Love Your Data—And Let Others Love It, Too

Love your research data and let others love it, too
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[Lire en français]

The Projects initiative is a Digital Science endeavour. Projects is a desktop app that allows you to comprehensively organise and manage data you produce as research projects progress. The rationale behind Projects is that scientific data needs to be properly managed and preserved if we want it to be perennial. There’s indeed a worrisome trend showcasing that every year, the amount of research data being generated increases by 30%, and yet a massive 80% of scientific data is lost within two decades.

Projects and open science data-sharing platform figshare published an impressive and pretty telling infographic on science data preservation and chronic mismanagement [scroll down to see it]. What struck me looking at these numbers is neither the high-throughput data production nor the overall funds it requires – 1,5 trillion USD spent on R&D! – but the little to no information on public policies aimed at solving the problem.

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Technology for Better Governance in MENA

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SafirLab brings together young people with media and civil society initiatives from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). SafirLab is a joint effort by l’Institut Français and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its media cooperation branch, CFI. SafirLab sees itself as an accelerator for projects that youth from the MENA region aims to drive forward.

The 2013 SafirLab edition was its second one, taking place 18-29 November 2013 in Paris.

I was invited by to mentor, with a focus on technology for transparency and better governance. Other mentors, we were happy to interact with include Tariq Krim, the founder of Netvibes and JoliDrive, and Morgane Tual, a blogger and journalist at Le Monde interested in ‘ethical tech’.

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#HackDataCulture, Automne Numérique and the Public Domain

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I was invited to participate in a series of events organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, MCC). In the Ministry’s framework for cultural and art education, three events were organised:

  • 23 Nov 2013: a day dedicated to public domain works mashup at ENSCI Les Ateliers, an art-design school in the heart of Paris. I was a mentor this day;

Public domain mash-up, #MashupENSCI | Mash-up du domaine public. #MashupENSCI. CC-by-SA 3.0

Public domain mash-up, #MashupENSCI | Mash-up du domaine public. #MashupENSCI. CC-by-SA 3.0

  • 25-27 Nov 2013: a 52-hour long hackathon, the first-ever such event organised by the Ministry and revolving around cultural Open Data (more than 150 datasets released by the MCC); I was invited by the Ministry to be a member of the jury;

The jury deliberating. (Le jury est en train de délibérer ! Les équipes seront jugées sur les données publiques mobilisées, l’utilité, le design et le caractère innovant du service.)

The jury deliberating. (Le jury est en train de délibérer ! Les équipes seront jugées sur les données publiques mobilisées, l’utilité, le design et le caractère innovant du service.)

  • 7 Nov 2013: the closing day of the Automne Numérique culminated unveiling the hackathon winners and an announcement of new initiatives the MCC has engaged into in favour of Open Culture.

Learn more about the events on the Ministry’s C/Blog (in French).

Open Data Index 2013: Fundamental Public Sector Data Still Unavailable in MENA

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Rayna Stamboliyska, the founder of RS Strategy and Open MENA, served as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Editor for the Open Data Index.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done.

The Open Data Index 2013 is the first assessment of openness of fundamental government data in the Middle East and North Africa, including full scorecards for six countries (Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen). The six countries from the Middle East, featured in the Index, globally show very low openness.

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RS Strategy at the Open World Forum

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RS Strategy actively contributed to this year’s edition of the Open World Forum. As previously mentioned, I curated the programme for and organised the Open Data track. Experts from Morocco, the French national railway company SNCF, and the French Prime Minister’s Open Data Taskforce Etalab shared views on opening governance and public sector data.

I also gave two talks:

“Open Data in Science and Research” (track ‘Public Policies’), introducing the audience to the vital importance of opening up scientific research:

(also view directly on Slideshare)

“Big Data, Bad Data” (closing keynote, with Romain Lacombe from French Prime Minister’s Taskforce Etalab and Rand Hindi from :SNIPS), a critical look at the misconceptions ‘big data’ can endorse — and how to account for them:

(also view directly on Slideshare)

[Announcement] OKCon Open & Citizen Science hackday: submissions

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I’ve already announced the OKCon ‘Open & Citizen Science satellite event’. As you may remember, we launched idea submissions several days ago. The detailed descriptions are below. You can vote for your favourite one and join us geeking out next Thursday, Sept 19. Don’t hesitate to get back to us either via Twitter (@MaliciaRogue, @stefankasberger) or via mail.

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Syria’s vanishing history

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[This was first published on Nature Middle East.]

The war in Syria is laying waste to ancient monuments and artefacts, while archaeologists and citizens scramble to protect what they can.

Syria’s rich cultural heritage, which stretches back to the beginnings of human history, is at risk as fighting ravages the country.

Gathering accurate information is a challenge, but despite the violence, archaeologists and citizens have been trying to document the destruction of historical sites in the wake of all international archaeological missions leaving Syria.

From Babylonians to Arabs and the Crusaders, numerous civilisations have left their mark on Syria. Six of the country’s sites appear on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list: Damascus, Aleppo, the Crac des Chevaliers, Palmyra, Bosra and the Ancient Villages in Northern Syria. Hundreds of monuments are on UNESCO’s Tentative List, and the national heritage register also boasts a wealth of treasures.

Since the unrest began in March 2011, the destruction of cultural sites has often been reported. The cause of damage ranges from shelling and gunfire to army occupation and bombing. Rampant looting and illegal developments on unguarded archaeological sites is also rife.

Syria’s Directorate-General of the Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) is the authority in charge of the maintaining, safeguarding and preserving the country’s heritage, but the ongoing conflict makes DGAM’s remit increasingly difficult.

Before the violence started, about 180 national and international archaeological missions were represented in Syria, but they all left the country in 2011.

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[Announcement] Open and Citizen Science in the heart of Europe

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Stefan Kasberger from OKFn Austria and myself are organizing this one-day workshop as an OKCon satellite event. Join us!

Thursday 19 September, 10:00 – 17:00 @ Centre Universitaire d’Informatique Université de Genève, Auditorium, Ground Floor

Coordinators: Stefan Kasberger (Open Knowledge Foundation Austria) and Rayna Stamboliyska (Open Knowledge Foundation France), in collaboration with Daniel Lombraña González (Citizen Cyberscience Center / Citizen CyberlabFrançois Grey (Citizen Cyberscience Center / University of Geneva), Margaret Gold/ Brian Fuchs (Citizen Cyberlab The Mobile Collective)

Hacking science makes us happy. If it makes you happy, too, then, this year’s Open Knowledge Conference is the place to be!

Indeed, OKCon 2013 is where an amazing bouquet of insights from Open and Citizen science will converge. But if you thought there would be only food for the brain, you were wrong. A satellite event will take place on 19 September aiming at giving space for everyone to actually get great things done.

With our friends Daniel Lombraña González (Citizen Cyberscience Center / Citizen Cyberlab) François Grey (Citizen Cyberscience Center / University of Geneva), Margaret Gold/ Brian Fuchs (Citizen Cyberlab The Mobile Collective), we have come up with a way allowing everyone to take part to this exciting day.

I have an idea!

We know you do. Hence, we have a dedicated form ready for you to submit a short description of what you are keen to work on. You can also indicate what additional competences you need in order to get your project done.

Idea submission will be running from today until 10 September. Every week, we will be updating everyone (through the Open Science mailing list) telling you about the new ideas submitted. In addition, a community call will be scheduled to discuss and narrow down these ideas so that they actually become feasible within one-day long hands-on sprint.

Working together

The idea of the satellite event is to geek out together. On 11 September, we will be publishing a poll with all ideas so that you can be able to vote for the project you want to work on on Day D. Voting will run until 18 September.

Do not forget to bring your favourite geeking gear (laptop, some flavour of mobile device or a fancy notebook in the perfect 1.0 fashion). We will have WiFi, cookies and fun!

The workshop space can accommodate up to 45 people. To sign-up, express your interest in the topic and get in touch with the coordinators please write to openandcitizenscience@okcon.org.

Losing Egyptian heritage: losing tidbits of humankind history

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[This was originally published on Nature Middle East.]

As political unrest continues in Egypt, thieves have attacked a museum in the country’s south, stealing or burning evidence of thousands of years of history.

While Egypt focused on violent outbreaks in the rest of the country, raiders broke into the halls of the Malawi National Museum and ransacked its collections on two consecutive nights, stealing or destroying almost all of its artefacts.

The museum, 300 Km sound of Cairo in the Upper Egypt city of Minya, is a little-known cultural centre, but is home to a rich and diverse collection that spans Egyptian history from Greco-Roman to the 18th Dynasty eras. Many of the antiquities housed in the museum date back to the eras of the pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti; some are animal mummies and statues dedicated to the worship of the Egyptian god Thoth, a deity represented with the head of an ibis.

Looters are widely believed to be supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. But Monica Hanna, an Egyptian archaeologist at Humboldt University of Berlin, closely following the events, blamed the looting on “people’s greed under political and religious cover.”

Archaeologists and museum workers have started to identify and list the stolen objects, believed to number around 1,040. According to preliminary evaluations, 1040 of the 1089 artefacts that the museum housed have so far been reported missing. The Facebook page “Egypt’s Heritage Task Force”, launched by Hanna in June in response to a growing number of thefts from Egyptian heritage sites, has an updated album of images of the stolen items.

“All small pieces of the Malawi museum are completely looted, and all of them are from the Amarna Period,” says Hanna. The Amarna Period art is distinctive from more conventional Egyptian art styles, with artists of the era opting for a more relaxed, realistic portrayal than the traditional stylized and rigid formality of previous dynasties.

According to reports, in the second raid, the museum was set alight and objects not stolen on the first night were badly burnt. Objects too heavy to carry out of the museum, such as wooden and stone sarcophagi, have been severely damaged. “Two mummies were burnt down, but fortunately two others could be saved as well as a huge number of fragments,” says Hanna.

Yesterday, curators from the Malawi National Museum confirmed that five painted wooden sarcophagi, two mummies and a papyrus handwritten in Demotic, as well as a collection of broken ancient statues, have been sent for restoration.

Once archaeologists complete the investigations and finalize a list of stolen objects, it will be distributed to all Egyptian ports to thwart any smuggling attempts. All missing artefacts will be put on UNESCO’s red list to avoid being smuggled and sold on the international antiquities market. “Egypt’s Heritage Task Force contacted INTERPOL immediately, independently of the Ministry of Antiquities, and alerted the International Council of Museums and the International Committee for Egyptology,” adds Hanna.

The Ministry of Antiquities also announced a campaign to retrieve stolen objects, offering compensation for those who will return the artefacts. The al-Ashmounein storehouse near the museum is receiving the returned antiquities, but so far, only two objects have been returned, according to Hanna.

Vandalism of museums is frequently reported in times of major political disturbances. Additionally, looting of Egyptian archaeological sites has been on the rise as the black market for antiquities grows.