Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Special issue of Nature on Big Data (Sept 3, 2008)

September 3 (electronically) Nature devoted a segment of an issue to "big data". The hard copy journal was published Sept. 4, v. 455, issue no. 7209.
It includes a commentary, "How do Your Data Grow?" by Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information. Two news features: operations at a "petacentre" - facility which handles petabytes of data - by blogger Cory Doctorow, and one about using wikis to make sense of the mountains of data generated by genomics and other fields.
Another article explores visualization, not just for presenting data, but using it to design the original experiments ("Distilling Meaning from Data" by Felice Frankel and Rosalind Reid). In "The Next Google" a number of visionaries predict what the next big thing might be, from robots to RFI tags, to the Semantic Web and video visors. The longer piece is about data curation for biological information.
Some food for thought here.
Note: Some content is available only on the electronic journal. The link goes to a page called "NatureNews". I noticed that there are more articles on the internet and in the hard copy journal that aren't linked to this "NatureNews" page.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Scientist as Politician

To read this article you need to be registered with The Scientist website.
Here's the first bit:

The Scientist
Volume 22 Issue 9 Page 73
By Edyta Zielinska

The Scientist as Politician
So you want to change the world? It's easier than you think.

When Kathy Barker was a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School during the 1980s, she knew she wanted to do more than just bench work on polymorphonuclear leukocytes, a first line of defense against infection. At that time, the United States was in the midst of its involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and Barker decided to invite speakers to talk about US foreign policy, encouraging her colleagues and friends to attend. "There were people who looked down on me," she says. "You were supposed to be doing science and not other things." Barker's thick skin saved her from too much bruising. It was only the first of many civic actions she would take.

Political issues can crop up even closer to home. When Barker recently learned about a creationist biology teacher in her daughter's school district who refused to teach his students evolution, "I came in with my guns shooting," she says. In retrospect, Barker admits, it may have been the wrong approach. "It didn't earn me any friends," who could have helped her sway the school board. While she made little immediate progress in her first attempt, she learned the school board was resistant because it might mean ousting their only science teacher. She now plans to petition officers of the school district.