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Guest post: Strings of an open data ‘code’

This is a guest post, translated from Spanish on Forbes Mexico, by Nina V. Tscheke

At ScienceOpen, we would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to Forbes Mexico for mentioning us in a really great post of theirs about how open data and sharing can accelerate the research process. The timing for this is perfect in due to the recent launch of SciELO on our platform. A special thank you to Alfredo Taborga for writing the piece, the original version of which can be found here.

Here is the full reproduced article, with permission:

Open data can change the way we do research, shorten the time needed to find cures to illnesses, and encourage the coexistence in a world with fewer walls and more freedom.

If those who read my articles are more or less my age, they should remember the acclaimed novel The Da Vinci Code. I remember how I devoured it. I couldn’t stop reading. I also remember friends of mine who took it as an accurate account of reality within which the church tries hard to obscure the great miracles of the world. It is not their fault; they simply fell victim to the positivistic education that is imparted in this country.

If the plot was written now, Brown would have a different ending and a radical change of story in it:

A murder in the Louvre and some clues in Da Vinci’s pictures lead to the discovery of a mystery that had been protected by a secret society for more than 2000 years. It is suspected that this discovery could bring down the pillars of Christianity. Robert Langdon tries to get into the Vatican Library to gain access to ancient manuscripts that would support his theory… Sophie Neveu, who would probably be part of the millennial generation, laughs, takes out her smartphone and types Vatican Library into Google. (The first line on the page reads “Digitalize to Disclose”.) Two pages open from the top section of the page (the Vatican people did a good job with the search engine marketing).

Dear reader, this is open data… The concept isn’t new, but its formal definition is. Although I have friends who would criticize me for using Wikipedia as a source, I will take the liberty of just doing that. Because the access to open and unrestricted information is paramount, especially to this entry of my blog.

Wikipedia defines open data as “any piece of information that is free to be used, reused and distributed, subject to the sole requirement of crediting the author”.

Open data can refer to maps, information about the genome, about science or biodiversity. This brings it into conflict with restrictions of patent rights, copyrights, licenses, etc.—whereas its greatest defenders assert that these very restrictions conflict with the common good.

Let’s move away from this discussion possible to become byzantine; it is true that open data could not better be represented than with the words by Luciano Ammenti, CIO of the Vatican Library, as ushered in an interview he gave my friend Leandro Africano for the Revista Pulso in Argentina: “The documents inside the Vatican Library are not the Vatican’s, but the people’s.”

He refers to texts of Christianity just as well as, among others, to incunabula by Homer, Sophocles, Dante, and the first edition of the bible. Anyone can now consult the more than 80,000 manuscripts and 8,900 documents, going way beyond the capacity of 200 persons that the baroque hall has. Visit @vaticanlibrary for more information, because surely the Vatican is totally “social media savvy”.

I would also like to share another project that is a GREAT example for open data: it is called ScienceOpen.com and was fathered by a great friend of mine who thinks that we all can do something to make this world a better place.

ScienceOpen is a huge data repository providing open access to scientific publications. It offers almost 13 million articles by more than 9 million authors, extensively classified and searchable by relevance and context.

In a world with global threats like the previous pandemics this is something that cannot be underrated. Science Open transforms into a potential to share global solutions to these problems.

The very World Health Organization links Science Open as a platform to share research about the Zika virus. You ask yourself who shares their information? Well, it comes from everyone: institutions, scientists, Nobel Prize winners; what’s more, while I am writing these lines, they are incorporating gigantic collections such as SciELO’s — a great example of scientific open data in Latin America.

“Information is power” is a phrase quite overused; however, if access to information can change the plot of a novel so radically, I absolutely think that this accessibility can change the way we do research, shorten the time needed to find cures to illnesses, and thus encouraging a coexistence in a world with fewer borders, fewer walls, fewer prejudices, and more freedom.

Data sharing is crucial for genomics research!

Our ongoing ‘Open Science Stars’ series has highlighted some of the vast variety of views, experiences, and facets of open science, and a cadre of great people working to drive real and positive change. This week, we spoke with Fiona Nielsen, who has founded two companies dedicated to the sharing of genomics data! Here’s her amazing story.

Hi Fiona! Thanks for joining us at the ScienceOpen blog. Could you start off by letting us know a bit about your background?

Pleased to join your blog series. 🙂

I am a bioinformatics researcher with a background in computer science. My first degree was a short computer science degree, which I then expanded by studying bioinformatics at the University of Southern Denmark, where I gradually moved more and more into genetics and DNA sequence analysis. After my masters I moved to Nijmegen, the Netherlands where I studied for a PhD in bioinformatics at the NCMLS. During my time as a PhD student, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and I lost my motivation to work on scientific topics far removed from patient impact. I moved to Cambridge, UK to work for Illumina, and after two years I decided to leave my 9-5 job to start my own project: I founded first the charity DNAdigest and later the company Repositive to enable better data sharing within genomics research.

Cute! Had to share this from the Repositive site (https://repositive.io/)
Cute! Had to share this from the Repositive site (https://repositive.io/)

 

When did you first become interested in Open Access and Open Science? What was your initial reaction when you heard about it?

I do not recall when I first came across the terms of Open Access and Open Science, but I do recall that I repeatedly came across anecdotes from colleagues that could not access data or results from published papers, and how I looked up to the progressive researchers who would “go all the way” and make all data and results available immediately, even before publication of a paper.

  Continue reading “Data sharing is crucial for genomics research!”