Archive

Proposal

I have just applied for a Shuttleworth Fellowship.

The fellowships are issued by the Shuttleworth Foundation, which describes its vision as “We would like to live in an open knowledge society with limitless possibilities for all.” I very much share this vision – it is the main reason I founded Open Knowledge Maps. Our goal is to build a visual interface to the world’s scientific knowledge in order to dramatically increase the visibility of research findings for science and society alike.

We want to provide a solution to a challenge that’s almost paradoxical: on the one hand, more research is openly available than ever, and we see considerable interest in science and technology. On the other hand, we are faced with a serious crisis of trust in scientific research, with anti-vaccination movements and climate change deniers on the rise.

I believe that the root of this problem is that it is very hard to get an “in” on research. Access does not equal discoverability or even participation. People outside academia trying to understand a research field are therefore often lost. I want to empower these people by providing better gateways into scientific research. Think: policy makers attempting to optimize decision-making by using evidence from relevant research, educators striving to convey the state-of-the-art, fact checkers trying to verify statements, or patients who would like to learn about the newest findings on their illness.

To make this happen, I believe that we need to do two things: first, improving the discoverability of research findings. Second, turning discovery into a collaborative process – thus enabling participation, and allowing people to create pathways through science for each other. Take a rare disease as an example: wouldn’t it be great, if researchers, doctors and patients would collaboratively map the newest research on this disease – and then share the results of their efforts for the benefit of patients, who don’t have access to specialists?

Enter Open Knowledge Maps: we use knowledge maps, a powerful tool for exploration and discovery. Knowledge maps provide an instant overview of a field by showing the main areas of the field at a glance, and papers related to each area (see below). In addition, knowledge maps make it possible to easily identify useful, pertinent information by separating papers into meaningful clusters – and they are exposing important concepts in the field that you would often need weeks to find out.

Examplary knowledge map for research on heart diseases

During the fellowship year, I want to explore how we can create a space for participatory discovery around these maps. How can different communities interact on a level-playing field, so that they create pathways through science for each other?

A little backstory

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you may recall that I alreay applied for a Shuttleworth Fellowship a year ago. The fellowships first caught my eye, when I learned that amazing projects like ContentMine (Peter Murray-Rust), Hypothes.is (Dan Whaley), and Koruza (Luka Mustafa) had all been enabled by a Shuttleworth Fellowship.

Back in May 2016, Open Knowledge Maps was just starting out, with an enthusiastic group of volunteers, and a prototypical service that enabled users to create a knowledge map for a topic based on the PLOS library (160,000 articles).

Since then, a lot has happened in the project.

The team has grown: I am developing Open Knowledge Maps together with nine amazing volunteers. I have also found great advisors and strong partners from the open knowledge community. We put out two major updates of our search service – pushing our coverage to 100 million scientific articles from all disciplines thanks to BASE. We’ve considerably improved the user experience based on feedback from the community, and we’ve enabled features such as  collaborative annotation thanks to Hypothes.is. And we held numerous workshops and sessions at events such as OpenCon, MozFest and re:publica, with more than 300 people in attendance.

Knowledge map for digital education. Click on the map to get to the interactive version on Open Knowledge Maps.

I am very happy that our efforts resonated with the community. Open Knowledge Maps was featured on the frontpages of reddit and HackerNews. Our user base has quickly grown: in less than a year, we saw over 100,000 vists and more than 30,000 maps have been created to date. We’ve received hundreds of enthusiastic tweets, e-mails and blog posts, motivating us to proceed with our vision.

We’ve now reached the limits of what we can do as a pure volunteer project. In order to realize the full potential of the idea, we need support. This is why I decided it’s time to give it another go. I also believe that it is a critical time that we are creating this platform in. There are several closed solutions for providing visual overviews that are being developed right now. If we do not provide an open alternative in time, we risk being stuck with proprietary solutions and wasted public money for decades.

As usual, the proposal was developed in the open. Special thanks go to Maxi Schramm, Christopher Kittel, Florian Heigl, Rufus Pollock, Antica Culina and Daniel Mietchen for comments on the draft. But I’d like to thank the Open Knowledge Maps family – team, advisors, partners and users. I am very lucky to shape this vision together with you.

You can find the full proposal on Github.

A little longer than a month ago, I posted an Open Call for Collaborators for an Open Science Prize Proposal on Discovery on this blog and to various open science mailing lists. The call has been very fruitful and I am happy to announce that we have submitted a proposal. In the spirit of open science, you can find the full proposal and the supplementary materials on Github. See below for the executive summary and our video.

Team Open Discovery: Peter Kraker, Mike Skaug, Scott Chamberlain, Maxi Schramm, Michael Karpeles, Omiros Metaxas, Asura Enkhbayar & Björn Brembs

Executive Summary: Discovery is an essential task for every researcher, especially in dynamic research fields such as biomedicine. Currently, however, there are very few discover tools that can be used by a mainstream audience, most notably search engines. The problem with search engines is that they present resources in a linear, one-dimensional way, making it necessary to sift through every item in a list. Another problem is that the results of the traditional discovery process are usually closed. Therefore, the discovery process is repeated over and over again by different researchers, taking away valuable time and resources from the actual research. To solve these challenges and bring the discovery process into the open science era, we propose BLAZE, the comprehensive open science discovery tool. BLAZE will leverage the existing open science ecosystem to provide multi-dimensional topical maps of research fields, involving not only publications, but also datasets, presentations, source code and media files. BLAZE will provide a single, intuitive interface for researchers to explore, edit and share maps. The edit history of a map will be preserved to allow Wikipedia style collaboration. The maps themselves will be open, so users can embed them on their own websites and export the structure into other open science tools. Opening the discovery process will enable researchers to reuse maps, saving valuable time and effort because they can build on top of each other’s work. Furthermore, they will be able identify collaborators long before the research is usually communicated. There is an existing, early-stage protoype for BLAZE and with the Open Science Prize, we plan to develop this prototype into a comprehensive tool. BLAZE will show the enormous potential of open science for innovation in scholarly communication by providing a structured, open and multi-dimensional approach to discovery.

%d bloggers like this: