new tools can do for you as a scientist, you may wish to take a look at the Small Worlds project hosted at the University of Leicester.
The role of expert knowledge is central to a video documentary on Wikipedia's way of knowledge sharing. It features the opinions of the co-founders of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, as well as of some other major Web 2.0 players and critics, including the authors Tim O’Reilly and Andrew Keen as well as Charles Leadbeater (a former advisor to Tony Blair), Bob McHenry (former editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica) and Ndesanjo Macha, one of the first to blog in an African language and one of the major contributors to the Swahili Wikipedia (which, by the way, is about to reach the 7,000 article milestone within the next few days).
The views of these people, particularly on truth and its representation in encyclopedias, contrast quite significantly but their aggregation provides food for thought on how the future of knowledge sharing might look like. The explicitly scientific perspective was mainly missing but between the lines, it became clear that large interactively collaborative (ubuntu) projects like this might also play an increasingly important role in academic research and tertiary education.
One possible direction is a continuation and expansion of Wikipedia until saturation, other options include branching and the development of more academically inclined variants like Scholarpedia, the Encyclopedias of Earth and Cosmos as well as Citizendium (not mentioned in the documentary but in a previous post here), and there are certainly many other possible developments.
Homework is a word that probably very few associate with something positive, and here, I will summarize four recent (independent but converging) twists on the topic:
(1) a study by researchers at the Technical University of Dresden (see press release, German only: http://idw-online.de/pages/de/news245011 ) has demonstrated that homework assignments do indeed fail, in most cases, to help the student in learning;
(2) Citizendium, a wiki-type free encyclopedia aimed at improving general credibility and article quality with respect to Wikipedia, has launched an initiative which encourages university instructors to assign Citizendium articles as homework for which students can get credits (see press release at
(3) OpenStudents.org, upon whose inauguration I have commented previously (http://www.ways.org/en/2008/jan/31/1915/daniel/open_students_platform_st...), now features an article on a very similar approach - to let students deposit their homework in freely accessible repositories, and to give them the option to comment on such contents (cf. http://www.openstudents.org/2008/02/13/student-publishing-as-an-assessme... );
(4) As previously announced, a global initiative on Open education is gaining momentum (cf. http://www.ways.org/en/2008/jan/25/0618/daniel/cape_town_open_education_... ), and (2) and (3) are important steps in this direction.
many of you have already edited Wikipedia articles, and some certainly do so on a regular basis. As it would be nice to showcase the contributions that WAYSers make to such a collaborative project, I thought it might be a good idea to think about a userbox for WAYSers in the English Wikipedia, for a start, and instead of just creating one myself, I would like to invite your feedback and suggestions on its design.
Wikipedia userboxes are described in detail at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Userbox , and the userboxes of members of IEEE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:User_IEEE) or similar organizations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Userboxes/Science#Scientific_and_...) might serve as examples, whereas http://www.yerich.net/test3/userbox-gen.php , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Java7837/userboxcreator and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Userbox_Maker provide tools to experiment with userbox designs.
If you have suggestions on the topic (e.g. a nice image or catchy slogan), please post them here or contact me in private.