Accelerating Science Discovery - Join the Discussion

Published by Nena Moss

My mother died in March 2010 after a 15-year battle with Alzheimer’s, so I pay particular attention to news about this dreadful disease. A recent New York Times article caught my eye: “Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer's.”

How did sharing data lead to progress on Alzheimer’s?  A collaborative effort, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, was formed to find the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain. The key was to share all the data, making every finding public immediately – “available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world.”
 
Published by Dr. Jeffrey Salmon
Writer

 

One of the more fascinating pieces of work at a DOE National Laboratory was the examination of an ancient work by Archimedes on parchment that had been erased, written over, and so, mostly, lost to history. Lost, that is, until the SLAC synchrotron X-ray beam tore into the parchment and was able to let us see and read much of the original Archimedean text. Archimedes would have used a lab notebook, if he had had paper, or a computer and a thumb-drive to record his work if they had been available, but he did not live long enough to invent those things, which he probably could have if given the time. One hopes that before his study was erased, others were able to read it, profit from its insights, and use the knowledge as a springboard to another discovery. That’s one way we make progress.

We often hear that with declining costs in storage, increased bandwidth, and faster processing speeds, the power and potential of the electronic age to spread and communicate science are amazing things to ponder. I guess. But the work can still be lost, no matter how it is recorded. And some material, let’s face it, isn’t worth saving. Between this blog and Archimedes’ method of mechanical theorems, the work that SLAC was looking at, which would you save? What is needed now, as then, is someone to care about preserving the scientific findings that are worth preserving.

Published by Dr. William Watson

OSTI's current services accelerate science through what is largely a kind of card file.  We point people to particular pieces of literature or data that meet certain search criteria.  From there, people can build on what those pieces of information tell them and achieve new discoveries and inventions. 

Published by Dr. Walt Warnick
Search Engines

 

The success of Google has been so profound that the word “Google” is now considered a verb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_(verb) “To Google” has come to mean to search the web via the free search engine provided by Google, Inc. The adjective derived from the verb “Google” is “Googleable.” Similarly, the antonym of “Googleable” is “non-Googleable,” which turns out to be an especially useful word. For most practical purposes, the term “non-Googleable” is synonymous with the phrase “deep web.” The major difference between the word and the phrase in a world where Google, Inc., is the largest capitalized company is that the term non-Googleable is intuitively understood.

 

Anyway, it is generally acknowledged among students of the web that the bulk of the information in it is non-Googleable, a fact which typically comes as a surprise to people who do not study the web. In particular, the information residing in databases is often non-Googleable, and it often happens that scieintific and technical information resides in databases of documents.

 

Published by Dr. Walt Warnick
OSTI Employees

 

The notion that science progresses only if knowledge is shared is the reason that OSTI wascreated in 1947. Documents sent to and from President Franklin Roosevelt near the end of World War II included this rationale for sharing knowledge, and the concept was incorporated into the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 which led to the creation of OSTI.

 

In recent years the advent of the web has opened up the possibility of sharing knowledge with orders of magnitude more people and making it heretofore unimaginably easier to find and use. The possibility of sharing knowledge faster and better led us to formulate the OSTI Corollary in the mid-2000s: If the sharing of knowledge is accelerated, discovery is accelerated. In mathematical parlance, the Corollary might be considered the time derivative of the concept.

 

The Corollary seemed rather intuitive to us, but in an attempt to add authority to it, in 2005 we commissioned a rigorous literature search to learn who else in the history of science or knowledge management had stated it. We anticipated that we would be making speeches that said, “According to Professor Muckety-Muck, discovery can be accelerated by accelerating the spread of knowledge.” We were thus surprised when that literature search was unable to find any indication that the thought had been previously pursued or recorded.