Open Science Summit 2010 - Berkeley, CA

Summary of the 2010 Open Science Summit
University of California - Berkeley
About Open Science Summit
From July 29-31, scientists, students, patients, and activists convened to discuss the future of our science/technology paradigm. Topics included: Synthetic Biology, Personal Genomics, Gene Patents, Open Access/Data, the Future of Scientific Publishing and Reputation, Microfinance for Science, DIY Biology, Bio-security, and more.

I recently attended the 2010 Open Science Summit “Updating the Social Contract for Science” in Berkeley, California (UC-Berekely). It was a very informative, inspiring, and motivating experience. Presentations were given from a very knowledgeable and diverse group of speakers. There was a good mix of policy makers, developers, popular authors, traditional scientists, grassroots scientists, biotech speakers, and software and hardware developers. The FBI was even gave a presentation encouraging citizen science to collaborate with the bureau to make the US a safer place where institutional and corporate science is failing and/or falling behind.

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Many of the presentations and discussions began by identifying things that are hindering science and research (eg - lack of open data, lack of access to published research, patents, funding, exorbitant costs of hardware & software, distaste & disinterest for science in younger generations, academic culture & norms, time consumption & inefficiencies of the current research and publishing system, lack of efficient/effective collaborative research groups, etc.). Lively conversations ensued openly and behind the scenes (twitter & the back channel). The diversity of speakers, software, hardware, and ideas successfully spurred discussions, inspired new ideas & collaborations, and identified possible and probable ways to improve science & research in the future.

One very important bit of information I took away from the conference is how to use technology to create a more effective conference. A few technologies that were very helpful and received positive, realtime feedback:

  • backchan.nl (http://oss2010.backchan.nl/conferences/view/30) - Allows users to post questions (realtime) to be answered following presentations or during panel discussions. Allows for comments and instant feedback as well.
  • fora.tv (http://fora.tv/live/open_science/open_science_summit_2010) - live streaming of the conference allowed for folks who were unable to make the trip to the conference to view the sessions as well as provide feedback and contribute questions through the backchan or twitter
  • twitter.com (http://twitter.com/#search?q=Oss2010) - at the beginning of the conference the hastag (#oss2010) was given to the folks at the conference. Very lively conversations and exchanges took place realtime throughout the conference.

A few more things about conference planning (obvious to me but not always adhered to) that I gathered from the conference were to provide a proper amount of breaks, avoid having two or more speakers present on the same topic, and to provide enough time for questions and answers.

A few new scientific funding sources were introduced at the conference and would be a great opportunity for professors, community members, and teachers to take advantage of:

  • Fund Science - fundscience.org
  • Sciflies - scieflies.org - crowdsource funding internet site - Begins August 15th - can submit proposals now
  • kickstarter.com - broader focus but successfully funded (OpenPCR, and others)
  • EurekaFund (http://eurekafund.org/) - Interesting model for crowdsourcing - undergrad research project funding possibility?

For me it was an extremely interesting experience ‘looking in from the outside’. I am certainly not a scientist (at least in the traditional sense) yet I learned a lot about the challenges (institutional, societal, financial, etc) facing scientists, researchers, and professors who simply want to advance science and subsequently improve life for their community, nations, and the world. I believe many of the same challenges are present throughout the various disciplines in higher education. Many of the approaches the presenters and attendees are coming up with to advance science from both the traditional and grassroots levels are very inspiring and I hope to encourage the use of some of these technologies and strategies.

For more information see:

"The idea is in thyself. The impediment too, is in thyself." - Carlyle