Day1 @CSVConference! This is the coolest conf I ever been to #csvconf pic.twitter.com/ao3poXMn81 — Yasmina Anwar (@yasmina_anwar) May 2, 2017 On May 2 – 5 2017, I (Yasmin AlNoamany) was thrilled to attend the csv,conf,v3 2017 conference and the Software/Data Carpentry instructor training in Portland, Oregon, USA. It was a unique experience to attend and speak with many … Continue reading →
Recently the film director and National Geographic explorer-in-residence James Cameron descended to the deepest spot on Earth: the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. He partnered with lots of sponsors, including National Geographic and Rolex, to make this amazing trip happen. A lot of folks outside of the scientific community might not realize this, but until this week, there had been only one successful descent to this the trench by a human-occupied vehicle (that’s a submarine for you non-oceanographers). You can read more about that 1960 exploration here and here.
I could go on about how astounding it is that we know more about the moon than the bottom of the ocean, or discuss the seemingly intolerable physical conditions found at those depths– most prominently the extremely high pressure. However what I immediately thought when reading the first few articles about this expedition was where are the scientists?
After combing through many news stories, several National Geographic sites including the site for the expedition, and a few press releases, I discovered (to my relief) that there are plenty of scientists involved. The team that’s working with Cameron includes scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (the primary scientific partner and long-time collaborator with Cameron), Jet Propulsion Lab, University of Hawaii, and University of Guam.
While I firmly believe that the success of this expedition will be a HUGE accomplishment for science in the United States, I wonder if we are sending the wrong message to aspiring scientists and youngsters in general. We are celebrating the celebrity film director involved in the project in lieu of the huge team of well-educated, interesting, and devoted scientists who are also responsible for this spectacular feat (I found less than 5 names of scientists in my internet hunt). Certainly Cameron deserves the bulk of the credit for enabling this descent, but I would like there to be a bit more emphasis on the scientists as well.
Better yet, how about emphasis on the science in general? It’s a too early for them to release any footage from the journey down, however I’m interested in how the samples will be/were collected, how they will be stored, what analyses will be done, whether there are experiments planned, and how the resulting scientific advances will be made just as public as Cameron’s trip was. The expedition site has plenty of information about the biology and geology of the trench, but it’s just background: there appears to be nothing about scientific methods or plans to ensure that this project will yield the maximum scientific advancement.
How does all of this relate to data and DCXL? I suppose this post falls in the category of data is important. The general public and many scientists hear the word “data” and glaze over. Data isn’t inherently interesting as a concept (except to a sick few of us). It needs just as much bolstering from big names and fancy websites as the deep sea does. After all, isn’t data exactly what this entire trip is about? Collecting data on the most remote corners of our planet? Making sure we document what we find so others can learn from it?
Here’s a roundup of some great reads about the Challenger expedition:
- National Geographic: James Cameron Begins Descent to Ocean’s Deepest Point
- National Geographic: Cameron’s dive cut short
- National Geographic press release about Cameron’s trip to the bottom
- National Geographic website for the project: Deepsea Challenge
- The Guardian: James Cameron may kill the Kraken but not our journey of discovery
- Spectacular post on Deep Sea News by Craig McCain about the value of this expedition for science and humanity
- Scripps Institution of Oceanography information page about the Deep Sea Challenge
- Stars and Stripes: Deep Sea Dive is Nothing New for the Navy
- US Navy’s Press release for 1960 Trieste trip to the trench
Last week I attended the TOS/ASLO/AGU Ocean Sciences 2012 Meeting in Salt Lake City. (If you are a DCXL blog regular, you know I was also at the Personal Digital Archiving 2012 Conference last week: my ears were bleeding by Friday night!). These two conferences were starkly different in many ways. Ocean Sciences had about 4,000 attendees, while PDA was closer to 100. Ocean Sciences had concurrent sessions, plenaries, and workshops, while PDA had only one room where all of the speakers presented. Although both provided provisions during breaks, PDA’s coffee and treats far surpassed those provided at the Salt Palace. But the most interesting difference? The incorporation of social media into the conference.
There are some amazing blogs out there for ocean scientists: Deep Sea News and SeaMonster come to mind immediately. There are also a plethora of active tweeters and bloggers in the ocean sciences community, including @labroides @jebyrnes (and his blog) @MiriamGoldste @RockyRohde @JohnFBruno @kzelnio @SFriedScientist @rejectedbanana @DrCraigMc @rmacpherson @Dr_Bik . I’m sure I’ve left some great ones out- feel free to tweet me and let me know! @carlystrasser).
That being said, ocean scientists stink at social media if OS 2012 was any indication.
First, the Ocean Sciences Meeting did not declare a hash tag – this is the first major conference I’ve been to in a while that didn’t do so. What does this mean? Those of us who were trying to communicate about OS 2012 via Twitter were not able to converge under a single hash tag until Tuesday (#oceans2012). Perhaps that isn’t such a big deal since there were only a dozen Tweeters at the conference. This is unusual for a conference of this size: at AGU 2011 in December, I would hazard to guess that there were more like 200 Tweeters. Food for thought.
Second, I heard from @MiriamGoldste that there was actual, audible clapping when disparaging comments were made about social media in one of the presentations. For shame, oceanographers! You should take advantage of tools offered to you; short of using social media yourself, you should recognize its growing importance in science (read some of the linked articles below).
Now for PDA 2012. A hash tag was declared (#pda12) and about 2 dozen active tweeters were off and running. We had dialogues during the conference, helped answer each others’ questions, commented on speakers’ major conclusions, and generally kept those that couldn’t attend the conference in person abreast of the goings-on. Combine that with real-time blogging of the meeting, and you had a recipe for being connected whether you were sitting in a pew at the Internet Archive or not. Links were tweeted to newly-posted slides, and generally there was a buzz about the conference.
So listen up, OS 2012 attendees: You are being left in the dust by other scientists who have embraced social media. I know what you are thinking: “I don’t have time to do all of that stuff!” One of the conference tweets says it best:
Read this great post from Scientific American on Social Media for Scientists
COMPASS: Communication partnership for science and the sea. I attended a COMPASS workshop two years ago at NCEAS and was swayed by the lovely Liz Neeley that social media was not only worth my time, but it could advance my career (read “Highly tweeted articles were 11x more likely to be cited” from The Atlantic).
Generally all of the resources on the Social Media For Scientists wikispace
Social Media for Scientists Recap from American Fisheries Society blog
As for how social media relates to the DCXL project, isn’t it obvious? I’ve been collecting feedback straight from potential DCXL users using social media. Because I have tapped into these networks, the DCXL project’s outcomes are likely to be useful for a large contingent of our target audience.
I’m guilty. I often admit this when I meet librarians at conferences and workshops – I’m guilty of never using my librarians as a resource in my 13 years of higher ed, spread across seven academic institutions. At the very impressive MBL-WHOI Library in Woods Hole MA, there are quite a few friendly librarians that make their presence known to visitors. They certainly offered to help me, but it never occurred to me that they might be useful beyond telling me on what floor I can find the journal Limnology and Oceanography.
In hindsight, I didn’t know any better. Yes, we took the requisite library tour in grad school, and yes, I certainly used the libraries for research and access to books and journals, but no, I never talked to the librarians. Why is this? I have a few theories:
Librarians are terrible at self promotion. Every time I meet librarian, I’m awed and amazed by the vast quantities of knowledge they hold about all kinds of information. But most of the librarians I’ve encountered are unwilling to own up to their vast skill set. These humble folks assume scientists will come to them, completely underestimating the average academic’s stubbornness and propensity for self-sufficiency. In my opinion, librarians should stake out the popular coffee spot on campus and wear sandwich boards saying things like “You have no idea how to do research” or “Five minutes with me can change your <research> life“. Come on, librarians – toot your own horns!
Academics are trained to be self-sufficient. Every grad student has probably gotten the talk from their advisor at some point in their grad education. In my case the talk had phrases like these:
- “You don’t have to ask me EVERY time you want to run down to the supply room”
- “Which method do YOU think would work best?”
- “How should I know how to dilute that acid? Go figure it out!”
It only takes a couple of brush-offs from your advisor before you realize that part of learning to be scientist involves solving problems all by yourself. This bodes well for future academic success, but does not allow us to entertain the idea that librarians might be helpful and save us oodles of time.
Google gives academics a false sense of security. Yes, I spend a lot of time Googling things. Many of this Googling occurs while having a drink with friends – some hotly debated item of trivia comes up, which requires that we pull out our smart phones to find out who’s right (it’s usually me). But Google can’t answer everything. Yes, it’s wonderful for figuring out who that actor in that movie was, or for showing a latecomer the amazing honey badger video. But Google is not necessarily the most efficient way to go about scholarly research. Librarians know this – they have entire schools dedicated to figuring out how to deal with information. The field of information science, which encompasses librarians, gives out graduate degrees in information. Do you really think that you know more about research than someone with a grad degree in information?? Extremely unlikely. Learn more about Information Science here.
This post does, in fact, relate to the DCXL project. If you weren’t aware, the DCXL project is based out of California Digital Library. It turns out that librarians are quite good at being stewards of scholarly communication; who better to help us navigate the tricky world of digital data curation than librarians?
This post was inspired by a great blog posted yesterday from CogSci Librarian: How Librarians Can Help in Real Life, at #Sci013, and more