At long last we (the Scratchpad team) have got around to publishing a formal paper on the Scratchpads. There are several short notes and conference proceedings published about the work we have been doing, but this is the first technical paper that describes in details the overall architecture of the project and sets out the sociological model of what we are trying to achieve. The paper will appear as one of nine papers selected for a special series sponsored by the Encyclopedia of Life project, for the journal BMC Bioinformatics. BMC, with the help of the special issue editor Neil Sarkar, selected the Scratchpad paper to highlight the publication in a press release entitled "Darwin meets Facebook". You can find a copy of the press release attached to the bottom of this page.
For the past few weeks Dave Roberts and I have been beavering away on a major EU FP7 grant. The abbreviated name for our application is ViBRANT which is the catchier name for "Virtual Biodiversity Research and Access Network for Taxonomy". The competitive nature of this call makes it difficult for me to say much about what we are planning or who is involved, suffice to say that the project is to extend and distribute the Scratchpads and integrate the activities of various other major European work programs including GBIF, PESI and the publisher of the journal Zookeys.
On Tuesday evening (27th Oct.) I went to a preview of the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum. This year the exhibition has been moved to a new larger gallery, which makes it much easier to stand back from the crowds and enjoy the images. The photos are beautifully displayed as large backlit transparencies. Coupled with the low level blue lighting, which gives the space the appearance of a fancy wine bar, the exhibition is real treat.
I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Town recently for the second Diversitas Open Science Conference (OSC2). Diversitas is an organization that attempts to bridge that tricky divide between science policy and practice for Biodiversity science. To this end the conference brought together about 600 scientists and policy makers spanning various ends of basic and applied biodiversity science. I was there to talk about the role infrastructures like the Scratchpad project can play in global biodiversity projects, as part of a session titled "global approaches to taxonomy and biodiversity research". The session was reasonably well attended, but with nine parallel sessions it was hard to make much of an impact.
Yesterday (18th Aug, 2009) I had two very different experiences dealing with queries about the licensing of images. The first was a query from paleontologist Mike Everhart, working at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. Mike is working on a Pteranodon chapter in an upcoming book on pterosaurs and had discovered a photograph on Flickr of a Pteranodon specimen (AMNH FR7515) that I took during a recent visit to the American Museum of Natural History. Despite being on exhibit since the 1950s, it turns out the specimen had dropped out of the mainstream and has never been figured in a publication. By snapping the picture during a hurried visit to the exhibits (after giving a talk) I’ve helped the specimen to be rediscovered. Mike was asking for permission to use the image on his Pteranodon website, as my snapshot is apparently better than a much older official image.
I have published a short invited paper in BMC Research Notes on the topic of data publication. The paper focuses on the challenge of making data publication a reality, as distinct from the publication of more traditional, synthetic papers that typically ghettoize data to the margins of traditional scholarly communication. I talk about the need to develop infrastructure, incentives and functionality required motivate the various stakeholders into publishing data.
Although it is almost one year away, preparations for the Fourth International Congress on Phthiraptera (ICP4) in Turkey are well underway. I have been involved in organizing the last three meetings (ICP2 in Brisbane, Australia 2002, and ICP3 in Buenos Aires, Argentina 2006) but this has to be the most organized we have ever been. This is due to Kosta Mumcuoglu and the local organizing committee who have done such a great job of pulling the meeting together. Here are a few more details:
This post is redundant, because it’s so late in coming. Consequently it’s more of an aide-memoire for me rather than anything else. For the uninitiated e-Biosphere 09 was an International Conference held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London from 1-3rd June. The conference brought an international mix of about 500 people working on the rather nebulous topic of “biodiversity informatics". The conference was coupled with an invite only meeting (dubbed the Silverbacks meeting) where the great and the good got together to produce a roadmap for the discipline. Here is a personalized list of the conference highlights, lowlights and outcomes:
The server where this site is mounted has been up and down on a regular basis over much of June ‘09. Apologies for this! The lab where the server sits has been moved and building work has meant that the lab’s power supply has been regularly disrupted. For various good reasons that I won’t delve into here, the server is mounted in Rod Page’s lab in Glasgow, and I am based at the Natural History Museum in London. Consequently, it is not easy for me to do much about power outages. My thanks go to Rod Page, Joseph Hughes and Simon Rycroft, who have variously prodded and poked the server into action in my absence.
The Scratchpad project has seen a number of developments recently. Here is a quick update on the key topics.