What happens when you put around 200 motivated people in a room and let them decide what to talk about? Well, if that happens in Warkworth, New Zealand, then it is Kiwi Foo Camp. Structured as an unconference, the group introduces itself to each other start talking and, one by one, session themes are proposed which slowly populate the empty schedule board on the wall. By the end of the first night, the slots are taken, and the conference schedule is set.
And so it is that Kiwi Foo happens. (Well, actually, Nat Torkington, Jenine Abarbanel and Russell Brown make this awesomeness possible in the first place). With invited attendees coming from very different backgrounds (software developers, politicians, media, artists, scientists, etc.) the discussions that emerge develop multiple and sometimes unexpected dimensions. And they don’t disappoint: they are energizing, inspiring and as awesome as the people that participate in them, and I have spent most of the afternoon trying to formalize some ideas that were developed there.
In a previous post, I had described that as result of my first experience at Kiwi Foo I had found my lap: things started falling on it, and I started paying attention to them. (This blog is one of them.) The underlying themes of my Kiwi Foo experience last year were Education and Communities. This year, they were Openness, Data Sharing, Education, Communities and Science.
I have been thinking a lot about data sharing, in particular after participating in SciBarCamp in Palo Alto last year. As many of us, I struggle less with the question of if and more with the question of how. Data comes in different shapes and forms: we may need to develop different solutions to different data problems, and that will take time. And this is true beyond science. Bar camps and Foo Camps are a great place to discuss these issues and to start finding solutions. The good news is that policies for making data from scientifically published results are already there, like for example
- Nature Publishing Group Policies: http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/availability.html
- Public Library of Science: http://speakingofmedicine.plos.org/2009/09/23/data-sharing-after-publication/
As for me, I have taken the first step. I now have a page (albeit very primitive)on OpenWetware.org. As I try to populate it I come across this question: what do I own? Many of the protocols/data of my lab have been built through collaboration and contributions from many of my collaborators. Do I have the right to publish that without consultation, and is attribution enough? Where does my data end and my collaborator’s begin? What if they are not comfortable with me making that available? Finding a solution to this problem is the cahllenge I set for myself for 2010.
In his book “The Element”, Sir Ken Robinson discusses the power of finding one’s “tribe”:
“Finding your tribe can have transformative effects on your sense of identity and purpose. This is because of three powerful tribal dynamics: validation, inspiration, and […] the ‘alchemy of synergy’.
As for Kiwi Foo, I have been inspired, made to critically look into my world, encouraged to identify my strengths and weaknesses. successes and failures. I cannot wait to see what will develop in 2010. I just got a wonderful glimpse of what is possible; the work starts now.