the audience

So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

At the time, Davey was nothing more to me than a cute kid — one of several blond siblings from a farming family, one of many children who took swimming lessons from my brother and me in the summer of 1988. Under normal circumstances, he probably would have faded from my memory over the years as the other children have done.

But, as time passed, Davey took up more and more space in my mind. At first, I thought of him rarely, when I happened to see his older cousin Will in the city. Later, whenever I saw a suntanned child of a certain age and posture. Eventually, not day passed that I didn’t think of him. It’s true that I failed that afternoon, even if I am the only one who knows it. But I also changed, fundamentally. Perhaps that is why Davey took up residence in my head, becoming, over time, a constant spectator. I was no longer alone — he was always there too: taking in my world, measuring my choices, regarding my successes, witnessing my failures.

My family and I left our lakeside town that September for the city. As I became an adult and went about my life, so far from my hometown, I wondered what Davey — the real Davey — knew of me, knew of us. Because Davey in my head wasn’t enough, of course. I wanted to know the Davey in the world, the Davey I imagined must be (how could he not be?) as fixated on me as I was on him. I was reluctant, however, to seek him out. I couldn’t bear to discover that he knew how I had hesitated that day.

***

I remember that afternoon pretty well, even nearly 25 years on. When the last swimming lesson was over and the children returned to their parents, my younger brother Andrew and I, co-instructors that summer for the first and last time, headed for the dock to enjoy the last of the sun. We sat for awhile. We chatted to the kids while they — Davey and his sister included — horsed around and jumped off the dock over and over again.

Andrew was the reason the lessons were successful. During the previous summer, without him, I had trouble stretching the lessons to the full half hour. Once, I led the kids up the beach after only 15 minutes. People had complained about that. But Andrew was diligent and reliable; such lapses never happened when he was there.

Davey was a sturdy 5-year-old, impossibly blond and suntanned, with a round baby tummy, dark brown eyes, and freckles on his nose. He was happy and fearless. I have only a faint memory of him that particular afternoon, before the event. But I imagine him whooping and jumping and splashing with the rest of the kids who stayed after the lessons were over.

After a half an hour or so, I decided it was time to go home. The afternoon was getting chilly; the sun had gone. Edging past Andrew on the narrow dock, I was starting back when my eye was caught by something in the water to my left.

Floating just under the surface was a small form, face down. I saw immediately that it was Davey. I saw his yellow bathing suit. I saw his little body, pale now against the darkness, swaying slightly with the motion of the water. It was very shallow. Many other kids were playing close to him, within arm’s reach. I remember this.

I knew I must jump in and lift his face clear of the water. But I did not move. Instead, I measured, calculated. How long had he been floating there? Seconds? Minutes? How many minutes? Was it too late? I feared that any attempts I made to save him would fail and that his death would become my fault. Still I did not move. But at least, at last, I remembered my voice.

“Andrew!”

Andrew saw. He jumped in and scooped the Davey out of the water and carried him to the beach. It wasn’t far — only four or five large strides. Davey’s body was limp and his lips were blue.

Someone should call an ambulance. I would do that. I left the beach and ran through the parking lot towards the pay phone. I ran even though I knew my errand was pointless; by the time help arrived, Davey’s fate would be decided. But I wanted a reason to be absent. I thought of those seconds in which I had done nothing. I dodged to avoid a car that was driving too fast; my bare feet skidded on the gravel. A rock cut my foot, but I did not notice it until afterward.

By the time I returned, Davey was sitting up in Andrew’s arms and coughing. Davey’s mother was crying, hugging Davey, hugging Andrew. Others crowded around.

“I called the ambulance,” I said.

No one turned.

***

Not long after summer ended, Davey’s cousin Will and I both went to university in the city. I didn’t see too much of him. But some years later, when planning a rare trip back to town, I looked him up to ask if he wanted to carpool. I think he was surprised to hear from me.

Will picked me up on a Friday afternoon. For most of the six-hour drive, we didn’t say too much. We gossiped a little. He told me how he’d lost 30 pounds: “I don’t eat anything white,” I remember him saying. That was the first time I heard of low-carb. Davey glowed in the car with us, but I was reluctant to mention him. Did I guess what Will would tell me? Finally, as dusk fell, I asked how Davey was. Will was quiet for a minute. He didn’t look at me.

“You didn’t hear?”

I knew then what he was going to say.

“Davey died.”

I turned to look out the side window, watched the trees going by.

Will told me that Davey was hit by a car on his way to catch the school bus. It happened five years after the day he nearly drowned. The driver was a woman.

I wanted to know more. Had she seen him? Had she miscalculated distance, speed, time? When it was all over, did she stop? What she brave enough to look? But I didn’t ask. I kept my face turned, eyes on the window. It had become very dark. I saw nothing except my own reflection.

***

The shock is both less and more than you might expect. Less because Davey had already become unreal to me; he left me as a sturdy, warm physical being that day on the beach when I was 17. And more because my life — past and future — is different now; I have to regard it with my eyes alone. The audience I imagined is simply not there. And, what’s more, it never has been.

He no longer lives in my head, but I still think of Davey sometimes. I don’t try to think of him as an older child, as I had done, or as an adult, as I might have done. I think of him as a strong five-year-old in a bathing suit. I remember his smile and his eyes and the white sand stuck to his brown skin.

I think of his mother sometimes too. I remember her tearstained face from 1988. As a mother now myself, I wonder how she copes even all these years later. And, sometimes, I think of the driver — the unnamed woman who accidently killed a little boy with her car in 1993. I know nothing about her, nothing at all, other than that Davey is in her head too.

open science and information professionals

“Service opportunities have been revealed for supporting the research process, sustaining and capturing the non-published conversations of science, and curating the resulting data” (Ogburn).

The changes brought by open science have important implications for information professionals, who must now rethink what it means to collect and provide access to scientific findings. Already well underway are efforts to curate the masses of data entering the public domain thanks to the open data movement. Because preserving data in an accessible format requires proper planning and funding, data archivists must be involved, proactively, at the beginning of the research cycle – before funding decisions are made and software platforms selected (Ghosh). This early participation helps ensure that the data formats are appropriate and non-proprietary, data management schemes are sensible and clearly communicated, and that the funding is sufficient.

The knowledge and resources required to properly collect and preserve such data given its particular characteristics – compliance or not with (competing) standards, (possible) dependency on proprietary software, its intrinsically technical quality, and so forth – require new competencies from information professionals. Such a shift is already affecting the curricula of library schools.

Another factor is that, when we consider the varied artifacts of open research, the journal article is no longer the unit to be collected, preserved, and distributed. How do information professionals – and should they – attempt to curate living content, whether that be merely early versions and post-publication revisions of the published article, or artifacts as ephemeral as wiki pages, blog posts, discussion boards, and even tweets? Dorothea Salo states:

While a few scientific publishers are beginning to accept and even require supplementary data deposition, and a few research libraries are evaluating data curation as a potential professional specialization, even these have no useful response as yet to the ‘Open Notebook Science’ movement.

The answers to these questions are not yet clear, but the information professional may need to take a leadership role in convincing researchers that what they produce along the way to a published paper is worth preserving.

One of the most essential roles for the information professional in the age of open science (and, more generally, of open access) is that of advocacy. For instance, the members of the ALA who opposed the Research Works Act may rightly feel some satisfaction that perhaps their strong position had an effect on the act’s defeat. In addition, information professionals can help find a place for the “grey literature” that has historically been ignored by traditional publishers. And finally, as interest in open data grows, information professionals can expound the virtues of the Panton Principles, helping researchers design projects that will yield preservable data suitable for the public domain.

——–

References

Flood, Alison. “Scientists sign petition to boycott academic publisher Elsevier.” Guardian. 2 Feb. 2012. Web.

Ghosh, Maitrayee. “Information professionals in the Open Access Era: the competencies, challenges and new roles.” Information Development 25.1 (2009): 33-42. Web.

Ogburn, Joyce L. “The imperative for data curation.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 10.2 (2010): 241-246. Web.

Panton Principles. “Principles for open data in science. ” Web. Retrieved June 1, 2013 from http://pantonprinciples.org/

Salo, Dorothea. “Who owns our work?.” Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community 23.3 (2010): 191-195. Web.

open science: the future?

One possible future for open science is the broadening and democratizing of the peer review process. Certainly, more web-based tools are coming available that enable greater public participation in establishing the “truth” of web content – and not just scientific findings. Their arrival is of great interest not only to information professionals but also, indeed, to any consumer of content on the internet. One such tool is Hypothes.is, open‐source software that allows users to annotate anything found online without fear that the content owner can revise or remove the comment (Giles 46). Hypothes.is inventor Dan Whaley calls it “the Internet, peer reviewed” (qtd. in Giles 46).

Another possible future is that high-impact journals may become involved primarily after the peer review process is complete, collecting what are deemed by the peer reviewers (which may be the public) to be the most valuable articles. Publishing them formally at such a point in the cycle might retain the notion of an impact factor, still important to many authors, while also meeting some of the demands of open science, namely transparency and open collaboration.

———–

References

Giles, J. “Truth Goggles.” New Scientist 15 Sept. 2012: 44‐47. Print. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528821.700-reality-checker-how-to-cut-nonsense-from-the-net.html

open science, closed science: a continuum

The following chart shows where traditional science and scientific publishing as well as the newer open movements fall along the continuum that lies between closed and open science. This chart is derived from a similar picture presented by JC Bradley of Drexel University at the 2007 American Chemical Society Symposium on Communicating Chemistry. Bradley’s version of this chart did not include “open research” or “open resources”; I added these at what I think are appropriate positions. My reasoning is described below.

continuum

open science, closed science: a continuum

The traditional unpublished lab book is the epitome of closed science (Bradley). Not only are methods and data hidden from view, but also the results themselves are private. One step up from that is to make those results (and methods, too, if things are done properly) available in a traditional journal. Still, however, we do not have access to the data and we may have to pay to access the results. Enter the open access journal or repository, where we can freely access the findings regardless of our affiliations. Open data, another step along, allows us to scrutinize and reuse the data that underlie the findings. And finally, in open research, which includes open peer review and open notebook science, we do not have to wait for the published article, but can see what the researcher is working on before the work is complete and the results are published. And we can participate in the process if we so choose.

I place the notion of “open resources” outside of the continuum because while this approach is important for the practice of science, and while it represents similar values to the other open movements described here, it is not as essential for access to, or evaluation and reuse of, scientific results by the community at large.

Read more:

————————–

References

Bradley, J. C. (2007). Open notebook science using blogs and wikis. Nature Precedings for the American Chemical Society Symposium on Communicating Chemistry. Web.

 

open science: open platform

Processing extremely large datasets soon exhausts the resources of most data centres owned and administered by a single institution. Not wanting, or not being able to afford, an expensive and proprietary supercomputer, many institutions opt instead for clusters of servers cabled together to create a distributed pool of computing resources, on which parallel programs run rather effectively. These servers typically run Linux and other open-source software: the Open Grid Engine job scheduler, for instance, accepts a program, schedules it, and allocates resources such as CPUs, disks, and software licences, all while hiding the complexity of the system from the user. A computing cluster like this need not be maintained by a single institution only; indeed, some of the largest and most successful “home-grown” supercomputers are those shared by several institutions. An example is the Open Science Grid project, “a multi-disciplinary partnership to federate local, regional, community and national cyberinfrastructures to meet the needs of research and academic communities at all scales.”

Not only do such partnerships save on costs, bringing the power of supercomputing to those who may not have been able to afford it on their own (and thereby democratizing the practice of science), but their common platform and toolsets help ensure that the various parties involved can more easily share data with each other.

Read more:

————-

References

Open Science Grid. “Open Science Grid.” Web. Retrieved June 15, 2013 from https://www.opensciencegrid.org/bin/view

open science: open research

“[The] accumulation of reliable knowledge is an essentially social process” (David, “Understanding the Emergence”).

Open research means being transparent about methods. At the minimum, this means describing research methods in a published paper such that anyone with the requisite skills and resources can scrutinize and attempt to reproduce the results. Open research may also involve an open peer review process, whereby journals expand the circle of peer reviewers to include members of the public. K. Thomas Pickard, a healthcare advocate, describes the value of rethinking the peer review process for medical research, arguing that online social networks give the public new opportunities to engage in the scientific enterprise:

Critics argue that the peer review process is slow, stifles innovation, and lacks transparency (most reviewers remain anonymous). With social networks, alternatives to peer review are emerging. The most commonly employed model is based on comment crowdsourcing, similar to how buyers rate products and sellers on Amazon or eBay. Anonymous peer review is replaced with public reviews that can include the reviewer’s reputation (as determined by peers) to weight the review score. Weighting an author’s reputation can be achieved with concepts such as the author’s scholar factor, h-index, or other “altmetrics.”

In its most open form, open research may involve what is known as “open notebook” science: using the technologies of the internet to make available research details, early findings, and iterations well before, or even instead of, formal publication, and to encourage participation from others.

Advocates of open notebook science maintain that such transparency in the early stages of a scientific endeavor has a couple of important advantages. First, it allows for iterative adjustments in methodology that may improve the quality of the results. Second, publishing early findings allows researchers to establish primacy over their methods and results much more quickly than would be possible were they to wait the normal months-long cycle for their results to appear in a published journal article. In the words of Dorothea Salo, scholarly research services librarian and author of “Who Owns Our Work?”:

Adherents of Open Notebook Science open their entire research process on the web using wikis, Google Docs and similar online tools. Notably, Open Notebook Science allows its practitioners to establish visible, verifiable primacy over their processes and the results thereof, which potentially undercuts publishers both by reducing scientists’ pre-publication ‘scooping’ fears and by providing a substitute for the supposed primacy verification offered by formal publication.

It is important to note, however, that there is nothing in the definitions of “open” provided previously that requires any researcher to practice open notebook science; it is perfectly in line with the values of the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the OKF to conduct, publish, and disseminate open science without (say) engaging with the public on a blog every step of the way. Nonetheless, this is indeed what some people mean when they speak of open science.

We have already seen how open research might work. One of the best‐known recent examples is in the work of Rosie Redfield, a microbiologist from UBC. When scientists funded by NASA reported in 2010 that they had found arsenic‐based life forms on Earth, Redfield expressed concerns on her blog about the quality of the research. Her assessment spread rapidly over social media – through Twitter among other means – and in the press, casting immediate doubts on NASA’s findings (Zimmer).

Known as the #arseniclife affair, Redfield’s “is one of the first cases in which the scientific community openly vetted a high‐profile paper, and influenced how the public at large thought about it” (Zimmer). In 2011, Nature magazine included Redfield in its list of the top 10 “people who mattered” for the year (Hayden).

Read more:

—————-

References

Budapest Open Access Initiative, September 12, 2012. Web. Retrieved Jun. 16, 2013 from http://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/boai-10-recommendations

David, Paul A. “Understanding the emergence of ‘open science’ institutions: functionalist economics in historical context.” Industrial and Corporate Change 13.4 (2004): 571-589. Web.

Hayden, E. C. “365 Days: Nature’s 10. Ten People Who Mattered this Year. Rosie Redfield, Critical Enquirer.” Nature 480 (22 Dec. 2011): 437–445. Web.

Open Knowledge Foundation. “Open definition.” Web. Retrieved June 13, 2013 from http://opendefinition.org/.

Pickard, K. T. “Impact of open access and social media on scientific research.” J Participat Med 4 (2012): e15. Web.

Salo, Dorothea. “Who owns our work?.” Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community 23.3 (2010): 191-195. Web.

Zimmer, C. “The Discovery of Arsenic‐Based Twitter: How #arseniclife Changed Science.” Slate 27 May 2011. Web.

open science: open data

As defined by the Open Knowledge Foundation, “a piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.” Open data advocates believe that data gathered during scientific inquiry should be made available for scrutiny and reuse by other researchers. However, the current system works against open data in several ways. There are barriers on all sides: publishers may have licensing restrictions; data may be inaccessible or in a proprietary format; and researchers themselves may be reluctant to give up control. Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, the open data movement is growing.

The Panton Principles, launched in 2010 by the Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group on Open Data in Science, are an attempt to facilitate the widespread adoption of open data. In brief, these principles state that publishers should make their wishes explicit regarding the reuse and repurposing of some or all of the data by way of a legal statement. This legal statement should be appropriate for use with data; the Panton Principles website lists waivers and licenses that are appropriate for data as well as those are not. In declaring data available for reuse by others, the Principles state that publishers should use the definition of “open” as defined by the Open Knowledge Foundation. And finally, publishers should dedicate data to the public domain in conformance with the Science Commons and OKF guidelines.

Read more:

—————

References

Open Knowledge Foundation. “Open definition.” Web. Retrieved June 13, 2013 from http://opendefinition.org/.

Panton Principles. “Principles for open data in science. ” Web. Retrieved June 1, 2013 from http://pantonprinciples.org/