Tag Archives: scholarly communication

This past week I was asked to attend an offsite meeting of a local research group where they were discussing ethics.  They asked me to present a topic around ethics within science and scholarship. This gave me an opportunity to try to condense some of my recent thoughts. Roughly, I’ve been playing around with the idea that there is a growing conflict between what those outside of scholarship view the practice of scholarship as (“an ideal”) and how the actually messy practice of it works (“the norms”).  In the slides, below I try to make a start of an argument that we should be clear about the norms that we have. Articulate them and embrace them. I try to boil this down in to two:

  1. be transparent,
  2. embrace the iterative nature of scholarship

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this line of thinking.

2015-01-13 10.06.28Last week, I was at FORCE 2015 – the future of research communications and e-scholarship conference held in Oxford. This is the third conference in a series that started with Beyond the PDF in 2011 and continued with Beyond the PDF 2 that I led the organization of in Amsterdam in 2013 (my wrap-up is here). This conference provides one of the only forums that brings together a variety of people who are in the vanguard of scholarly communication from librarians and computer scientists, to researchers, funders and publishers. Pretty much every role was represented in the ~250 attendees.

To give you an idea, I saw the developers of the Papers reference manager, the editorial director of PLOS One, a funder from the Wellcome Trust, a librarian from University of Iowa, and public policy junior researchers from Brazil/Germany2015-01-12 12.40.34

The curators (i.e. conference chairs), Dave De Roure and Melissa Haendel did a great job of pulling in a whole range of topics and styles in a a great venue. We even had the opportunity to see copies of the Philosophical Transactions. Speaking from experience this is a tough conference to organize because everything is pretty dynamic and there’s lots of different styles. (e.g. Dave and last minute beer run for the Hackathon!)

So what was I doing there? I helped organize the hackathon, which gave some space to work on content extraction, and reference manger support for data citation and for people to talk over pizza. This lead to proposals for two 1k challenges. (Remember to vote for which one you want to give 1000 pounds to..) I also helped organize the poster and demo / geek out sessions. A trailer for those sessions is below:


The conferences was too packed to go through everything but I wanted to go through the core themes that I got out of it:

1. Scholarly media is not just text

Data, images, slides, videos, software – scholarly media is not just text.  It never ways but it’s clear that the primacy of text is slowly being reduced and eventually be treated on par with these other forms of output. This is being made possible by the number of new platforms being introduced whether it’s Fighsare or Xenodo for data, github for code or HUBZero for the entire analytics lifestyle. It’s about sharing the actual research object rather than the textual argument. I think what brought this home to me is the amount of time spent discussing and presenting how these content types can be shoehorned into traditional text environments (e.g. journal citations).

2. Not access, understanding

The assumption at FORCE 2015, is that scholarship will be open access. The question then arises what do you do with the open access content. Phil Bourne, in his closing remarks, mentioned the lack of things being done with the current open access corpus. This notion of the need to do more clearly came over in Chris Lintott, founder of Galaxy Zoo, keynote:

He discussed how the literature was a barrier to amateurs contributing more to science. Specially, he mentioned accessible research summaries.  But, in general, there is a need to consider a more diverse audience in our communication not only for amateurs but for scientists from other disciplines or policy makers, for example.

3. Quality under pressure

The amount of scholarship continues to grow and there are perverse incentives. Scott Edmunds from Gigascience brought this out in his vision idea’s talk.

The current answer to this is peer review. But as most researchers will tell you, we are already overwhelmed. I get tons of requests to review and it’s hard to turn down my colleagues. Maybe a market for peer review will develop (see below) but what we need is more automated mechanisms of quality control or for publishers to do more quality control before things get sent to reviewers. Maybe we should see peer review as constructive feedback and not a filter. Likewise, by valuing other parts of the system maybe we can increase both the transparency and overall quality of the science.

4. Science as a service

The poster below from Bianca Kramer and  Jeroen Bosman highlighted the explosion in services available for scholarly communication. This continues a theme that I emphasized last year and that Ian Foster has talked about – the ability to do more and more science by just calling an API. Why can’t I build my lab from a cafe?

Wrap-up & Random Notes

The FORCE community is a special one. I hope we can continue to work together to push scholarly communication forward. I’m already looking forward to FORCE 2016 in Portland. There’s lots to be excited about as the way we do research rapidly changes. Finally, here are some random notes from the conference:

Beyond the PDF - drawn notes day 1

Wow! The last three days have been crazy, hectic, awesome and inspiring. We just finished putting on The Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarhip (FORCE11)’s Beyond the PDF 2 conference  here in Amsterdam. (I was chair of the organizing committee and in charge of local arrangements) The idea behind Beyond the PDF was to bring together a diverse set of people (scholars, technologists, policy experts, librarians, start-ups, publishers, …) all interested in making scholarly and research communication better. In that case, I think we achieved are goal. We had 210 attendees from across the spectrum. Below are two charts: one of the types organizations of the attendees and domain they are from.


The program of the conference was varied. We covered new tools, business models, the context of the approach, research evaluation, visions for the futures and how to moved forward. Here, I won’t go over the entire conference here. We’ll have a complete video online soon (thanks Elsevier). I just wanted to call out some personal highlights.


We had two great keynotes from Kathleen Fitzpatrick of the Modern Language Association  and the other from Carol Tenopir (Chancellor’s Professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville). Kathleen discussed how it is essential for humanities to embrace new forms of scholarly communication as it allows for faster dissemination of their work.  Carol discussed the practice of reading for academics. She’s done in-depth tracking of how scientists read. Some interesting tidbits: successful scientists read more and so far social media use has not decreased the amount of reading that scientists do. The keynotes were really a sign of how much more humanities were present at this conference than Beyond the PDF 1.

2013-03-19 09.23.52

Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@kfitz). Director of Scholarly Communication , Modern Language Association

The tools are there

Jason Priem compares online journals to horses

Just two years ago at the first Beyond the PDF, there were mainly initial ideas and drafts for next generation research communication tools. At this year’s conference, there were really a huge number of tools that are ready to be used. Figshare, PDFX, Authorea, Mendeley, IsaTools, StemBook, Commons in a Box, IPython, ImpactStory and on…

Furthermore, there are different ways of publishing from PeerJ to and even just posting to blog. Probably the interesting idea of the conference was the use of github to essential publish.

For me this made me think it’s time to think about my own scientific workflow and figure out how to update it to better use these tools in practice.

People made connections

At the end of the conference, I asked if people had made a new connection. Almost every hand went up. It was great to see publishers, technologists, librarians also talking together. The twitter back channel at the conference was great. We saw a lot of conversations that kept going on #btpdf2 and also people commenting while watching the live stream. Check out a great Storify of the social media stream of the conference done by Graham Steel.

Creative Commons-Licentie
Beyond the PDF 2 photographs van Maurice Vanderfeesten is in licentie gegeven volgens een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-GelijkDelen 3.0 Unported licentie.
Gebaseerd op een werk op

Making it happen

We gave a challenge to the community, “what would you do with 1k today that would change scholarly communication for the better? ” The challenge was well received and we had a bunch of different ideas from sponsoring viewing parties to encouraging the adoption of DOIs in the developing world and by small publishers.

The Challenge of Evaluation

We had a great discussion around the role of evaluation.  I think the format that was used by Carole Goble for the evaluation session where we had role playing representing key players in the evaluation of research and researchers really highlighted the fact that we have a first mover problem. None of the roles feel that “they should go first”. It was unclear how to push past that challenge.

Various Roles in Science Evaluation


Personally, I had a great time. FORCE 11 is a unique community and I think brings together people that need to talk to change the way we communicate scholarship. This was my quick thoughts on the event. There’s a lot more to come. We will have the video of the event up soon. Also, we will have drawn notes posted provided by Jongens van de Tekeningen. Also, we will award a series of 1k grants to support ongoing work. Finally, I hope to see many more blog posts documenting the different views of attendees.


We had many great sponsors that helped make a great event. Things like live streaming, student scholarships, a professional set-up, demos & dinner ensure that an event like this works.

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