Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our (open) contributions to science the past week

I want to make a short post to point out the contributions to science members of my lab made last week. Our activities have really been ramping up, so I don't think we can keep up these kinds of updates, which is good! Here are the things I wanted to note:

  • Anthony started doing open notebook science. His notebook is on openwetware. Actually he started this a couple weeks ago, but I was so used to using our private wiki that I didn't notice until this week. I think Anthony has the perfect demeanor for open notebook science, so I'm thinking this is going to work out really well. There are still problems ahead, though, especially since he's going to be working in a collaborator's lab, on totally new science to him. So there will be technical (it's tough to do wet lab and wiki at same time) as well as procedural issues (some people may not be comfortable with openness).
  • Andy began posting much of the work he's done w/ Google Sketchup in his "3D warehouse." He's very talented with this application, and he's built a whole bunch of models of optical components (mostly from Thor Labs). I think these modules will be useful to others around the globe who are using Sketchup for designing optical systems. You can see one of his full designs on this youtube video. A very interesting point about that video is that he found a Sketchup model of an Olympus IX-81 microscope that another user had generously shared. Since it's pretty much the same as the IX-71 we have, it saved Andy a bunch of time--and is a perfect example of how sharing these kinds of things can speed research progress.
  • Caleb also began open notebook research. His notebook is on OpenWetWare. He's only been using the notebook for the past couple days, and he's been adding notebook features daily. For example, today he implemented a feature so he can link to differences in the code he's writing. I thought that was pretty cool. Caleb has many amazing talents with computers, networking, and that kind of stuff (I don't know the correct terminology). He set up our incredibly useful and stable lab network, which includes a windows server, exchange server, VPN, MediaWiki server, ... and I don't know how many other things that I don't even know about, but which make our research so much easier. This semester, he's leveraging those talents for the purpose of creating new tools to make open science easier for us and others who use MediaWiki. For example, he's currently working on an extension to make it easy and transparent to recover any notebook data lost due to wiki problems. Another thing we're thinking about is implementing an "email to wiki" feature, which I think would be very helpful for lab workers.

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