A month in the life of a Panton Fellow: July 2012


WIth August well and truly underway, it’s about time I updated you on my Panton Fellowship activities of recent weeks. Admittedly July has been a slightly quieter month than usual (mostly because I finally took my first proper holiday in over six years – three weeks in Singapore, of which 11 days was holiday and the rest was work!) but there have been some interesting open science developments nonetheless.

I was actually in the country for the first week of July, and what a busy week it was! In between moving house and flying out to Singapore, I managed to make it over to Cambridge for the day to see several people. Many thanks to Peter Murray-Rust and Laura Newman who made the time for a lovely lunch meeting, despite having come through a hectic week of wall-to-wall meetings with the other members of the OKFN. We had chance to discuss my progress with my Panton Fellowship work and how we might extend the pilot to other schemes afterwards, and Laura also updated me on how the School of Data has been doing since its launch earlier this year.

After meeting with Laura and Peter, I headed over to the current home of DSpace, the digital repository of the University of Cambridge, to meet Anna Collins. It was fantastic to meet Anna in person at last and we had an extended chat about her work in training students in data management and advising them on the use of digital technologies. Elin Stangeland also joined us later in the meeting and provided some useful suggestions as regards possible avenues for releasing information about the outcomes of my pilot study, once it concludes later this year. From my own perspective in developing graduate training suitable for a variety of subject backgrounds, it was great to hear from Anna and Elin about what the typical demographic at voluntary-attendance training sessions tends to be, and which elements of DSpace’s training initiatives have proved the most successful. For example, data beginners seem to sign up to sessions more readily – this echoes what I’ve heard from Bodleian representatives in Oxford and really underlines the need for careful consideration of how we promote digital technologies to scientists, especially those students in the physical sciences who develop their own management approaches as part of their studies (and by this I mean intermediate-to-advanced data users in computational disciplines, where code and high data output are intrinsic to work).Thanks to both Anna and Elin for taking the time to meet with me!

How best can we train graduates for research in the age of ‘Big Data’? This is the question we’ll be addressing in the upcoming August meeting of the Oxford Open Science group, to be held in the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) at 7.30pm on Wednesday 22nd August. I’ve been busy putting together a varied and exciting programme of speakers in recent weeks and am delighted to be able to announce our official panel of speakers for the evening, providing a range of perspectives on the key issues facing academia in the face of the “rising tide of scientific data”. We’ll be hearing from:

  • Juliet Ralph and Oliver Bridle from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, discussing information seeking amongst students and the current provision of digital/data management tools (including a discussion of the recent JISC/British Library report on the working practices of Generation Y research students);
  • Anna Collins from DSpace Cambridge, talking about the “long tail in the shadow of big data”, whose responsibility data management is in these contexts and how this might develop in the future;
  • Laura Newman from the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN), talking about progress and plans for the newly-launched School of Data;
  • Jez Cope from the Doctoral Training Centre in Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath, talking about his experiences in data management and social media training with DTC students.

I hope you’ll agree it’s shaping up to be a highly engaging series of talks on a range of interesting topics. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for discussion and debate as well, so please do come and join us, even if you’re only able to drop in for part of the evening. I’ll be releasing a proper running order for the talks as soon as we have more details. Those of you looking to enjoy the highly social side of open science may also like to join us for a drink in one of the local pubs afterwards. Watch this space for further details – I’ll be posting again nearer to the time with an official reminder and full details of where and when things are happening. Looking forward to seeing you then!

In other news, I’m all signed up to attend OKFest in Helsinki next month: flights and accommodation all booked as well, really looking forward to it 🙂 If you haven’t registered yet, then you might want to snap up a reduced-price Early Bird ticket now before tomorrow (Aug 8th), after which the General Sales ticketing phase starts. My Panton counterpart in Bath, Ross Mounce, and I will be delivering one of the presentation slots in the Open Research and Education session on Wednesday 19th September, so I’ve been putting some ideas together in advance of that (and don’t forget you can also catch Ross’ Panton update for July on his blog). Unfortunately though I didn’t make it to the OKFN Hackathon on July 7th, which was a real shame. I’d been hoping to join Laura and Jenny working on the Research Data Handbook – keeping fingers crossed that I’ll be able to drop in next time though.

And what of the month ahead? Well, I’m meeting again with directors of the Oxford Doctoral Training Centre this Wednesday to discuss developments in planning the training course for this Michaelmas Term. Then on Thursday, Jenny Molloy and I are meeting with Kirsty Grainger of the Natural Environment Research Council, to discuss shared interests and plans for developing open science training for new graduate students across the UK. I’ll also be getting to work on a Panton Principles promo video ahead of the OKFest. And let’s not forget the next meeting of Oxford Open Science on Wednesday 22nd August – put it in your diaries now!

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