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5 May 2015 / erikduval

Open Science: a simple proposal

Last week, I spent two days discussing ‘open science’ in an EU meeting, as part of what will culminate in a meeting on “opening up to an ERA of Innovation” next month. We were asked to make suggestions for what the European Commission could do to promote the idea of open science. Most suggestions were about ‘raising awareness’, ‘removing barriers’, ‘creating incentives’, and all these other things that are no doubt very useful, but also, at least to me, rather boring…

So I tried to come up with a very concrete proposal and suggested the following:

I propose that the European Commission takes the bold step to ensure that, before the end of this decade, all metadata about all scientific publications ever published would be put in the public domain.

By all metadata, I mean things like title, authors and affiliations, but also papers cited and papers that cite a paper.

Of course, I don’t mind if the EC collaborates with our friends across the world to make this happen, but it should do this on its own if that collaboration leads to long delays.

And I know that this simple proposal doesn’t realise the vision of Open Science on its own, but I do think it will make innovation possible where it is currently very difficult to innovate because all the data is locked behind the walls of Web of Science or Google Scholar etc.

I understand that there will be some discussion about what exactly is a ‘publication’ but I think we can agree on a working definition.

If there is some budget left, then I would suggest that the European Commission also takes steps to ensure that metadata of new publications will also be added to the public domain. But if that is problematic, then it is better to ‘just’ do all publications until now rather than doing nothing. And if we really want to be bold, then we should try to put all publications in the public domain, but I realise that this is potentially difficult to do in a way that respects the law. (Although we can change the law, no?)

Anyway, my suggestion seems like a simple enough idea, that wouldn’t actually cost all that much. Actually, I have some ideas on how this could be realised ;-) But, above all, I think it would send a clear message that Europe really backs open science, and is willing to invest in concrete steps that enable it. Who could not be in favour of such a proposal?

27 April 2015 / erikduval

Open science

Today, I spoke at an event on “Social Media and Science – a wedding made in Heaven…
or in Hell?” (Spoiler: it’s a wedding made both in heaven and in hell…)

Tomorrow and the day after, I participate in an EU sponsored meeting on “A vision on Open Science in 2030”.

Seems like there’s going to be a theme to this week…

26 April 2015 / erikduval

Interested in Formula 1?

Are you interested in Formula 1 car racing? Good for you…

Some of my students are interested in Formula 1 too. And they take my course on information visualisation. So they built a visualisation of the results. And they blogged about it, so you can try it out.

I’m sure they’d love your feedback…

23 April 2015 / erikduval

Space trouble…

I’ll just pretend I’m a planet invaded by Russians from space station Vir.

You know: “viruses”…

OK. Sorry. Just trying to lighten up the mood.


Will report back when I’ve kicked them back into space…

25 March 2015 / erikduval

VISLA15 reflections…

Like Simon, I attended LAK15 last week in cold Poughkeepsie…

On Tuesday, we had our VISLA workshop on “VISual Approaches to Learning Analytics”. The workshop went really well, I think.

Attentive VISLA15 workshop audience ;-)

Attentive VISLA15 workshop audience

I had asked all presenters to spend one third of their time on presenting their own work, one third on comparing it with that of other presenters at the workshop and one third on discussion with the audience. For me, that is a way to add value to the papers at a face-2-face event. I don’t like workshops or conferences where people just present their paper, basically because I can read the paper much faster than they can present it to me ;-) … Most speakers followed my instructions and, when they didn’t, I gently (I hope!) forced them to…

Sven presenting our work at VISLA15

Sven presenting our work at VISLA15

A recurring theme at the workshop was how we can make visualisations as simple as possible, but not simpler. Sometimes, all you need is a traffic light where green means “you’re fine”, red means “you’re in trouble” and yellow means “we’re not sure”. But sometimes, you want to give more information than that, for instance to indicate how reliable the traffic light is (see Xavier’s presentation). Yet, how much more information and interaction can you provide before the visualisation gets in the way of the learning? Of course, it depends on the target audience and context…

During the breakout session, participants discussed how we could organise a VISLA16 event that would ground visualisations more in the problems that they try to address. Maybe we could organise a “call for problems”. It would be really sweet if we could connect this with datasets that participants could use to show how their visualisations addressed the problems…

VISLA breakout session discussions

VISLA breakout session discussions

I like this idea, as it makes things very concrete. It could also tie in nicely with the hackaton that was taking place in parallel with the VISLA workshop. Maybe we should combine our efforts in 2016…?

Another nice outcome of the workshop is the google document started in one of the breakout groups: the hope is that we can develop this first attempt to define research questions into a full research agenda. This would be quite useful, as it is clear that visualisations play a central role in learning analytics, as also witnessed by a number of papers on this topic in the main conference. In the mean time, you can find the VISLA15 papers and presentations on the workshop web site.

15 March 2015 / erikduval

Not (just) mr. Cancer Guy anymore…

Since a year, most of my posts here have been about my struggle with cancer.

Well, struggle… Let’s say that cancer tried to kill me, and that I underwent the chemo treatment and tried to stay alive, with the help of many friends. It didn’t feel like a struggle, it felt more like hanging in and hoping that the light I could see at the other end of the tunnel wasn’t an approaching train…

Anyway, I never stopped working. That is one thing that kept me sane. It was nice to think about other things than Life and Death. After my autologous stem cell transplant late November, I also started going back regularly to the office in January. And, after a short trip to The Netherlands 2 weeks ago, I will also start Real Work Travel again tomorrow, with a trip to New York for the LAK15 conference.


That means that there will be more non-cancer posts here in the coming weeks and months. I actually hope there will be very few cancer posts after a while, as that would probably mean cancer has become a non-issue in my life, or at least a much less important issue. I do have a next checkup scheduled for end of April, and will continue to have these checks for years to come. I also give talks and the occasional interview about my experience, but I don’t want to live the rest of my life as mr. Cancer Guy.

So, if you really enjoy my cancer posts, then there may be some more coming. But I hope you will enjoy my other posts even more. Technology! Learning! Computer science! That sounds even more fun than cancer, no?

13 March 2015 / erikduval

History of Human-Computer Interaction

This is the history of Human-Computer Interaction according to my students


They start in 1951. That is actually not too bad: I’ve had students start in 1750 or in 1985 before…

And this is how I see it

I keep being puzzled by how fast things seem to go on the one hand (I learned to program using punch cards. Which makes me about 350 years old according to some of my students), yet how slow it seems to go on the other hand (We haven’t made that much progress since Doug’s original vision.)…


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