Polymath and open science


The Internet has inspired scientists to collaborate in new ways, such as with citizen science (posted last week).¬†Take a look at the author of this article published in the physics eprint repository, arXiv.¬†Polymath is¬†not actually a person, it is a project. It began on the blog of a mathematician (Tim Gowers) in 2009 when an open invitation was sent out for anyone to contribute to solving a math problem that remained unsolved ‚Äď it was solved in 37 days.

Polymath is a success story from the open science movement, where scientists are encouraged to share their research as early as possible in the process and not wait for formal publication. There are individuals, like Michael Nielsen (watch his Open science now! TED Talk), trying to change the culture of science and speed up scientific discovery. Open science is similar to the open access movement that aims to have journal articles openly available to all. It includes things like open notebooks where researchers keep online notes with their methods and research results (even if they were unsuccessful).

How would you encourage collaboration and openness in scientific research?

What *should* we be worried about?

Do you ever wonder what is on the minds of influential scientists, scholars, writers and artists? What are the thinkers thinking about?

The¬†Edge¬†is here to help, by probing great minds with great questions, like “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” or “How is the Internet changing the way you think?”

I’m making my way through the¬†responses to the 2013 Edge question: “What *should* we be worried about?”

Happy worrying?

Equal access to learning materials for STEM students across the globe

It’s not always easy to scratch together the money to buy an expensive textbook, and the Library does a lot to help ease the burden of those costs by buying and placing many textbooks on reserve and buying the electronic version when available. That said, it can be tough to get that reserve copy and sharing textbook costs with classmates is effective but not an all-out solution.

Autar Kaw, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of South Florida, is sensitive to the realities of how much learning materials cost. With grant money from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he has been able to turn his vision of equitable access for all into a reality. Kaw created a free, open courseware resource called Holistic Numerical Methods, promoting free access to math instruction. “Available to students across the globe, the jam-packed site offers video lectures, simulations, textbook chapters, PowerPoint presentations, multiple choice tests and worksheets to learn concepts in numerical methods (an approach that allows scientists and engineers to arrive at approximate solutions for mathematical models of problems they can’t solve exactly or that would take too long to solve).” Click here to read more about Autar Kaw, his open courseware initiatives, and his philosophies surrounding the integration of online resources with in-class instruction, along with some of the pitfalls of the ever popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Photo Courtesy of Aimee Blodgett/USF

Twittering from outer space

Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, has been tweeting about his experience living and working on the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth 16 times per day.  He flew to space on December 19th and will be returning to Earth in May.  To follow Chris Hadfield in space, visit: https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield

For information about his mission, read the Canadian Space Agency Mission Blog

Photograph of Europe’s Alps from Chis Hadfield, which was taken on New Year‚Äôs Eve from the International Space Station

Canadian Library Support Staff Day

Today, Friday, October 19, 2012, has been designated by Canadian Library Association (CLA) as “Canadian Library Support Staff Day“. Library support staff members provide a wide variety of services in the library day-to-day operations: answer your questions, lend you a laptop, help you locate a particular book on the shelf, assist you in using uPrint machines in the library, etc. As the CLA website says, ‚Äúthe purpose of the day is to celebrate and show our appreciation for the work of library technicians, library assistants, library clerks, pages, shelvers, and all other support staff members who perform daily miracles in our public, private, school, government, academic, and corporate libraries.‚ÄĚ So, if you will come to the library today for whatever reason, please do not forget to say thank you to the staff.

No plans for the long weekend? Why not catch some zzz’s?

This is one of my favourite TED Talks from Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep. It was recorded live at TEDWomen in December, 2010. She knows something about the value of sleep, having fainted from exhaustion and broken her cheekbone on her desk. If you feel exhaustion creeping up, this short pep talk may be just the thing.

Schulich Library will be closed this Thanksgiving Monday so I plan on taking her advice and getting the most out of the long weekend with a few good sleeps.

Sweet dreams!

Our principal joins the New York Academy of Sciences

‚ÄúProf. Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, has been named to the prestigious President‚Äôs Council of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). She will join 27 Nobel laureates and other prominent leaders of academia and industry from around the world on this advisory board. The mission of the Academy is to promote the resolution of society’s global challenges through science-based solutions, to support scientific literacy and to advance scientific research and knowledge.‚ÄĚ

For more information, see McGill Principal appointed to NYAS President’s Council

Image by Associated Fabrication