Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review of Open Science Summit 2010, #OSS2010

I have been attending Open Science Summit 2010 at Berkeley, CA and although not quite finished yet I feel like I can give an overall review of what I thought of the conference. You can check out my individual comments during the conference on Twitter.

I would like to state that in general I am grateful and respect the work that Joseph Jackson and the organizing committee conducted to make this open science conference a reality. It is a tremendous amount of effort and the following is only meant as a constructive criticism for possible open science summit conferences in the future.

Pros
  • Bringing together a very intelligent diverse group of speakers. Good mix of policy makers, developers, traditional scientists, biotech, young and old, etc.
  • Great use of technology. Providing a live video stream of conferences is an idea that I wish more conferences implemented. Also, using backchan.nl is a nice additional add-on that couples well with the live video stream.
  • Willingness to try to adapt (as much as possible) to conference attendees comments via twitter, back channel, etc.
Cons
  • No scheduled breaks. Breaks are needed for numerous practical reasons: people need bathroom breaks, time to get some fresh air, and time for talks to get back on schedule. Even more importantly, it allows people to mingle. People travel to conferences so that they can get a chance to connect with people face to face (otherwise they would just watch the online feed).
  • No time for Q & A. Questions immediately after speakers not only is informative, but gives a temporary "mind break" for the audience. It also gives time for IT to get the next presentation queued. Note: this did tend to improve as the conference proceeded.
  • Too many speakers. Having 25 speakers in a single day (without parallel sessions) is just too much information for people to take in and sit through.
Additional lessons learned
  • A no slide presentation is not a guarantee that it will be a good one.
  • Videos do not always make a presentation better.
  • Having 2 or more speakers from the same organization or having the exact same opinion is not really beneficial.
Comments from FriendFeed

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I feel like the organizer deserves a B+ for effort, but overall the meeting failed. I wouldn't attend again - but then I doubt there will be a next year.

Mitsu Hadeishi said...

I disagree. The conference was a clear success: for the most part, great speakers, very important subject matter, good presentations. Far better conference than many, much more inspiring and informative. Yes, the lack of planned breaks was clearly a mistake, there were some presentation bobbles, the lack of schedule discipline leading to the elimination of one panel on the first day was also crazy, etc., but these are reasonable first-time glitches. I hope the conference only gets bigger next year, as these are matters that deserve far more attention and this is an exceptionally timely topic.

My other comment would be that there ought to be more speakers from fields other than biomedicine. I loved hearing about many of the issues there, but there's a lot more to open science than this. I also believe adding in people from the quantified self movement would be very useful.

Jacob said...

I would also disagree with Mr. Anonymous. Without digressing into reasons why a person attending an open science forum may not be comfortable using their real name I will simply say that I took a lot from this conference, look forward to interacting with the folks I connected with, and plan on attempting to encourage more open science ideas and activities in my small college town using the information and services described throughout the conference. In one word: inspired.

Daniel said...

If that was a clear success I'd hate to see what you call an unsuccessful conference. It was a clear FAIL. Important subject but horrible execution by organizers that were obviously over their head. Great speakers - those who got to speak, it would be easy to argue that the best speakers were cancelled in a "Ack what's going on??" last minute discussion. Im not wasting my money on this next year if they do try to have it again, there are too many better conferences on the same subject

Jessy Cowan-Sharp said...

I absolutely hope the conference happens again. It reflects a certain level of "readiness" of an open science movement, and to a certain extent whether and how it happens again is up to all of us to make the most of what happened at the event, warts and all, to learn, collaborate, and to build momentum until next time.

I agree with Mitsu that I would really like to see a greater diversity of sciences represented next time, but enjoyed learning about the bio community.

The main bummer for me was not having a push to develop any outputs from the event. A common statement of intention or purpose, a list of things the community thinks need working on, even identification of major challenges or possible projects or collaborations, etc.

I wonder how many people are on OKFN's open science mailing list, or if another location for follow on projects/discussions should be started? Any thoughts on that?

Kishore Hari said...

Conferences in year one are always a mess. Expectations sound like they were way too high for many. I very much enjoyed connecting with a wide array of scientists and some presentations/minor debates were intriguing.

That being said, I find the misses of the conference indicative of the movement in many ways. Unfocused, fragmented, often simply advertisements for passion projects - it's hard to call open science a cohesive movement based on what I saw.

I wasn't disheartened by the mess, it is the state of things. These conferences are necessary to reach a level of maturity - but the focus should be on bringing people together and exchanging ideas. I'd like to see it continue.

Anonymous said...

While I like the idea of a streamed conference, what I see missing are archives of the presentations that people can download and view at their leisure.

Does anyone know where these presentations are being offered for view on the internet after the live feed was cut off?

Morgan Langille said...

I have also not found an archive of the live video feed. I presumed one would be made eventually.