Reflections on ScienceOnline09

I’m now back in New York (returning to Finland and the Beast tomorrow). It’s a good time to reflect on ScienceOnline09, before I fly back and the jetlag kicks in.
A lot of credit has to be given to Bora, Anton, and the other organizers for arranging the meeting; it was great fun, and ran very well (better than the wifi at Sigma Xi). The programme was interesting – there were two that I wanted to go to in most of the sets of parallel sessions. It was a good crowd of people collected together – Everyone was friendly and happy to talk, and had something interesting to say. Having everyone in the hotel really helped, and the hotel’s drivers were great – friendly and always happy to collect us, and happy to ell us not to rush etc. etc.


I went to the meeting largely because of the social function – I got to meet a bunch of people with whom I had only had virtual contact. I also got to renew acquaintances from London, and generally had a good time.
For me the meeting raised a few issues that are worth exploring more – here or in other blog posts.
First, the nature of Nature Network. I love it here, but as Henry has also alluded to, it can feel a bit cliquey. The only real solution is to make the network larger, to dilute the in-jokes and spread the discussion. We will have to discuss this more, but for the moment, I would simply suggest that anyone can help, simply by commenting. Don’t be afraid!
The relationship between NN(Nature Network) and ScienceBlogs is one we could develop more. I get the impression that we’re sometimes seen as being in opposition. I don’t think this is really the case – as blog communities we serve different audiences, with ScienceBlogs aimed at the general public, whereas NN concentrates on scientists. We should be able to complement each other. How to do this is an open question, but one worth developing. Reciprocal group blogs is one idea I’ve had, but that needs thinking through (and the move to Moveable Type needs to be more than just fable).
Sort-of related to the last point is the incredible value of FriendFeed. The relation is because I didn’t go to the session on blog networks, but I followed it through FriendFeed, thanks to Martin updates. I wonder whether NN could be linked to FriendFeed in some way (e.g. have a FriendFeed room that ca be accessed from NN). One thing that is clear is that there are a lot of similar tools available, that we could make more use of (SlideShare is another one). Building NN so that integration with other tools sounds like a big job, so it would have to be a strategic decision to go in this direction.
The Open Access crowd were there (not just Bora). meeting them reinforced my criticism of their rhetoric. They’re sold on OA and committed to it, but I think that they’re too evangelical, and can’t see that not everybody is so committed. The problems for OA are largely practical – it needs a change in scientific culture, and whilst this is happening, it needs to be encouraged by working with scientists, and understanding their wants and needs. The particular issue I had was over using journals as proxies for quality. Now, I know this isn’t perfect, but we do need something like that (if I have to assess 30 CVs, I don’t have the time to go through and read all the papers, but if i see that one only has papers in small, local, journals, then it says something about the quality of their work). Assigning and calculating credit plays an important part in scientific society (rightly or wrongly!), so advocates of new schemes for publication need to take this into account. This issue is more general – OA needs to be part of the real world, and can’t fall back on special pleading (in fairness, I think PLoS themselves get this, it’s some other advocates who don’t).
I think we need more work to bring more scientists into the online world. This is a perennial problem, of course.
Finally, batteries for laptops that last a full day is something we need. Even my new souped-up Eeeee battery isn’t good enough. So, farewell for now!

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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55 Responses to Reflections on ScienceOnline09

  1. Kristi Vogel says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful reports and insights on the ScienceOnline meeting, Bob. But it surprises me that anyone would see NN and Sb as being in opposition; my cyber-experiences with several of the Sb bloggers (Bora and Abel in particular) have been very pleasant. I think that one way to interact more with the Sb stable is to participate in blog carnivals, which they often host, and/or link to extensively. Greg Laden, Zuska, Bora, and GrrlScientist all do great jobs hosting blog carnivals, for example, and are very diligent and fair-minded about spreading the link love in the process. I’ve failed to take advantage of this with my NN blog, but it worked quite well for posts on my pseudonymous blog.
    I’m much less positive about getting involved with FriendFeed, however. In the first place, with “real-name” blogs, some of us have to be careful about what we post, and must avoid certain topics and discussions and stuff coming in to our university computers. That seems more difficult to control, in the environment of social networking platforms (but correct me if I’m wrong). Most, if not all, of my students use Facebook and Twitter, and I avoid both studiously because a) I don’t want to open the obvious can of potential favoritism worms, and b) neither format appeals to me. I’m sure FriendFeed is fantastic and invaluable for the people who use it, but some of us view such things as a huge time-suck, and are just never going to leave the 20th century get on board.

  2. Bora Zivkovic says:

    So nice to meet you, Bob! This is a very interesting summary, I have to say, quite thought provoking. Let me try to do some on-the-fly thinking and writing then if I can…
    The session about blog networks may have been a little opaque for people not belonging to either NN or Sb, with things left unsaid just because we all take them for granted. It took a loooong time until someone finally mentioned that NN and Sb are very different things, with different goals, and thus should not be compared so strictly and directly (as in apples and oranges).
    The rivalry between the two networks is friendly and we should have said that explicitly for the benefits of others in the room. The people who belong to the two networks tend to know and like each other. I have several good personal friends here, and I like the blogging of many others here as well. Many SciBlings come here regularly to read and/or comment because we value what you do here. Likewise, we often get comments from you guys.
    Networks as a whole, I think I can say that, like each other. Nobody wants NN to be more like Sb, or Sb to be more like NN. They are different animals, complementary, more than competitive (despite you probably being peeved that Sb stole Wilbanks and me being jealous you got Anne-Marie, but look at what Discover is doing to both of us!!!). I think that greater collaboration is quite possible and we should think about it. Perhaps Corie and Anna can talk to Erin and Arikia and see what is possible to do.

  3. Bora Zivkovic says:

    As for FriendFeed, it is out there, just like Facebook or Twitter. There is no harm in having a FF room, a twitter hashtag or FB page for a network. It can help bring new readers in, help with organizing events that include outside folks, etc. Depending on the platform, the managements of this can be done easily by one volunteer or just communally.

  4. Bora Zivkovic says:

    Oh, I remember now – I did write about science blogging networks before

  5. Bora Zivkovic says:

    On OA evangelicals:
    Every movement for change – if I focus on USA which I know better: Civil Rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rights of atheists, liberal politics, journalism, teaching evolution openly in schools, OA publishing, etc. – has to have a two-prong or bi-layered strategy. How?
    There are two sets of people working for change. First, you need loud, popular and highly public evangelists. They take a taboo, unspeakable topic and make it a topic of public discourse, something that is OK to discuss in private and in the media for the first time. They challenge the status quo and point out that traditional common sense is wrong on that issue. They move the Overton Window of discourse and reshape the doughnut of what are the acceptable positions in the media. Furthermore, they provide a vision. That vision may seem like Fantasy or Science Fiction to some, but it is a vision nonetheless, making it clear what the final, long-term future goal of the movement is. The statements they make tend to irk the traditional, the entrenched and the timid who usually complain about the “tone” although the tone is perfectly polite and it is the substance that makes them uncomfortable. But the discourse itself is meant to push people outside their comfort zones (of course this is resisted) and to make them think, often for the first time, if their lifelong beliefs and stands are correct.
    Without the activity of these highly public evangelists, it is impossible for the second set of people to operate – the gentle folks who work under the radar for the same cause. Those are the people who work one-on-one or in small groups, hand-holding and helping people make small first, timid steps in the right direction. This would be impossible if the evangelists have not set the stage for it – making this discussion possible and making the progressive positions legitimate. It would be impossible if there is no grand vision to point to.
    Thus, the OA evangelists are essential – without them librarians, PLoS and others could not have any success in persuading scientists, administrators and US Congress to make the first steps in the right direction, let alone anything bolder than that. The ground-troups do the hard work, but that hard work can bear fruit only if the evangelists have paved the way for it.

  6. Maxine Clarke says:

    Nice post, Bob. Returning to what you say about Friend Feed, is the Science Online room generally known about? It is a continuation of the room Matt Wood set up for the Science Blogging 2008 conference in August 08. It has since then been re-named Science Online, “a room dedicated wo online scientific communication”. Many NNers and SciBloggers are in it, as well as others. All are welcome. I have set up an import so that if anyone at Nature Network posts a forum entry, it automatically is featured as a link in this room. I and other people also post other links to the room. I have provided the details over at the Nature Network bloggers’ forum, but anything you or anyone can do to spread the word and get more people to join would be great. Thanks.

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    Hi again Bob – reading through my RSS reader I just came across your comment to Henry’s post about NN being perceived as “cliquey”, which you refer to in your post here also. I don’t get this, so here is a re-post of my comment at Henry’s in case you don’t see it:
    I have read this word “cliquey” several times from returnees from Science Online, eg Henry and Bob. Who has decided NN is cliquey? Can you clarify? What exactly is “cliquey”? Being friendly rather than having screeds of ranty comments? Too many in-jokes? (But lots of blog communities have in-jokes). I don’t get it – I don’t perceive it as cliquey although there are clearly a group of users/bloggers who are friendly with each other, but that isn’t the same as “cliquey”. NN is open to all…..so far as I know, anyone can request a blog and if the sample blog post is up to a certain standard of literacy and science content, you are in. What’s cliquey about that?

  8. Kristi Vogel says:

    As for FriendFeed, it is out there, just like Facebook or Twitter
    Yes, I’ll remember that, and if I should ever feel tempted to use any one of the three, I’ll lie down and read the university HoP, until the feeling passes. ;-)
    I agree, Bora, that there’s no harm in a network having an FB page or FF room. As an individual participant, however, there is potential for harm, quite aside from the issue of personal preferences. I don’t use text-messaging, either (in spite of several assaults on my cell phone campaigns by friends); that’s a matter of personal choice, rather than a work-related sanction.

  9. Cameron Neylon says:

    Maxine, I think the notion of “cliqueyness” came from a point in the session on blogging networks where I asked, after describing Science Blogs as being perceived as loud, agressive and American (which I immediately labelled as an unfair cliche), what an equally cliched perception of NN would be. It is possible I may have said something along the lines of “the perception is that NN is a clique of wannabe novelists, whereas SB is a ravening mass of wannabe popular science writers”. But I was just being provocative to get the discussion going
    Bearing in mind that these kind of perceptions don’t have to have any real basis in reality I think where it comes from is the fact that NN does have a specific tone (as does SB although a very different one) which is very literate, playful, and dare I say it, British. This can be very entertaining to read but quite intimidating to get involved with. It is also the case that the majority of comments comes from a fairly small group of people (who are very literate, playful, etc, even the ones who aren’t British) which again can make it a bit scarey to dive in.
    I think this is the point that both Henry and Bill are making; that there is value in putting some work and effort into getting more of the many people who are out there reading to write and comment (you know who you are people – the thing is, we don’t). 90-99% silent readers is a very common ratio for blogs and web forums. It is a reasonable question as to whether if this ratio changed the friendliness and cosiness of NN would change as well. But I would argue that if NN is to fulfill its aim of being an open information exchange for scientists then the proportion ought to be higher. Really, its a tough call as to what you would even want, let alone how you go about it. In the meantime celebrate the unique voice and make sure it isn’t lost along the way.

  10. Martin Fenner says:

    Bob, thanks for the thoughtful post. And I agree with most of what you said. It was wonderful to meet so many interesting, friendly and funny people. It was different to the London meeting last year, because this time I already knew quite a number of those people in person.
    I don’t want to get into the cliquey discussion. I think that Nature Network looked pretty good in both the Social Networks for Scientists and Blogging Networks session – I wasn’t around for the Demo. And of course there’s always room for improvement. I’m looking forward to Movable Type as a blogging platform, and there could be many more bloggers on Nature Network, for example from Germany.
    I also agree with your observations about the open access session. I understand Bora’s argument, but the session very much had an echo-chamber effect.

  11. Maxine Clarke says:

    Good comments, Cameron and Martin. I know there are a few active users of NN along lines you describe, Cameron, but there are also other active users who are not British or (so far as I know!) novelists (I will not use your adjective). I agree that a lot of scientists don’t actively participate, but that’s down to them I think. Nature Network offers forums which can be started up instantly – these can be topic or geography based, or other. I participate in several of these (eg Ask the Editor, citation in science) and there isn’t much “literary novel” style of comment in those. I guess it depends where you look. But, at the end of the day, the Network is a free resource for scientists and they are welcome to use it, whoever they are.

  12. Stephen Curry says:

    Nice post Bob – I very much enjoyed it. I agree with Maxine that NN is more friendly than cliquey and hope that aspect might encourage more lurkers to dally long enough to comment. It’s surely not representative but I posted comments on Bora’s blog over at Scienceblogs* over Christmas and came away feeling I’d been slapped around the head by a couple of commenters (_not_ Bora, I hasten to add, who seems to enjoy a good-spirited ding-dong). Haven’t been back since but I’m sure I’ll get over it. Interestingly this episode drew private messages of support from a couple of my friendly neighbourhood NN bloggers. Thanks guys (you know who you are).
    Still don’t quite see the value in Friendfeed/Twitter though. Could be I’m just too old-fashioned.

  13. Martin Fenner says:

    Stephen, two reasons I like FriendFeed: 1) you see what people who’s opinion you value are doing and 2) it is a nice platform for comments about blog posts, articles, etc. I haven’t figured out how to handle the overlap with the comments section here. It’s sort of like getting additional feedback from those that don’t regularly use Nature Network.

  14. Stephen Curry says:

    @Martin – I guess it would help if I knew how to use it and where to go. But it’s the potential for further distraction that really puts me off. Do you use it throughout the day or just in scheduled periods?

  15. Corie Lok says:

    Sorry for coming a little late to this. (Was distracted by a certain important event in Washington DC today!)
    About ‘cliqueness’ on NN (another word used at the ScienceOnline conference was ‘insularity’), I’m glad we’re having a discussion on this here and here. I have heard feedback from other science bloggers about this over the last six months and I’ve been thinking about how to address this.
    Let’s put this into context. As one person commented here, ‘cliqueness’ is a natural part of human social interactions. And it happens elsewhere on the Internet, not just here on NN. At one of the conference sessions, one ocean blogger said she worried that the community of fellow ocean bloggers she interacts with was cliquey. And GrrlScientist, one of the original Scienceblogs bloggers, said that in the early days, when the community there was smaller, they also tended to read and comment on each other’s blogs.
    Reading and commenting on each other’s blogs here on NN is definitely a positive as it forms community, a nice friendly atmosphere and is attractive to other bloggers who are always asking to join the NN community. New bloggers always get welcoming comments on NN and new commenters are definitely included in the conversation.
    But I agree with Henry when he said here that this can be perceived negatively as being ‘cliquey’. I must admit that there have been a few posts on NN where I felt a little ‘left out’ because I didn’t ‘get’ all the inside jokes. Heck, I help run this site and have been involved with NN since the very beginning, so if I feel like this, one can imagine how newcomers to the site might feel.
    So what can we do about it? There have been lots of great suggestions given here and here , such as recruiting new bloggers (I’m working on it) and featuring/welcoming new bloggers (will work on that too).
    I have a couple of other suggestions. I would encourage our bloggers to participate in Researchblogging.org, which aggregates blog posts about peer-reviewed research. There’s been a technical hangup that prevented our posts from being aggregated there but that will be fixed very shortly.
    You can participate in blog carnivals. I will be sending around a list of the more popular blog carnivals.
    Participating in other sites like Friendfeed. is a way to branch out. And of course, you can always read and comment on other non-NN blogs you like.
    But of course, this depends on time, energy, will. All I can say is that this really comes down to personal initiative. I think that at the very least, we should be mindful that lots of people are reading us (not just the ‘regulars’) and most users are shy to comment so whatever we can do to make it easier for people to join the conversation would be a good thing not just for NN but for us as bloggers. Because, after all, we don’t blog because we only want to reach the same 5 people, right? Don’t we all want more people to read and comment on our blogs?
    Sorry for the long comment, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. What do people think about these suggestions?

  16. Bora Zivkovic says:

    Some of the science/medicine/nature-related carnivals are listed here

  17. Henry Gee says:

    @ Corie: I know you’re working on it, but one way to get some perspective would be a more direct way than at present to assess the readership of blog posts on NN.

  18. Bill Hooker says:

    I also agree with your observations about the open access session. I understand Bora’s argument, but the session very much had an echo-chamber effect.
    Largely my fault, I’m afraid. I did not prepare adequately and rambled on far too long. If I’d been shorter and sharper in my comments, we could have had more discussion.
    Don’t want to proselytize, but I do have to ask: on what special pleading does OA fall back? I’m not following how “special pleading for OA” is a generalization of your position on journals as proxies for quality.

  19. Richard P. Grant says:

    I would encourage our bloggers to participate in Researchblogging.org
    snort
    I tried. Those ‘technical difficulties’ have been there a long time.

  20. Maxine Clarke says:

    Corie, thanks so much for your nice long informative update. I have not been using Nature Network since the very beginning, but I’m quite a longstanding user – I have also been an editor at Nature for more years than many NN users have lived. (Sad but true). And for sure, I have felt excluded by some of the obscure in-jokes here (that one about the bus stopping at the station drives me especially mad but I am pleased not to have seen it recently). But they seem to have slowed down recently (eg not much Mornington Crescent around these days). I don’t think in-jokes are a bad thing if someone coming new to them can be clued-in (eg via a link or a word or two to clarify) – or if a user actually puts in a comment to ask what the in-joke means (as I did with that bus stopping at the station one), they actually get an answer – unlike my experience on that occasion, when the answer was “you had to be there”.
    I do think this is a very minor issue – in the blogosphere, little communities of blogs collect together and one can often feel, when going to a new blog, that one is outside a clique. (Other popular blogs are very good at NOT doing this – eg dovegreyreader scribbles is I think the most popular blog in the UK for book reading, and she always makes people feel welcome in her comment, and often pops in to their blogs to reciprocate – and the blogger is pretty well known here, being inteviewed in national newspapers, etc).
    Technical difficulties are irritating, too – but they don’t stop people from starting blogs, creating and contributing to forums, or encouraging other scientists to start blogs and otherwise join in. I know I work for Nature so I am probably biased, but Nature Network is a free resource, and people at the company work hard at improving it. It does improve and will continue to be improved, I have confidence in that. But in the meantime, the more people who use it and find ways to encourage others to join in (Martin’s Good Paper Journal Club is a great example, so are the Berlin, Toronto and other hubs), the more NPG will be encouraged to invest in it – that’s my take!

  21. Maxine Clarke says:

    I’m a bit surprised that someone hasn’t responded to my comment above with one asking, “Madam does this bus stop at the station?” (Surprised and gratified!)

  22. Corie Lok says:

    Richard, like I said, the researchblogging.org hangup will be fixed very soon. No need to snort. And Henry, yes, I’m working on the stats issue.

  23. Richard P. Grant says:

    That’s really good, Corie.
    But is there any move at all to being able to use HTML? That alone would fix a lot of the problems some of us are seeing, and also make it easier to spread the word about NN (various networking widgets require javascript code and the like), and I’m simply worried that with a lot of this we’ve simply missed the boat.
    Which is why I’m a little bit … discouraged.

  24. Martin Fenner says:

    Bill, open access is an important topic and it was good to talk about it at ScienceOnline09. But to list just some of the questions I would have liked to discuss: 1) central repository vs. institutional repositories (I would like to see PubMed Central Germany), 2) why do big OA proponents such as the Max Planck Society don’t require mandatory open access? 3) how can an author-pays model work for a journal with rejection rates > 80% 4) I do have research projects with very little funding and an author-pays fee of $1000-2500 would be a big problem
    Corie, thanks for your long comment. One suggestion I like is to comment more on other blogs outside Nature Network. I use FriendFeed, but could comment much more on scienceblogs.com or other blogs.
    Stephen, FriendFeed can be a distraction, but the signal to noise ratio is usually very good. FriendFeed is also very good for liveblogging a meeting.

  25. Henry Gee says:

    I think the lady has caught her bus, and was last seen heading towards LinkedIn, in search of a copy of Harry Potter and the Release of Calcium from Intracellular Stores.

  26. Bora Zivkovic says:

    LinkedInn? In Cromer? I thought I saw her there….

  27. Henry Gee says:

    No, Bora, that was the other one, you know, with the deep-sea diving helmet and the wheelbarrow full of cold rice pudding (_Maxine: are you getting this? – ed_)

  28. Bora Zivkovic says:

    Oh, that one! Tx.
    But now I want to open an Internet cafe and name it LinkedInn.

  29. Bill Hooker says:

    just some of the questions I would have liked to discuss
    Like I said, I should have shut up earlier. :-) These are all good questions; some quick replies:
    1) central repository vs. institutional repositories (I would like to see PubMed Central Germany)
    Why choose? Every institute can have its own repository to manage and metric-mine, and if they structure their database properly it can be automatically included in central repositories like PubMed (UK, US, Germany, etc…). LOCKSS, no?
    2) why do big OA proponents such as the Max Planck Society don’t require mandatory open access?
    Dunno; I think they should (and budget for it).
    3) how can an author-pays model work for a journal with rejection rates > 80%
    That would depend on number of submissions. I wonder what rejection rates are like at various OA journals? That would be an excellent research question for the OAD if it’s not already there. See also 4) below
    4) I do have research projects with very little funding and an author-pays fee of $1000-2500 would be a big problem
    Peter Suber has replied to this question at some length. In addition, a solid majority of OA journals do not charge author-side fees. (This last point needs to be broken out journal-by-journal; though I disagree vehemently with the use of journal status as a proxy for quality, it’s a common heuristic and I suspect that most of the “big name” OA journals charge fees.)

  30. Maxine Clarke says:

    No, I’m not getting it, Henry.

  31. Corie Lok says:

    oh boy, there are several topics being talked about on this thread. I’m just going to address Richard’s request for HTML. That should be part of the new MT4 platform that we’ll be moving you all over to this year. I will be inviting the NN bloggers to a private forum here on NN where you can get your questions about the move answered.

  32. Richard P. Grant says:

    Corie, that’s brilliant. Thank you.

  33. Heather Etchevers says:

    This was a fun one to follow, not having checked in until now. Thanks for launching so many boats, Bob!
    Personally, I don’t care one way or another if there are perceived cliques here or on Sb or anywhere else. The Internet is a big place. Such social dynamics are partly luck, partly culture. It’s unfortunate when one feels neglected, but I’m always sorry to see a beautiful series of posts essentially ignored.
    Hard to say what makes attention happen, but when it does, it might in part depend on the blogger’s participation in other threads or other visibility, and as Louis mentioned here, a blogroll can help someone with time on their hands to browse among other possibilities along the lines of some initial pleasure.
    I also subscribe whole-heartedly to Bora’s view of activism. Always the second kind of activist myself, and always grateful to the first type for stirring things up and making it possible for me to enter the breach. Witness my flavors of OA, open lab notebook, feminism and atheism.

  34. Richard Wintle says:

    Can I just throw my applause in for the move to html-enabled NN blogs? I’m presuming this extends to the comments as well… ;)

  35. Bob O'Hara says:

    Phew, I’ve been busy with jetlag and preparing to move out of the flat, so I’ve been following the discussion without replying. You didn’t seem to need me!
    A few comments:

    1. Bora’s description of the OA evangelicals I think is reasonable – the problem is that they engender a “with us or against us” attitude. As someone who’s generally in favour of OA and the surrounding ideas, but who can see practical problems, I seem to get cast as the enemy. I should blog more about this (or at least the surrounding problem of inclusion and exclusion).
    2. I’m happy to see a long discussion of cliquiness – it’s definitely something we can improve upon. I think Corie makes some good points, but we probably need a bit of time to assimilate them. As it happens, I’m volunteered to host the March issue of Praxis, so I’ll be hassling you all about it later. I guess I should write something for the February issue, too. Incidentally, there’s more on carnivals from Mike of 10,000 Birds. He lead the session on them in the conference (and did a fine job, too).
    3. Bill – the special pleading I was thinking of was the claim that OA shouldn’t have to be financially viable. I’ve seen it in a few places, and someone (not you, I think) mentioned it in the session. It particularly irritate me because it’s something PLoS are trying to show is unnecessary, so this claim can undermine their efforts. If I let it, it’ll become a bit of a hobby-horse for me.
    4. The issue of using journals to estimate worth (which is what we crossed swords on) is something else I should blog about at some point.
    1. At the risk of being an apostate, I rather like Textile. It’s not as flexible as html, but I find it easier to use.
  36. Bill Hooker says:

    the special pleading I was thinking of was the claim that OA shouldn’t have to be financially viable
    You’re right, it wasn’t me! But with three out of four major OA publishers (BMC, Hindawi, Medknow but not PLoS) in the black, I’m confident we won’t be hearing that particular “special plea” much longer.
    we crossed swords
    We did? Shit, I hope I didn’t give offense…

  37. Cameron Neylon says:

    Hi Bob, I think the point about “evangelical” approaches to OA is well taken. It was one of the major themes that came out of the Open Science workshop at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. That what are needed are pragmatic and specific arguments about improving specific bits of the research process. I think there is a place for the moral argument for “public access to publicly funded research” – but the rest should turn on efficiency, effectiveness, and return on investment. There will be places where the effort required to be open will cost more than the benefits – it would be good to be able to measure and identify those and move on to focussing the efforts where they can have the most benefit.

  38. Martin Fenner says:

    Cameron, your comment is a very nice summary of my thinking. The cost and time involved (both for authors and the reader) is why I prefer centralized repositories (with ideally the publisher submitting the paper). I also learned at ScienceOnline09 that the interests of authors, readers, funding agencies and publishers are different depending on the research field. To take just one example, pre-print servers work extremely well in high-energy physics, but have no place in clinical medicine.

  39. Stephen Curry says:

    @Maxine – I saw this tonight and thought of you! It was an unlikely conjunction of Henry’s in-joke about buses and the Darwin-mania that is (quite rightly) sweeping through NN this year. Not the sharpest photo ever but the destination is clear enough…

    Hop right aboard Mr D – we go right past your house!

  40. Maxine Clarke says:

    Brilliant! Admittedly I am more familiar not with the 146 but with the X46, which always puts my daughters in a good mood if they catch it. The X46 is the Gatwick-Heathrow express which by strange luck stops both near their school in Cheam, and near our house in Kingston. And hardly anywhere else inbetween. So they are always happy if they catch it- though it has a one-hour frequency so not very often.
    You see, Stephen, anyone born in Manchester can be a bus bore with the best of them. (Manchester is perhaps most famous for having a service to Katmandu, first stop Gatley.)
    Now, to return to business, “Does this bus really stop at Downe House the station, madam?”

  41. Maxine Clarke says:

    And, incidentally, I still don’t get it.

  42. Stephen Curry says:

    I’m not sure there is anything to get…

  43. Henry Gee says:

    Oh, Maxine, Maxine, Maxine. How can one explain the nuances of humour? I tend to inttroduce the phrase ‘Exuse me Madam,’ etc. etc. as a sidelong comment of vaguely demented bafflement following a conversation that seems unintelligible or nonsensical. There. Now I have explained it, I’ll have to find something else.
    Tangentially, people seem to react with bafflement to my most favourite joke, which goes like this.
    One very busy Saturday night, two middle-aged Ladies of the Night meet for a brief cigarette break on the street corner.
    “If I’ve been up to that flat once tonight,” says one, “I’ve been up a thousand times”.
    “Oooh,” says the other, “your poor feet”.

  44. Bob O'Hara says:

    Excuse me madam, does this bus stop at the station?

  45. Eva Amsen says:

    On Monday to Friday, in peak hours (or between 10-6 on Tuesdays) the buses that are scheduled to leave at :06, :14, :27, :31, :32, :33, and :58 do NOT stop at the station (although the Wednesday bus connects to one that does as long as you catch it in the early afternoon but not at 1:30PM) but the ones in between DO, except on Monday morning, when the weekend schedule applies on the bus lines appended with the letter A (letter C on weekends and holidays, except Christmas or Sundays in even months – unless Christmas is a Sunday), which means that you can reach the station on those lines by taking the buses leaving on the hour and every subsequent ten minutes, but you have to transfer at Mornington Crescent.

  46. Bob O'Hara says:

    Thank you, Eva. Is that the winter or summer timetable?

  47. Eva Amsen says:

    That depends if it’s a leap year, of course,

  48. Henry Gee says:

    Question: how long before the next person in the queue gets served?

  49. Kristi Vogel says:

    Excuse me madam, does this bus stop at the station?
    I very nearly said that, out loud, to a confuzzled student who asked me a long, rambling, question after lecture last week.
    Must. Be. Careful. :-D

  50. Henry Gee says:

    Aha! It’s a meme!
    One day, a couple of summers ago, I collected Gees Minor and Minima from school and as it was such a lovely day (even in Cromer) we went straight to the beach. The kids wanted to bathe in a tide pool, but, having no swimming costumes, I suggested that they simply strip down to their underwear. They did, and had a good time.
    Later, when we were walking back to the car, Gee Minor said something characteristically eccentric for which I could not formulate an immediate response, so I rehearsed a pythonesque line
    My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels
    to which she retorted, immediately,
    My Knickers Are Full Of Sand.

  51. Kristi Vogel says:

    My Knickers Are Full Of Sand.
    I hate when that happens.
    Gee Minor seems rather a pragmatic sort of person. :-)

  52. Heather Etchevers says:

    Not baffled.
    One of the lifetime accomplishments of which I would be most proud in a hypothetical afterlife is having transmitted a mature, rich sense of humor to my now 11-year-old son, thanks in part to both my parents (and a long lineage before them). He can laugh at much.
    How on earth does that happen, anyhow? I can’t tell a joke, much as I enjoy them, and my daughter is much more literal-minded (but has an age-appropriate sense of humor at 9 years old).

  53. DN Lee says:

    It was great meeting you at the conference. Your thougts make a lot of sense. So, I’m making comments.

  54. Bob O'Hara says:

    Thanks! Though usually if my thought make sense it means at least one of us has been drinking.

  55. Christopher Mims says:

    It’s really fascinating to see ScienceBlogs and NN evolve. I can remember setting up the servers for ScienceBlogs and the growing pains of its first weeks (almost all technical) – and now look at where we are.
    This may sound heretical, but I’m not sure cliqueyness is something a robust blog network will ever escape. I thought adding more bloggers to SB would dilute its voice, and it did, a little, but then something really interesting happend – factions. (I should say that the real expansion of SB happened after I left Seed.) Disagreements erupted (over framing, for instance) and suddenly people were lobbing bombs at their “SciBlings” almost as often as they were lobbing them at proponents of Intelligent Design.
    Which is all to say, blog networks are as much (I’d say more) about being social as they are about exchanging information. A network without cliques would be a barren and boring one — and if the expansion of NN works, it will be because it inspires more cliques, not fewer. Maybe that’s me being an American, though. ;)