Opening up new avenues on the web for researchers — Open Science Lab at TIB Hannover

In 2013, a new team will be starting work at the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB for short), namely the Open Science Lab. This is where novel web applications for researchers will be tested and (further) developed in close coordination with interregional user communities. All of the results generated will promptly be made accessible to the public, even if they concern only preliminary or experimental applications. The Lab seeks to undertake a wide range of cooperative activities with other interested parties (individual software developers, publishing companies, libraries, and so on), and intends to raise third-party funding for new developments.

Research on the web — some may think this comprises getting traditional journal articles in pdf format, as opposed to in print form. Many other, however, exploit the possibilities offered by the web much more intensively: researchers blog and twitter. (Incidentally, not only American natural scientists.) They share raw data and provisional results ad hoc with interested parties on the web. One of the success stories of such collaboration was the ability to decipher the genome of the pathogen that caused the outbreak of EHEC in summer 2011. In addition, scientists post comments about their work, and make their research findings available to Wikipedia and similar undertakings. They try out new web applications and develop their own programme codes, which they then make accessible to others. They endeavour to obtain (co)financing for new research projects from the net community.

We are excited about these new possibilities and — as information specialists — are frankly fascinated by the many associated problems that are simply waiting to be resolved or, in other words: to be transformed into interesting new methods and tools.

One example of such a development was generated at the DataCite Workshop in Cologne in December 2012 (see The role played by TIB in DataCite), which neurobiologist Björn Brembs reports about in his blog. A recent development was achieved with DataCite and CrossRef, which ensure that structured metadata can be retrieved using a DOI. This doesn’t sound particularly sexy, and yet it paves the way for a new generation of literature management programmes that no longer get bogged down in bibliographical details.

Many other problems of this nature are waiting to be identified and resolved. For instance, what about the metadata concerning a blog article that I wish to cite correctly — would it be possible to retrieve such data in a similar way, too? Or another problem: What about if I want to know which scientific articles by physicists across the globe were twittered about most frequently last month? In light of the growing use of Twitter by researchers, this is a question that is not at all bizarre — and it ought to be possible to find a solution to it.

Despite this large number of conceivable mini applications, one thing is clear: researchers will always only be „at home“ at a few sites on the web, that is they will search, work and publish almost exclusively on these sites. One such website is arXiv. As the Open Science Lab, we seek to expand or enhance such platforms that are truly relevant to researchers. We believe that the programme code and, in particular, the processed data from such platforms that are relevant to research should be freely available. (One consequence of this is that we also make our own catalogue data available under a free license.)

A key frame of reference for enabling Open Science Lab to undertake joint projects with others is the new strategic Leibniz research network Science 2.0, co-founded by TIB. We also follow with great interest other initiatives in the area, such as the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Science Federation.

We regularly hold events that give participants the opportunity to find out more about Open Science, to discuss the phenomenon and to explore new avenues together. If you wish to meet us at specialised conferences or at any other opportunity, simply contact us!

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Lambert Heller

Open Science Lab bei TIB
A librarian, speaker & consultant working at TIB's Open Science Lab. Into: Scholarly online practices, decentrailzed Web, and more. @Lambo on Twitter.

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