Open access to government data

I found this on Abhishek’s blog (titled Default Openness)

Here are his thoughts on it. I really like the concept so long as the government takes care of privacy concerns.

During recent Wired’s Disruptive By Design coenfrence chief information officer CIO of US government Vivek Kundra suggested that default data setting of United States government should be open, not secret. With this vision in mind will democratize the data that is generated and kept by the US government which has several implications. First of all it will increase public access to high value data, making governance system more transparent, efficient, effective and accountable. Further, it will not only encourage the creative reuse of data outside the government offices, but also makes a way for new ideas, applications and opportunities. Efforts like Sunlight Labs which is trying to build open source technology and tools to facilitate a transparent and accountable governance, are proof of concept for this initiative. Sunlight Labs’s Apps for America 2 challenge is attracting a big pool of creative developers to come up with compelling design and solution that can provide easy access and deep insight for data. Data openness is pushing hard towards a big cultural change, a compelling evidence is healthy competition between different departments of US government to make more and more data freely available online. For more information about what is all about and what are the immediate benefits, check out this video. May be some one should pop out this kind of default openness in Science as well.

from –

Here is the video from


Elsevier/ScienceDirect, recent happenings and discussions in blogosphere

I was going to write about recent happenings in Elsevier and ScienceDirect but Abhishek Tiwari has already blogged about it so i’ll just point to his commentary. Indeed its very well thought out and a wonderful read.

I will add my .02 cents though. I don’t directly work for the team that coined the phrase “Article of the Future” but I certainly appreciate the effort and good intentions behind it.  They were trying to (in my opinion) get feedback from the scientific community on where the community wanted Elsevier to go from an article publishing stand point. Yes they could’ve tried to find a few researchers and asked them for input before opening it up to a wider audience but I believe that the more open you are to feedback the better you can respond. I also believe that through the various comments and blog commentaries that are out there, Elsevier has been able to gather a wealth of user input that would definitely not have been possible had they only approached a few people. Users have, through these comments, given Elsevier information on what they care about, what is important to them, what is not so important, what is fluff, etc.

Please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and i am not privy to any long term strategy for the company as a whole and Elsevier is not responsible for my comments in anyway. If this concept had been titled – “Elsevier’s plan for journal article layout redesign” – I wonder how many people would have bothered to comment about it and offer critical feedback.

The other point that Abhishek covers  that i also wanted to talk about is the NextBio integration with ScienceDirect. A colleague of mine worked very hard to get this feature into ScienceDirect. I firmly believe that this is where publishing is heading. There will be more tools and applications like this that seek to add value to existing online content. In the end the user gains additional insights and (hopefully) enables to get them to the information they seek – faster. I do realize that as with everything else in life, over time there will be flaws detected in the NextBio/SD integration. My hope is that we will continue to learn from that through customer contact, feedback and online commentary.

Here’s is the related extract from Abhishek’s blog. I’ve linked to the article at the bottom.

Last month Elsevier announced the “Article of the Future” project, a very ambitious project proclaimed as trend setter which will redefine how a scientific article is presented online. In the recent past Elsevier has announced several other initiatives to redesign and enhance their online interface ScienceDirect such as Elsevier Article 2.0 contest, Elsevier Grand Challenge and very recently integration with NextBio’s search technology. ScienceDirect which serves as home for more than 2,000 journals will be implementing best ideas of this project. A prototype was rolled out for ScienceDirect hosted journal Cell using content from two previously published articles. At very first glance, one can understand the major enhancement was a hierarchical tabbed presentation of article content where sections of articles such as figures, references can be browsed from top level itself. Secondly the sections accompanied with more real time navigation mechanism. Although these changes look fascinating, I don’t consider this transformation of traditional articles (where they follow a basic linear flow) to a hierarchical presentation(where reader has freedom to browse through article via individualized entry points) as major breakthrough in scientific publishing for very genuine reasons. It is not clear to me how easy it will be to transform a row manuscript into such a staged article? Even if it is easy to do so it is not very first in the list. There have been several other implementation of this kind before this announcement went in public, for example a similar kind of semantically enhanced creative re-use was worked out for a pre-published PLos Neglected Tropical Diseases article. Some may argue the whole affair is great sales gimmick, and Elsevier is trying desperately to polish their paid content in order to retain their institutional subscription which is struggling hard against undercurrent of open access. For example Scholarly kitchen writes Elsevier is just trying to put web 2.0 lipstick on a pig (the traditional print article). According to Scholarly kitchen

Elsevier’s “Article of the Future” looks like an article from the past, with some embedded hyperlinks, some AJAX tabs, two basic social media elements, and not much else.
No doubt “Article of the Future” failed to convince the scientific community on several key areas. It does not mean Elsevier should abandon experimenting with their content, in fact they are experimenting with several other good features such as GenBank linking, ThermoML linking and most notably NextBio integration. Several ScienceDirect articles contain GenBank sequences, these are now linkable to the description of that particular sequence in GenBank. Most of mathematical content on ScienceDirect is now rendered as MathML. I find these kind of enhancement more innovative and appealing from a user perspective, and for me these are real feature that next generation scientific articles should deliver. Integration of NextBio technology with ScienceDirect interface delivers a number of powerful benefits. This integrations has enabled not only accelerated discoverability of key articles but it also provides more insight from existing content through NextBio’s ontology-based semantic framework, extracted correlation with existing knowledge base, and tight integration with publicly available data sources.


There’s one more comment towards the end of Abhishek’s blog that i want to point out –

Annotations is one of the most wanted feature for next generation scientific articles especially shared community annotation and tagging. Last but not least, for god shake stop promoting PDF.

Concepts like annotations have been in the works for many publishers. The problem, however, is that every time we do focused user tests, where i go out and meet users and demo a concept to them; more often that not i get comments along the lines – ‘That’s nice. But i only really care about the pdf. If there was someway for me to get to the pdf faster i’m all for it”. How can you as a business not take that into account when you’re doing a cost/benefit analysis? There is always the concern – Do people really care? Do i really want to invest in all this work for a feature enhancement when the feedback is telling me that it will be hardly used?

Nevertheless, I know Elsevier and other publishers have moved forward with concept ideas that hopefully over time will become useful as more and more people become aware of it. I for one am all for putting features and concepts out there in the open and letting our users tell us what’s wrong with it and in subsequent releases, improving upon it. Maybe the 5 to 10% of  early adopters will help create awareness amongst the vast majority who are not early adopters. Maybe the company brand name will take a beating initially but eventually it will be known for responding to user feedback, valuing user opinion and partnering with the community.

Functioning Form – Apple Devices with Built-in Micro Projectors

I have obviously been away but to miss something such as this is a crime.

Apple Devices with Built-in Micro Projectors

07.06.2009 by LukeW

Expanding even further on my recent articles about understanding capabilities, Mac Rumors reports that Apple is expected to launch devices with built-in projectors later this year. The projectors would allow the iPhone and possibly the iPod touch to directly project video output onto an external surface.To better understand the impact of this capability on consumer devices, take a look at this video of Pattie Maes’ talk at the TED conference this year. In it she demos a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for rich interaction with our environment.