ORION MOOC for Open Science in the Life Sciences

Overview of the Course

I have just completed the ORION MOOC for Open Science in the Life Sciences. The course is designed to run six weeks, offering six modules, each of which takes about two hours to complete. I (more or less) completed it over a week.

The course is described as an introduction to the concept of open science. It is thorough in its design and breadth of argument and offers a lot. It is free as it has been funded through the EU HORIZON 2020 funding program.

It is primarily aimed at those working in biomedicine, life sciences and other related research fields, and is intended to help scientists to share their research with the world more effectively. it would be beneficial for anyone conducting research that produces data of any sort though, and offers a lot of information about different publishing regimes which is a topic that has regularly appeared on the blog in the past.

Course Contents

The course introduces lots of useful tools and research practices, as well as Open Science principles. It is not moderated, self paced, but offers a certificate upon completion of all of the tasks. There is plenty to take away from the experience from following the lectures and materials offered without following up on the data uploads and forum discussions required for completion though. You can pick out what is interesting for yourself.

The MOOC opens with two modules on publishing and open access, open peer review, pre-registration and registered reports. Several links are supplied offering a real-life experience for anyone wishing to try out. Licensing is explained in terms of different levels of permission to reuse materials, with several different commons forms described in great detail (all including links).

Module three is dedicated to research data management and planning, with all of the above gearing up to addressing the needs of creating a FAIR and open data approach as described in module four. FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, with much of this module dedicated to a systematic approach to data production and sharing.

Module five addresses the topics of science communication and public engagement, comparing these two fields in terms of their aims and approaches. Storytelling and prop use is shown and discussed, and citizen science is described in its broadest terms (including crowdfunding and project co-design).

The course closes with module six, dedicated to self-reflection and action, suggestions and reviews of the course itself and feedback.

Why Not?

I enjoyed this course. The communication techniques adopted are broad and really drew me in. From cartoon and comic strip type presentations to TED talks and storytelling, as well as single page overviews and power point presentations that offer overviews of the topics addressed, the pace and presentation styles kept me interested.

Why not check it out?

Openworld showcases cloud and virtualisation advances

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As Oracle OpenWorld draws to a close for 2012, the announcements filtering out from the event included headline-catching advancements from the world of business software.

However, the attendees’ attention was divided by the inevitable comparison with last years’ conference. That event unfortunately coincided with the death of Steve Jobs, the news spread during the closing speech by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a close friend of Jobs’, who was comparing the similarities between Oracle and Apple.

Many reports continued after the 2012 OpenWorld to compare the difficulties both companies have faced throughout the year and the way each of the tech giants are led. Both companies combine hardware and software but Apple are viewed as innovators whereas Oracle is only just catching up with the crowd, particularly in areas previously dismissed by Ellison.

OpenWorld 2012 was generally considered a success by the IT sector even if a number of observers thought that it lacked innovation. The technologies announced highlighted a number of ways the roles within oracle jobs will be evolving as the firm advances with virtualisation and cloud computing.

One of the announcements during the conference focused on the new Exadata X3 Database In-Memory Machine. The role of this product is to compete against SAP and permit consumers to move their IT jobs to the internet from data centres.

Oracle - Manage many as one“You can access all of these services across the network,” Ellison said. “It took a long time to build a complete suite of cloud applications and the all-important platform, which we call Fusion middleware… We have a huge advantage in platform solutions in the cloud because we are the number one platform company in the world.”

Ellison’s own desires may have overshadowed the outcome of the conference.  In an interview with CNBC, a financial news channel, taken just before Oracle OpenWorld launched for this year, Ellison covered a number of topics ranging from Oracle to his Hawaiian island Lanai.

If the success of Oracle was ever in doubt, a browse through Ellison’s ambitions may clear the issue up.  With a current fortune of $41 billion, he recently bought 98% of Lanai, and also hopes to one day own his favourite NBA team; the Los Angeles Lakers. Previously Ellison bid for the Golden State Warriors and mentions liking the Chicago Bulls too.

Oracle Openworld 2012 proved to be a successful conference for consumers and businesses alike. The countdown begins for what Oracle can come up with for Openworld 2013.

What would technological innovation look like if its goal wasn’t necessarily to make a profit?

Profit and Growth as an Aim

A simple question to ponder: What would technological innovation look like if its goal wasn’t necessarily to make a profit?

Well that presumes of course that the role of innovation is to boost the economy, which is certainly one of the claims made on many fronts.

I learned from reading the new book Responsibility Beyond Growth,  A Case For Responsible Stagnation, that the EU funds its innovation with the aim of producing economic growth within the region as part of its Innovation Union program. Innovation for growth! The aim is economic growth in terms of greater GDP across the union.

Which leads to questions about responsibility: Can innovation be responsible if it doesn’t work for economic growth? Can it be responsible if it would lead to a shrinking economy?

Well these seem like simple enough questions if we take them on face value, of course they can, but maybe not if they are funded by businesses or institutions whose aims are economic growth.

But then what about the question at the top, the question raised in the book, how would the innovation system differ if it wasn’t geared towards growth? How does innovation differ today that is not funded with these aims in mind?

Can we draw a comparison within single fields to look for similarities?

Medicine

There have long been arguments that technological developments in medicine have been driven by wealth generation. Malaria is often given as an example. One of the most damaging health issues in the world received around 3 billion US dollars a year for research, control and elimination, but this is less than the 5 billion deemed necessary to reach agreed milestones (We have to take these data on face value as I can’t guarantee they are correct).

Critics argue that this shortcoming is caused by the fact that treatment for malaria (new drugs) will not generate much profit for the global pharmaceutical industry.

If we compare this to some of the figures given for cancer treatment the figures are well over 100 billion per year. Cancer treatments are expensive and lucrative for the drug companies, so economic logic would lead them to investing more in research in this line than in others.

If we extend this thinking to global innovation then the question appears again, how would technology develop if it was decoupled from economics? Would more solutions be found for problems that are under-addressed because there is little profit in the solution (or even loss)?

It’s not such an abstract question if we think about open access publishing and the development of free software (UBUNTU as an example). Some argue that these programs are better than their more widespread cousins, precisely because they are developed by users and for users, not necessarily for shareholders. Could this become a broader argument?

The book I mentioned above goes into much greater detail. Check it out if you can.