Saturday, May 30, 2009

e-biosphere London

I am on my way to sit on panel 6 at the forthcoming e-biosphere meeting in London. Wouter Los produced this abstract for our pannel, where we should talk about how bioinformatics is changing community policies and practices in areas such as data sharing, intellectual property rights, and open access publication.

"The worlds of Biodiversity Knowledge and of Informatics are meeting at exiting interfaces. There are the scientific and technical challenges to get a grip on the complexity of these interfaces. But especially cultural and sociological contraints put a barrier on what is technologically achievable. What works and does not in the effort to get people to share biodiversity data? What are the perspectives of the dataprovider (enablers), and what can we learn from experiences in contributing institutions?
The need and role of data publishing regimes can be discussed in facilitating increased discovery and access to primary biodiversity data. There are socio-political barriers and the question is how to overcome these. Which are the appropriate policies? We still work like twenty years ago and biodiversity informatics is not part of a biodiversity science curriculum. The science structure did not change and adopt neither to global questions nor follow globalization in science, eg Internet and digitalization and with that potential of sharing data. We will stay in the past century when there is no commitment from our institutions to collectively open up biodiversity information.
Biodiversity information and knowledge is structured and would assume a global biodiversity infrastructure created from top down. Such important initiatives were implemented in the last years. However, real innovation comes from a rapidly increasing number of individual scientists that open up their archives and often ingenious bits of software assembled from an even more incredible amount of tools that serve their best interests. They are seeing the advantage to collaborate in small but increasingly fast growing clubs that enhance their scientific process of discovery, and are willing to share their knowledge beginning with semantically enhanced, cross-linked publications. Classic intellectual property rights on information are replaced by other values.
“Community” is important to biodiversity scientists, as it is for people in general. Which are the approaches and tools that provide individual, social rewards when individuals and institutions foster broad knowledge sharing and the public good. What are the roles of cooperation, Darwinian competition, and trust in data sharing? What are the boundaries of a biodiversity research community or of traditional “owners” of information and knowledge? And do we have to consider a balance between the conditions for bottom-up and top-down approaches or just for a single straight forward solution?

So, what are those issues? Has biodiversity informatics really changed something in our communities, or rather enabled to continue with more of the same but in a faster way? Does this BI really change our modus operandi?


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