While there we heard from a number of people - firstly there was feedback from each of the groups from the afternoon session (which I didn't attend), they had each discussed an aspect of science engagement online and were reporting back. I've made rather a lot of notes, and rather than completely fail to type them up all in one go (and then never get around to finishing which is my current blogging tactic) I thought I'd write it up in bits and pieces.
Then we heard from Jenny Rohn, Richard Grant and Shane McCracken with a fascinating day-by-day account of how the #scienceisvital campaign developed from a blog, some volunteers and momentum from Facebook, then Twitter and then - importantly - everyone else via email and word of mouth.
Finally we heard from one of the scientists and one of the teachers who'd been participants in I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! a while back and Sophia summed up with some pithy thoughts on online engagement.
The bit I wanted to talk about first was one of the five updates from the afternoon sessions. I think I should impress again upon anyone reading that I wasn't at the afternoon discussion and this is my impression of a brief reporting-back - so I might miss stuff.
I think the brief was that people would discuss several ways in which different communities / publics can engage / be engaged with science and scientists while taking things a little further than blogs, ie a bit more involvement and interactivity.
One example that intrigued me was from Jonathan (sorry, don't know his surname) whose group came up with the idea for some sort of database in which would be placed information about funded research in the UK. This would be open to the public, and people could monitor the progress of research and see where their money was going.
There are similar things in place for clinical trials. Trials can be given a unique registration number, which is used in published articles, and you can track its progress. I'm still always pleasantly surprised to see an NCT number in an abstract or article.
About a year ago I collected together 7 databases, mostly for clinical trials (medical research in people) and packaged them together into one URL via the Krunchd service.
I think a database of other basic research would be rather useful. My question at the allotted time was 'who would input the data?'. I wonder if this might be a bit of a sticking point. Funding bodies, eg charities, have to provide some basic information about where they money's going - there's the requirement for an annual report, but most charities take this a bit further and take the opportunity to talk in more depth about the research they're funding.
Research databases and trials registers - A non-comprehensive list of research databases, trials databases and other relevant websites.
rdb, research, database, trial, trials, clinical trials, register, registry, registries, registers, clinical, clinical research,
This information will include the institution where the work is taking place, the names of the researchers, the title of the project, how long it will last and the amount of money put towards it. That's probably what would be needed (as a minimum) in any other database, but who would input that? The funders, the researchers, volunteers scraping data from these reports, or by accessing institutions' research grants databases (RDBs)?
Many charities, and I'm assuming other funding bodies, will use bespoke RDBs and it would probably help if the contents of each record could be exported in more or less the same way... presumably people wouldn't really want to enter the data into one database and then do the same again for the 'community database'.
Hopefully these are minor issues as I think the idea's a really interesting one.
Here are the words and phrases I wrote down while Jonathan was speaking:
lack of a database for projects, academics, open data community, wider civil society, document progress of a research project, link social media, deposit data sets, API for programmes to interface, 1,000 flowers bloom :)
The database sounds like the sort of thing that gets thrashed out over one of those hack weekends - fingers crossed it does.