Piracy in science

So… do I dare google for Sci-Hub, to see for myself what it is all about? I know it is a site that illegally offers more than 60 million scientific papers, grabbed from behind the publisher’s paywalls and libraries’ authentication screens and offered to be downloaded for free. I also know that its founder Alexandra Elbakyan has been featured on Nature.com as one of 10 people that mattered in 2016 [1]. If everyone’s using it or is at least checking it out, shouldn’t I be allowed a little peak?

Sci-Hub.org started in 2011 when Elbakyan decided to help others with her skills to circumvent legal access when she could not get or afford to pay for the articles she needed for her own research project. In 2015 she got sued by Elsevier which led to her losing the Sci-Hub.org domain [2]. However, Elbakyan would not give up, motivated by weekly thank-you notes, some with financial support [1] and supportive tweets [3], she moves to other domains when necessary.

An online survey by Science Magazine last May, showed that only 12% of the more than 10,000 respondents thought it is wrong to download pirated papers and 59% of the respondents admitted to having done so a few times (33%) or even daily / weekly (26%) [4].  And it’s not just people who don’t have access. Even scholars who’s institutional or academic libraries pay heavy license fees to offer the content through their websites or Discovery systems, still seem to prefer the easy, hassle-free Sci-Hub, or simply want to support the pressure piracy sites put on publishers to move towards open-access business models.

I dare. The user interface is in Russian, but it’s so easy to use there is no need to translate. I copy-paste a DOI from an article (2016) related to a project I am working on and in less than a second, there it is. One click, no messy splash page. Just the content. OK, I get the appeal. The only English button asks me to donate with Bitcoin.

Screenshot 2017-01-25 10.54.15

One more example of how scientific readers are taking control is #ICanHazPDF a popular hashtag on Twitter. When you want an article you can’t access, you tweet the DOI or URL with this hashtag and wait for one of your followers to mail it to you. Then you are supposed to delete the tweet… [5]. This practise is not always piracy, as the article you get might be a preprint or the author’s version, legitimately published in green OA in an institutional repository. Or you might get it directly from the author, a common practise that is allowed by most publishers, see for example Elsevier’s Sharing Policy [6]

Open Access as a default, we are working hard to get there. Libraries will try to maintain a relevant collection for its patrons, but cannot afford to provide access to all scientific content that is wanted or needed. In the meantime: be open, publish open access yourself and if you cannot access what you need: try document delivery / Inter Library Loan. We do not promote piracy, but we need to be aware of what is happening globally and how that is affecting the scientific community. We’ll keep you informed.

[1] – http://www.nature.com/news/nature-s-10-1.21157accessed 20-1-2017
[2] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sci-Hub – accessed 20-1-2017
[3] – http://www.nature.com/news/paper-piracy-sparks-online-debate-1.19841– accessed 20-1-2017
[4] – http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/survey-most-give-thumbs-pirated-papers – accessed 20-1-2017
[5] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICanHazPDF – accessed 25-1-2017
[6] – https://www.elsevier.com/about/company-information/policies/sharingaccessed 25-1-2017


Augmented reality in education has become more a trend thanks to Pokémon Go

Augmented reality is not a new technique; it has been used in Google Glass and Microsoft Holograms many years ago. But unfortunately Google Glass was no success, maybe because there were no gamification elements included. Augmented reality has many possibilities and can be used in education in different ways such as in flight academy, industrial design, medical training or architecture. It is very useful for studies like industrial design and other studies where students have to make a model. Students or companies can make a prototype and test it for some aspect of design (IKEA Augmented Reality).

IKEA Augmented Reality

There is also an application for pilots, learning to fly with augmented flying helicopter in difficult situations [1]. Augmented Reality can help pilots to get more information, especially in a situation such as during bad weather.

Glasses Help Helicopter Pilots See Through Smoke and Fog

Augmented reality is widely used in medical education on different levels, for example learning new skills to students and nurses with new training products but also monitoring difficult surgery on distance [2]. The difference between virtual and augmented reality is that in the first one the patient is virtual in contrast to the augmented reality where the patient and his/her problems are real. Because of augmented reality students can start practicing earlier with real patients in a monitored setting instead of longer practicing in simulated situations with virtual reality.

Augmented Reality Helps Guide Neurosurgeons

Thanks to Pokémon Go augmented reality is now big success as a gaming business model. Pokémon Go is a very popular game on the mobile phone, as one of the most downloaded games (more than 100 million) in more than 27 countries [3]. In contrast to other games, Pokémon Go forces you to walk around, go out of your house and your comfort zone. You have to be physically and mentally active; find and catch virtual Pokémons in the real-world, going to Pokémon-stop places for more information and catch items, finding strategies to make stronger Pokémons and reach higher levels. A negative aspect of this game is the security for the players and possible inconvenience for non-players. This is caused for example by the Pokémon players going out at night and/or going to dangerous places to find Pokémon. Success of Pokémon goes so far that this year, Pokemon Go is part of a degree course in the university of Idaho (US) and Salford (UK) [4] [5].

Like every other game, after a while Pokémon Go will not be a hype anymore. But what will remain, is our knowledge and experience of platforms like Pokémon Go, which will be the mainstream in augmented reality. They are very interesting to use for different causes. As an example, in architecture education this platform can be used by teachers to load some educational material and create some exercises. Students can follow the descriptions to find a place and take a picture using the coordinates of the place. This kind of technology probably would be used more and more for education in the future. More importantly, augmented reality is going to reach a next level in our life. As Meron Gribetz pointed in his TED Talks, “Augmented reality uses all data that we make everyday and builds an extra layer on top of our real-world”.

TED Talk Meron Gribetz

[1]VR and IT’S impact on training
[2]New system brings augmented reality to the operating theater
[3]Pokemon go heres how you can defeat any gym battle

[4]Now university offers degree Pokemon Lecturer

[5]Pokemon Course in Idaho

A Day in the Life of a (Serious) Researcher

How would you design a research library to respond to the preferences and needs of today’s researchers?” were the librarians of Cornell University asking, in their quest to envision the future Research Library.

To answer to this question, the librarians had to hear from researchers themselves. They realised they had to accept the evidence and understand what research means for a researcher. Finding the researchers’ work patterns and their main struggles could be the key to finding what kind of responsibilities could the future research library assume in order to serve its purpose.

With no precedent for such an approach, the librarians had considered the following:

The evidence: it was obvious that today’s researchers work differently than twenty years ago (for example) because of the “unpredictable change in the way information is created, stored, transmitted and used”. They had to look at their new practices, places & spaces, resources and tools, wires and equipments.
What research requires: the research library is expected to respond to the needs and pressures of three “stakeholdes”: the common good (the research partners and the society) – knowledge flow, the institution – role in the campus and budget distribution and the individual researcher – faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students.
Towards the model of the Future Research Library: there are clear core practices that have to stay, like access to information – organised and findable and new services, like an increasing role in publishing or new specialties, like designing and developing new information technologies, all emerging for the library of the future.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 10.36.35The librarians interviewed 21 researchers and used a mapping and logging method for their study “A Day in the Life of a (Serious) Researcher”. They focused in the interviews on different aspects of a researcher’s professional life:

– academic activities
– seeking information
– library resources
– self management
– space
– circum-academic activities
– obstacles
– brainwork
– technology

The findings of their study and their insights bring us to one conclusion: there are so many ways the researchers do research that there is no way the library could serve all their individual needs. Instead, the analysis of all the work patterns resulted into three main spheres of practice:

  • the process of research
  • academic networking
  • managing self

The way Cornell University Library imagined they could approach the researchers needs in these spheres of practice and empower the researchers to achieve their academic research goals lead to a model of the future Research Library as an academic hub and an app store.

You can read all about it in A Day in the Life of a (Serious) Researcher – Envisioning the Future of the Research Library.



Citizen science of crowdsourcing

Nadat de wetenschap institutionaliseerde in de 19e eeuw ontstond er een scheiding tussen ‘de wetenschapper’ en ‘de burger’. De twee leefden in zeer gescheiden werelden en hadden weinig met elkaar te maken. Oorspronkelijk werd wetenschap echter juist door burgers beoefend: hoe zit dat met die maan en die zon? Kom, laat ik eens wat op een kleitablet noteren. De laatste tijd is er een tendens gaande om burgers wederom te laten participeren. Met de ontwikkelingen op digitaal gebied wordt het steeds makkelijker om actief mensen te betrekken bij onderzoek.

Tijdens het KNAW-symposium op 16 juni 2016 over citizen science werd de website Iedereen Wetenschapper gelanceerd en gesproken over (de voors en tegens van) citizen science. Een ander aandachtspunt, dat hieronder behandeld wordt, was het verschil tussen crowdsourcing en citizen science.


Hoewel er nog geen eenduidige definitie is, wordt gesproken van crowdsourcing als groepen mensen vrijwillig een bijdrage leveren bij het uitvoeren van (wetenschappelijk) werk, [1] bijvoorbeeld voor het verzamelen van gegevens.

Voordat de term crowdsourcing werd gebruikt waren er al projecten waarbij onderzoekers door burgers werden geholpen bij het verzamelen van data. Bekend is, dat onderzoekers van  het Meertens instituut [2] op huisbezoek gingen, om gegevens te verzamelen over bijvoorbeeld dialecten.
Een andere vorm van crowdsourcing is mensen inschakelen om gegevens te analyseren. Een voorbeeld hiervan is het Milky Way Project [3] waarin objecten in de ruimte worden geanalyseerd aan de hand van gedetailleerde afbeeldingen.
In beide gevallen is de onderzoeker is verantwoordelijk voor een wetenschappelijke opzet en afhandeling.
Bij een crowdsourcing project voor wetenschappelijke doeleinden zijn protocollen en controles nodig en dat blijkt ook bij het project Ja, ik wil. Hier moesten oude ondertrouwakten via gestandaardiseerde invoervelden getranscribeerd worden, waarna de transcripties nog eens extra gecontroleerd werden.
De ontwikkelingen op digitaal gebied maken het steeds makkelijker om actief mensen te betrekken bij onderzoek. Dat zie je bij dit soort analyse-projecten, en bij de jaarlijkse griepmeting en tuinvogeltelling, waarbij data wordt geleverd.

Citizen science

Weer een andere vorm van crowdsourcing wordt citizen science genoemd.
Een voorstel tot een definitie is te vinden op http://iedereenwetenschapper.nl/article/wat-citizen-science.[4] Hierin wordt gesteld dat citizen science ‘een actieve en doordachte bijdrage is van het publiek aan wetenschappelijk onderzoek’.
Ook hier blijft de onderzoeker eindverantwoordelijk voor het onderzoeksproces en de verwerking van gegevens. Een voorbeeld van citizen science waarbij van deelnemers iets meer wordt verwacht dan alleen het aanleveren of verwerken van gegevens is eTeRNA (https://librarytrends.weblog.tudelft.nl/2016/03/29/citizen-science-closing-knowledge-gaps/).[5] Deelnemers aan dit spel om RNA moleculen te ontwerpen kunnen gezamenlijk aan wetenschappelijke artikelen werken.

Wat is het nou?

Citizen science is volgens de gevolgde redenering een specifieke vorm van crowdsourcing, dus het woordje of kan worden doorgestreept.

Of gaat het verder dan dat.
Het definitievoorstel voor de term citizen science lijkt door de praktijk te zijn ingehaald. Op de gelanceerde website Iedereen Wetenschapper wordt aan burgers een bijdrage gevraagd in de vorm van data-levering en data-analyse. De oorspronkelijke crowdsourcing versmelt hiermee tot citizen science.

De verwachting is dat steeds meer onderzoekers, ook aan de TU Delft, projecten zullen opzetten, waarbij de bijdrage van burgers wordt gevraagd.
De ervaringen met citizen science zoals op het symposium gedeeld, laten zien dat onderzoekers bij een eigen project goede ondersteuning kunnen gebruiken. De Library kan hier mogelijk een rol spelen. Naast opslag en beschikbaar maken van wetenschappelijke gegevens, wat al gebeurt via 3tudatacentrum, kan de Library voorlichting geven aan onderzoekers en deelnemers over citizen science projecten. Voor ondersteuning, educatie en het uitwisselen van ervaringen zou de Library, zowel digitaal als fysiek, diensten kunnen aanbieden.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing
[2] https://www.meertens.knaw.nl/cms/nl/
[3] http://www.iedereenwetenschapper.be/projects/kijken-naar-de-geboorte-van-sterren
[4] http://iedereenwetenschapper.nl/article/wat-citizen-science
[5] https://librarytrends.weblog.tudelft.nl/2016/03/29/citizen-science-closing-knowledge-gaps/

Duurzame opslagcapaciteit voor de hele lange termijn

De opslagcapaciteit van dit glazen schijfje, 360 terabyte, is nog niet eens zo spectaculair. Bij een niet nader te noemen elektronica-gigant koop je externe schijven van 3 TB voor minder dan €200 per stuk. Maar gecombineerd met de afmetingen en vooral ook de duurzaamheid, is dit schijfje toch wel bijzonder. Het is bestand tegen temperaturen tot 1000 graden celcius en kan bij kamertemperatuur naar verwachting 14 miljard jaren mee [1]. Daarmee lijkt deze technologie uitermate geschikt voor het bewaren van belangrijke archieven van bijvoorbeeld musea en bibliotheken. En zou er iemand al zo’n grote dataset hebben? Misschien nu nog niet, maar dat kan in de komende jaren best komen.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights recorded into 5D optical data (Southampton.ac.uk)

Foto: Southampton.ac.uk: Universal Declaration of Human Rights opgeslagen in 5D optische data. Het schijfje is ongeveer zo groot als een twee-euromunt.

Het glas wordt beschreven met een ultra-fast laser. De laser creëert 5D nanostructuren in het glas. We kennen allemaal 3D (de dimensies lengte x breedte x hoogte), de andere dimensies komen van de omvang en richting van de afzonderlijke structuren. Het uitlezen gebeurt met een optische microscoop en polarisatiefilter (denk: Polaroid zonnebril) [2].

Het klinkt eenvoudig, maar dat is het waarschijnlijk niet. Wetenschapper Peter Kazansky van de University of Southampton (UK) is met zijn collega’s al 15 jaar bezig met deze technologie, die nu is bewezen door onder andere de Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, zie foto), Newton’s Opticks en Magna Carta op schijf te zetten. Er wordt gezocht naar partners om de technologie productierijp te maken [2].

[1] http://www.sciencealert.com/this-new-5d-data-storage-disc-can-store-360tb-of-data-for-14-billion-years
[2] http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2016/02/5d-data-storage-update.page

Citizen Science closing knowledge gaps

Washington Post tells us: “Three superplayers of an addictive online puzzle game have done something that Stanford University Medical School believes is unprecedented: They’ve become the first authors on a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal based on their discoveries in playing the large-scale, online video game EteRNA.”

The Journal of Molecular Biology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal where authors with solid scientific reputation publish their works. The scientific article in question was published last month by the three “citizen scientists” authors, considered amateur scientists. How is this possible?

Who gets to publish scientific articles has to go through the regular channel of working with authorities in the scientific field and then becoming a scientific authority: it’s the thread of trust in the creation of knowledge. This is the traditional way to develop one’s own expertise and get recognised by the scientific community. However, this way changed over the last decades: new educational pathways grew inside the traditional academic environment via the MOOCs but also outside them via citizen science projects.

The MOOCs are educational models that approach a large audience, with a huge impact on the global education, where the knowledge, structured in various subjects is given away: it flows from universities to people.

In the citizen scientist project model, the knowledge flows the other way around. The universities need help, they have huge projects working with big data that ask for too much money and infrastructure or too many people, all in all too much for a university to handle by itself. They need help not only in the form of funding (level 1) and distributed computer processing power (level 2) but also through crowdsourcing human-processing power – fresh, non-biased input – to analyse complex problems, images or samples (level 3) [2]. So the universities created frameworks for people to learn and challenge them to help solve problems with great impact for the whole society.

Continue reading

Crowdfunding for academia

Every university wants to encourage the entrepreneurship of its students and at the same time, increase its visibility through their output. One new way is via the social supporting models of crowdfunding (financial support from an online community) and the crowdsourcing (support with services, ideas or content from an online community). Both were a hype in 2013 but they stayed around and they were adopted by universities around the world or by non-profit organisations as valuable alternative tools for the benefit of academia.

How does this parallel fund raising track works for universities now?

In USA, the University of Oregon took an active role in hosting a website, DuckFunder, for crowdfunding their students projects. Experiment.com is crowdfunding scientific research with a team behind the scenes that examines and approves an experiment before going public.

In UK there is an non-profit organisation, Hubbub, created for students, hosting a crowdfunding website for academia, colleges and schools. They defined the Sponsors and the Creators. The Creators (at least 16 years old) offer generic small rewards to the Sponsors – the “friends of the university” – to help the process of crowdfunding and get them involved in the projects of their interest. (Learn more)

In the Nederlands, University of Maastricht is busy with offering support to its students who want to find resources to realise their ideas. Both their crowdfunding and crowdsourcing projects can be found on their page on the Pifworld (Pay It Forward World).

University of Groningen supports its researchers and students via two websites made by/with the “social enterprise” Kentaa, who says it’s working with 9 of 13 Dutch universities to help raise funds for academic research projects. There one can find the webpages of Erasmus University Rotterdam, Wageningen UR, Radboud University and Twente University.

At TU Delft, somehow the students managed to (crowd)fund their projects via different and elsewhere available platforms. Among their initiatives, the following got a well deserved attention:

  • the Ocean Cleanup by Bojan Slat completed a fundraiser in 2014 that used the ABN AMRO platform SEEDS.
  • the Leg Bank for Colombia via the 1%Club platform – completed in 2014
  • Nuna 8 closed in the summer of 2015, via Zonnepanelendelen platform, crowdfunding specifically for systems based on sun energy.
    A picture of each sponsor was placed on the Nuna 8 solar car, which ended up winning the World Solar Challenge 2015 in Australia.
  • the EcoRunner – the hydrogen powered vehicle, still fighting to raise money on Indiegogo

What if we, as a library, step in as well to support our own gifted entrepreneur students? We could give them the channel they need for getting help with funds and resources from people who care in exchange for bringing TU Delft in the news with their great ideas.

Kahoot! voor een snelle online quiz of toets

Niet nieuw, maar ik kwam het ineens op verschillende plekken tegen, dus dan is het interessant. Kahoot! is een online tool waarmee je snel en gemakkelijk aantrekkelijke online quizes, polls of toetsen kan maken voor gebruik in een interactieve presentatie. Je kan daarbij denken aan een discussie / panel sessie van een symposium, maar ook gewoon in een klassikale les.
Screenshot 2016-02-10 11.27.24
Er zijn heel veel van dergelijke tools, maar Kahoot springt er uit door het gebruiksgemak en een aantrekkelijke presentatie. Je kan meedoen met elk device: smart phone, tablet of laptop, want je hebt alleen een browser nodig (met Internet verbinding).
De deelnemers kunnen zich aanmelden met een pincode en een “nickname” dus als ze dat willen anoniem. Je kan ervoor kiezen voor punten te spelen, dan wordt het een game en worden de meeste deelnemers ineens een stuk fanatieker!
TU Delft heeft een licentie voor “Turning Point”, dat is uitgebreider en kan meer, maar dan kost het je wel wat meer tijd dan de 6 minuten (!) die ik nodig had om te registreren, een Kahoot! te maken en te testen. Bovendien ziet Kahoot er grappig uit, wat de sfeer ten goede kan komen. Ik ben een fan. Ook proberen? http://getkahoot.com