Open Educational Resources – Hewlett Foundation

“In 2002, the Hewlett Foundation began investing in open educational resources (OER), which are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.

We were one of the first institutions to invest in the field, at a time when MIT’s Open Courseware initiative and Creative Commons were in their infancy. Since then, the foundation has partnered with several content producers as well as technical assistance advisors and policy groups to support the creation of an ecosystem of OER groups.

In addressing the costs and quality of learning in the U.S. and the dearth of high-quality course materials, we see an unprecedented opportunity to scale OER and unleash its potential to improve education for the future. Our grantmaking supports mainstream adoption and effective use of openly licensed educational resources that provide students around the world greater access to a world class education….”

Open source lessons for synthetic biology – O’Reilly Radar

“So, that’s software. How does open source work in biology? Examples lie on a spectrum ranging from “garage” to “academic lab.”


Biohackers, for one, in many ways resemble the original “two nerds in a garage” origins of the computer movement. Biohackers use open source protocols and designs for equipment, such as PCR to set up personal laboratories that would normally be beyond the scope of casual tinkerers. This is assisted by recent attempts to standardize genetic elements, as seen, for example, in the BioBrick movement (which curates various DNA sequences designed to easily clone together into a biological circuit) or the OpenPlant collaborative initiative (which promotes an open source approach to plant synthetic biology). Supported by a surprising number of open, collaborative labs around the world, these groups aim to bring about the same sort of changes as were seen with the start of the PC era.


At the other end, we have institutions such as CambiaLabs and the BiOS Initiative, which aim to support open source IP initiatives for biological systems via collaborative licensing agreements. A good example of their work would be the Transbacter project, an attempt to perform an end-run around the multitude of Agrobacteria-mediated plant engineering techniques patents by identifying other vectors — which were then released to the community.


Both of these are attempts to democratize biological research and development, and tie into a general increase in popular interest over biotechnology — as can be seen by the success of the crowdfunded “Glowing Plants” synthetic biology project….”

Synthetic biology: Cultural divide : Nature News & Comment

“[Andrew] Hessel represents an increasingly impatient and outspoken faction of synthetic biology that believes that the patent-heavy intellectual-property model of biotechnology is hopelessly broken. His plan relies instead on freely available software and biological parts that could be combined in innovative ways to create individualized cancer treatments — without the need for massive upfront investments or a thicket of protective patents. He calls himself a “catalyst for open-source synthetic biology”.

This openness is one vision of synthetic biology’s future. Another is more akin to what happens at big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Merck and Roche, where revenues from blockbuster drugs fund massive research initiatives behind locked doors. For such businesses, the pursuit of new drugs and other medical advances depends heavily on protecting discoveries through patents and restrictive licensing agreements….”


“OpenPlant is a joint initiative between the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute, funded by the BBSRC and EPSRC as part of the UK Synthetic Biology for Growth programme. 

Synthetic Biology offers the prospect of reprogrammed biological systems for improved and sustainable bioproduction. While early efforts in the field have been directed at microbes, the engineering of plant systems offers even greater potential benefits. Plants are already cultivated globally at low cost, harvested on the giga-tonne scale, and routinely used to produce the widest range of biostuffs, from fibres, wood, oils, sugar, fine chemicals, drugs to food.

There is urgent need to improve our ability to reprogram crop metabolism and plant architecture in the face of global threats from new pathogens, climate change, soil degradation, restricted land use, salinity and drought. The next generation of DNA  tools for “smart” breeding of crop systems should be shared – to promote global innovation and equitable access to sustainable bioeconomies….”

Opening Meta – Hypothesis

“A serious piece of scholarly infrastructure is being made open, free and effectively non-profit. Meta has built a cutting edge system to mine scholarly papers new and old, and allow the data to be employed in diverse ways–predicting discoveries before they’re made, projecting the future impact of papers just hours old, and unlocking the potential for innumerable applications applying computation at scale across scientific literature. In what must have taken extraordinary patience, persistence and a lot of finesse, they managed to secure access to some of the most strategic closed content in the scholarly world.”

List of federal government agencies told not to communicate with the public

“For the past decade, the Sunlight Foundation has advocated for all branches of the federal government to use modern technologies to inform and engage the American people, from social media to websites. We adamantly oppose measures that limit disclosing documents and data to the public, particularly the publication of scientific papers, research and analysis, or public access to government scientists or technologists that can explain the findings.

The following list are reported formal actions to limit public communication at federal agencies….”

French minister seeks to mend ‘broken links’ between academics and political leaders

” “As politicians [said Axelle Lemaire, the French minister of state for digital affairs], we create policies that are not always based on facts [and] checked by academics and researchers. We shouldn’t have one administrative silo taking decisions on one side, and researchers researching on the other. The [French] government decided to open public data with the objective of providing researchers with the resources they need for their work.” It is “extremely paradoxical,” Lemaire continued, that we live in a “post-truth reality” when we have more access than “ever before in history” to technology that can help to verify information and inform government thinking on how to improve societies through policy. “We can have access to information and use the tools — big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning — to make use of these facts and information for the benefit of all,” she added….“We need to keep in sight the values that lie behind the academic research and the aim for education for all,” she said. “That’s what I’ve tried to put into place with the bill, by arming researchers with the tools that they need to research in an open environment.” With the bill’s open access provision, which gives researchers the right to share their research freely, academics should be able to take full advantage of “living in an open international world.” …”

RSA: Eric Schmidt shares deep learning on AI

[In the area of AI [Schmidt] wants to see the industry push to make sure research stays out in the open and not controlled by military labs. Addressing the hall packed with security professionals, Schmidt made the case for open research, noting that historically companies never want to share anything about their research. “We’ve taken opposite view to build a large ecosystem that is completely transparent because it will get fixed faster,” he said. “Maybe there are some weaknesses, but I would rather do it that way because there are thousands of you who will help plug it….”

US scientists attack Trump government over policies and ‘alternative facts’ – BT

“Professor Barbara Schaal, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and colleague Dr Rush Holt…spoke out strongly against the apparent willingness of US government officials to adopt an Orwellian approach to factual evidence, down-play the importance of climate change and restrict public access to information….Prof Schaal referred to early executive orders that told the US Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency not to communicate information to the public, describing the move as “very chilling”. “That is the antithesis of the way science operates,” she added….”