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).

Egypt: Draft Law on Internet Terrorism

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Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) has published a transcript of the draft law on combattling terrorism on the internet in Egypt. From what I’ve been told, anti-terror law has been on the table for many years  and the battle against it was that it will inscribe the emergency laws in the criminal code. It seems here that the internet is given a significant attention, at least at the first reading. Whatever the provisions, the draft law aims at legalizing pervasive surveillance and and will be a very convenient tool for jailing bloggers and all kinds of people estimated as junta-noncompliant.

Here are the most notable excerpts after a quick read-through. My comments are in blue.

The draft law contains four chapters: Chapter One is on the general provisions; Chapter Two is on punishment; Chapter Three is on procedural provisions; and Chapter Four deals with international judicial cooperation.

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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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Big Data, Bad Data: my keynote at the Open World Forum 2013

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I was honored to be giving the closing keynote at the Open World Forum 2013 in Paris on 4 October 2013, where I shared the stage with Rand Hindi of :SNIPS and Romain Lacombe of French Prime Minister’s Commission Etalab. We spoke about what big data can bring to the society, and I focused on critically discussing common misconceptions in both Big Data meaning and analysis.

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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