Report urges massive digitization of museum collections | Science | AAAS

“The United States should launch an effort to create an all-encompassing database of the millions of stuffed, dried, and otherwise preserved plants, animals, and fossils in museums and other collections, a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)–sponsored white paper released today urges. The report, titled Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education, also calls for new approaches to cataloging digitized specimens and linking them to a range of other data about each organism and where it was collected. If the plan is carried out, “There will be [a] huge potential impact for the research community to do new types of research,” says NSF biology Program Director Reed Beaman in Alexandria, Virginia.

The effort could take decades and cost as much as half a billion dollars, however, and some researchers are worried the white paper will not win over policymakers. “I just wish that the report focused more on the potential benefits for noncollections communities,” says James Hanken, director of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For the past 8 years, NSF has sponsored the $100 million, 10-year Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program, which has paid for nearly 62 million plant and animal specimens to be digitally photographed from multiple angles for specific research studies. New technology has greatly sped up the process. Already, researchers studying natural history and how species are related are reaping the benefits of easy access to a wealth of information previous locked in museums….”

EU open-access envoy urges foundations to join Plan S

“Organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust should join Plan S to continue their “moral leadership” on open research, Plan S founder and European Commission open-access envoy Robert-Jan Smits told Research Europe. He was speaking on his return from a weeklong tour of federal agencies, universities and learned societies in the United States, where he was attempting to boost international support for the plan….

Smits claimed that the feedback on Plan S he received in the US was mostly that independent foundations need to join….

Smits has said that Plan S is based on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s policies. These include that papers reporting research it has funded must be made openly available immediately and with a licence that permits unrestricted reuse. The foundation has forced some of the world’s most prestigious journals to change their policies so that they comply.

During the trip, Smits sought to quell fears that Plan S would undermine the so-called green open-access model, in which papers are placed in repositories, usually after a publisher-imposed embargo period. Plan S will not accept embargo periods, causing some concern that it will only support the gold open-access model in which papers are made openly available immediately, usually by paying publishers an article-processing charge.

Smits said that Plan S leaves “ample room” for repositories, article preprints and self-archiving. He also admitted that organisations in the US flagged the plan’s lack of recognition for publishers using the so-called diamond and platinum open-access models, which do not charge authors publication fees….

According to Smits, those he met who were most enthusiastic about Plan S were librarians and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

More cautiously interested parties, he said, were the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Smits said this was because the OSTP is awaiting a new director who will set the agenda for open access at the federal level. Research Europe has approached these organisations for comment.

Those who were most sceptical of the plan were the learned societies, Smits said. These organisations rely on income from journal subscription charges and fear that the loss of revenue caused by a switch to open access would affect activities such as the organisation of conferences, he said….”

Digitizing the vast “dark data” in museum fossil collections | Salon.com

“The uniqueness of each museum collection means that scientists routinely make pilgrimages worldwide to visit them. It also means that the loss of a collection, as in the recent heart-wrenching fire in Rio de Janeiro, represents an irreplaceable loss of knowledge. It’s akin to the loss of family history when a family elder passes away. In Rio, these losses included one-of-a-kind dinosaurs, perhaps the oldest human remains ever found in South America, and the only audio recordings and documents of indigenous languages, including many that no longer have native speakers. Things we once knew, we know no longer; things we might have known can no longer be known.

But now digital technologies — including the internet, interoperable databases and rapid imaging techniques — make it possible to electronically aggregate museum data. Researchers, including a multi-institutional team I am leading, are laying the foundation for the coherent use of these millions of specimens. Across the globe, teams are working to bring these “dark data” — currently inaccessible via the web — into the digital light….

The sheer size of fossil collections, and the fact that most of their contents were collected before the invention of computers and the internet, make it very difficult to aggregate the data associated with museum specimens. From a digital point of view, most of the world’s fossil collections represent “dark data.” …

The Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio) site hosts all the major museum digitization efforts in the United States funded by the current NSF initiative that began in 2011….

Our group, called EPICC for Eastern Pacific Invertebrate Communities of the Cenozoicquantified just how much “dark data” are present in our joint collections. We found that our 10 museums contain fossils from 23 times the number of collection sites in California, Oregon and Washington than are currently documented in a leading online electronic database of the paleontological scientific literature, the Paleobiology Database….”

Open Science Grid | A national, distributed computing partnership for data-intensive research

“The OSG provides common service and support for resource providers and scientific institutions using a distributed fabric of high throughput computational services. The OSG does not own resources but provides software and services to users and resource providers alike to enable the opportunistic usage and sharing of resources. The OSG is jointly funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. here for a two-page printable overview of OSG….”

A commitment to openness | Research Information

“I started life at Jisc as a programme manager, on a project that was jointly funded by the National Science Foundation in the US and Jisc. This was a fairly forward thinking project in digital libraries and from this, we began working on how to make sure researchers had maximum access to information and collections, and how we could do that collaboratively, building on expertise on both sides of the Atlantic.

At this, I managed the pilot site licence initiative, which in essence is what became Jisc Collections as it is today; it was about ensuring ongoing access as the world of journal archives became digital. The subsequent model licence, designed to provide a smooth transition from analogue, was, I think, a  world first, and the clauses added are aligned to the aspirations of the open access movement – as the world became born digital, open access was a logical next step. There were some real thought leaders in the sector at that time who made it their mission to ensure as many people as possible could have access to that publicly funded research, as a point of principle….”

Notes on the Public Access to Public Science Act – Harvard Open Access Project

“PAPS requires covered federal agencies to develop public-access policies (Section 2.a). There are four covered agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Weather Service….” 

Staff Associate, Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI), Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), National Science Foundation (NSF)

“The Staff Associate is responsible for managing a range of issues concerning public access that require coordination across the Foundation. Within the framework established by the NSF Public Access Plan (NSF 15-52); The NSF Public Access Working Group, which is responsible for implementation of the Plan; and ongoing and concurrent policy developments, the incumbent will take a lead role in Foundation-wide and interagency activities, including the development and implementation of policies that enable public access to the outcomes of federally funded research. The Staff Associate reports to and works closely with the CISE/ACI Deputy Division Director. The Staff Associate will also work with the Public Access Working Group and assist the Office of the Director and other units in the Foundation (e.g., Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE)) on science and technology issues related to public access to the outcomes of federally funded research, as assigned….”

House Votes for Open, Accountable Science | Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

This bill is not about OA for publicly-funded research. It’s about reviewing decisions on which research should receive public funding, and opening the door to block the funding of projects that don’t meet with the approval of members of Congress. 

“The House of Representatives today passed the bipartisan Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) to ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is open and accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent.

Introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the bill requires that each NSF grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of how the project serves the national interest. This written justification is intended to affirm NSF’s determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support. The bill passed the House by a vote of 236 – 178….”