Satoshi Village the blog of Daniel Himmelstein

My application to OpenCon 2015, the best conference ever

Below I have posted the written portions of my application to OpenCon 2015, which was called the best conference ever by a 2014 attendee. This open science gathering will be held from November 14–16 in Brussels, Belgium. I have ordered my responses from practical to philosophical and mundane to radical.

For the events you checked, please explain how you plan to participate.

Last year I went to the Bay Area Open Access Week event. Here I met the founder of Thinklab, the open science platform I now use for my research. I had not heard of Open Data Day until now but look forward to attending a local hackathon on its next occurrence.

If you are currently engaged in activities to advance Open Access, Open Education and/or Open Data, please describe them.

This year began with a major leap. I embarked on a fully open research project. First, I posted our proposal on Thinklab — a platform that pays scientists to interact openly. We constantly revise the proposal based on feedback. All research is open notebook. And we post our analyses upon their conception.

The process has been a thrilling success. Currently 16 contributors have provided feedback and assistance, earning an estimated $1,136 US for their 59 comments. Our project has birthed 32 discussions, each one a citable work with a dedicated DOI. I’ve made 350 public github contributions this year and published 23 project-related repositories.

I take pleasure in sifting through data, extracting insights, and providing condensed user-friendly derivations. To this end, I have created several websites: a browser for my results, a download page for sets of related genes, and an analysis of side effects extracted from drug labels.

January 13th marked the culmination of an independent study coauthored with my roommate. Using only publicly-available data, we identified an association between lung cancer and elevation. The study spurred interest in the topic and received lots of attention. It currently ranks in the 99.9th percentile of articles tracked by Altmetric. PeerJ’s question feature and my blog served as post-publication venues for further investigation. The study cost no money and illustrates how open data facilitates citizen science.

While personally motivated by ideology, I know the move to openness must be driven by incentives. I hope to illustrate the benefits by example, but am also a hardened and vocal advocate. I am committed to CC BY and CC0 licensing for my work. And when training new scientists, open science is a large part of my curriculum.

What is your interest in Open Access, Open Education and/or Open Data and how does it relate to your work?

I predict new uses for existing drugs by mining the union of many diverse datasets. My project integrates over 20 public databases and depends on open source tools.

Two consequences of open science attract me: hastening discovery and enabling anyone to be a scientist.

I yearn to see the reality behind shadows. Alone this is impossible; I will always remain a prisoner. But together, through the crossbreeding of our works, we can escape the cave.

Newton’s quote from 1676 is no longer true. If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of dwarfs that together dwarf the giants.

How would you use your experience at OpenCon to advance Open Access, Open Education and/or Open Data?

Our weapons are immaterial — crowdsourced knowledge, open source, the public domain, and technical standards — yet nonetheless require a coordinated sharpening.

Central authority is antithetical to open science. The open scientist limits herself only by the bounds of possibility and heeds no artificial constraint. How then, without a ruler, does a decentralized community coordinate? Can an army of isolated heretics wage war on a unified front? The soldiers must be brought together.

OpenCon 2015 is that gathering. With an assembly of 163, 13,203 peer-to-peer interactions are possible. And which interactions occur will determine the future of science.