Introducing our Panton Fellows!

April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cross-posted from the main OKFN blog.

The Panton Fellowships are a new initiative to support scientists who promote open access to data. Funded by Open Society Foundations, the Open Knowledge Foundation are proud to welcome Ross Mounce and Sophie Kershaw as the first ever Panton Fellows.

What are the Panton Fellowships?

Many scientists believe in the benefits of open data. Many have an idea of what could be done to make open data in science more feasible, ubiquitous and routine. But what is often lacking are the time and resources to bring these ideas into fruition.

The idea behind the Panton Fellowship came from Jonathan Gray and Peter Murray-Rust, who saw an opportunity to assist innovative graduate students and career scientists to promote open science. Thanks to Open Society Foundations, the Open Knowledge Foundation were able to announce the Panton Fellowship scheme in January.

Today, we are delighted to introduce our Panton Fellows to the world!

The Process

We received fantastic first-round applications, and decided to introduce a second round of video submissions to aid us in our selection process. The videos that came back a fortnight later featured everything from daffodils to datasets, and were a real testimony to the creativity and enthusiasm of our applicants! The overall commitment to open science was inspiring, and we hope that many applicants will find ways to progress the exciting work they proposed.

After a final round of interviews, we were delighted to offer Panton Fellowships to Sophie Kershaw and Ross Mounce. We are sure that Sophie and Ross will do an excellent job, and make a great contribution to open data and open science. I leave them to introduce themselves below:

Sophie Kershaw

I am in the final year of my DPhil at the University of Oxford, where I am based in the Computational Biology group at the Department of Computer Science. My research explores the impact of tissue geometry upon the expression of subcellular biochemistry in colorectal cancer, through the development of in silico tissue simulations. These ‘virtual experiments’ are implemented through my work on the cell-based development team for Chaste, an open-source, C++ based framework for cell and tissue simulation.

Computational biology provides an ideal testing ground for open data practices, being both data-hungry and data-rich. We require readily available experimental data to parametrise our models, while our simulations produce a good deal of numeric output (and indeed code) that must be appropriately shared if our work is to be fully reproducible and extensible. My interests in open science therefore range from data handling issues, to code reuse, to science communication.

My work throughout the Panton Fellowship will centre on establishing a graduate training scheme in open science for pre-doctoral students, aiming to provide them with the skills and knowledge required to sustain an open science approach on entering the world of research. The scheme will initially run as an Oxford-based pilot before being extended further afield. I am really excited at the prospect of seeing this project develop over the next twelve months and I am very grateful to the OKFN for providing this fantastic opportunity. If you have any further questions about my work in open science or about my research in general, then please feel free to get in touch! You can contact me on sophie [dot] kershaw [at] okfn [dot] org, or follow me on twitter – @stilettofiend

Ross Mounce

Hi there, my name is Ross Mounce – I’m a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Bath studying the impact of fossils in phylogenetics. With a cross-disciplinary, informatics-based approach to palaeontology I’m hoping to wring new insights from the scientific literature through synthesis and integration of knowledge. In the process of doing this, I’ve discovered many interesting and unfortunate barriers to such research, both cultural and technical – thus I have developed a strong interest in data sharing, open science, metadata and licencing issues.

I plan to spend the duration of my Fellowship gathering evidence to document the costs of these barriers to research. I will also attempt some ‘digital data archaeology’ to resurrect, re-extract and revitalise useful palaeontological and phylogenetic data that is otherwise buried in unhelpful, un-useful and inappropriate formats in the literature, and re-release this as readily utilizable open data for the benefit of everyone. Most importantly of all, I shall endeavor to stimulate cultural change in my research communities, via publications and conference talks – to further engender an understanding and appreciation of the importance of open data in academic research.

Palaeontology has come a long way in the last few decades. It is now a highly quantitative, hugely integrative, and surprisingly innovative fully-fledged science. My work aims to complement the growth of this field in the computational space by ensuring that palaeontological phylogenetic data is given it’s due importance and properly integrated into the wider biological informatics landscape. As befits this fellowship, I’ll be doing much of this work in the open, so if you’re interested in what I’m doing, or want to know more, you can follow me here on Google Plus or Twitter @rmounce.

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