Archive for August, 2013

An evening talking about Open Data?? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

August 23, 2013

Originally posted at Science3Point0 on March 24th, 2012 by Graham Steel

I became aware of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) in early 2007 and immediately established contact with its Co-Founder, Rufus Pollock.
Certainly within the last year or so, I have been more actively engaged with the OKFN and have been virtually attending their monthly Open Science Working Group meetings during that period.

A few weeks ago, I spotted this tweet on Twitter alerting people to OKFN’s “first” [1] meet-up in Scotland.

Attn Edinburgh folk – OK event on March 13th Come discuss all things #OKFN #Scotland‘s 1st Meet-up! #OpenDataEDB

— Naomi Lillie (@NaomiLillie) March 1, 2012

Being a resident of Glasgow, with the meeting being held across in Edinburgh, I immediately added myself to the attendee list here.
Upon arrival at the venue on the day itself, being slightly early, I was the first to arrive followed shortly by Prof. Roderic Page who I met briefly at Science Online: London last September. Next to arrive was the organiser, Naomi Lillie who I met at the Open Research Reports hackathon in London last December. With her were Laura Newman and Sam Leon also from the OKFN. After a quick drink, the ‘flock’ of attendees present in the bar were ushered upstairs where a broom-cupboard majestic room had been booked for us.
Wowsers – WHAT a venue. Chosen by Naomi despite having never been to the Ghillie Dhu before !!

After a brief introduction and welcome by Naomi, Mark MacGillvray was the first of eight of the individuals present to give a lightening talk.

Mark talked a bit about which went Beta late February 2012 and already contains over 30,000 records. Reference was also made to bibserver which looked equally interesting.

Next up was Roderic who introduced himself as a Professor of Taxonomy at Glasgow University.

Rod’s talk was about the “Bibliography of Life” which contains 5 – 10 million species !!

His talk was swiftly followed by that of Mahendra Mahey.

Mahendra spoke about DevCSI which has been developed over the last three years. He advised that there are around 5,000 programmers/developers involved in the project here in the UK. There have been around 2,500 attendees of DEV8D events over the last four years with 7 future #DEV8D events planned for the future.

Dev8D: The best of Dev8D from UKOLN on Vimeo.

Our next speaker was Laura Newman (who did a grand job speaking publicly for the first time).

She mentioned that OKFN has around 7,000 members and has approximately 20 working groups including International groups based in 5 Continents.

Laura then told us about the Open Data initiative and that version 1.0 recently went online.  Straight after that, she told us about P2P University which in February had announced their School of Data venture. Around 200 people have already signed up.

A short break was had around this moment in time before Ewan Klein took to the floor.

Ewan gave a general overview of Open Data and cited the likes of the 1901 Census Data and spoke of the importance of making Institutional data open. Mention was also made of Semantic Web mini-projects.

Shortly after Ewan, we heard from Sam Leon.

Sam kicked off his talk by telling us about Public Domain which was about “open cultural knowledge and to promote the value of public domain, thus enriching society”. He described it further as a “commons of knowledge that can be drawn from”. Fascinating stuff !!

Next followed two impromptu talks, the first one by Etienne Posthumus.

Etienne talked to us namely about and the work being done in the Netherlands in relation to linked open data. With reflection, I knew that I had seen Etienne before, albeit not IRL. Ah, yes, it was this short clip on Vimeo where he talked about some of the work he is currently involved in.

Bibsoup: Interview with Etienne Posthumus (developer) from Bibsoup Project on Vimeo. Etienne is a developer on the JISC/OKFN project Openbiblio2. Here he explains his role and what he works on.

The second impromptu talk and the last speaker of the event was given by Wilbert Kraan.

Wilbert’s talk included showing us three projects being , and

We still had around one hour left of the time allocated to us in this room at the Ghillie Dhu so it was a great opportunity for us all to have a blether about out mutual interests in Open Data and so on.

After a bit of sheep herding (yes, this literally involved some baaaa-ing), Naomi successfully managed to herd us back downstairs to the (public) bar where the chat continued for the remainder of the evening.

Many thanks to OKFN and DevCSI for putting this event together. I found it very enjoyable & informative and the informal relaxed nature of the event worked extremely well.


[1] Quoting from this OKFN blog post:- “It turns out there was an event in Scotland in 2010, according to people who have been on the scene longer than I… see here for comments on the Open Biblio blog post which highlight previous activity, and many thanks to the people who kindly contributed this information. Here’s to the next one”.

Stone of Scone – The Connection

August 15, 2013


This is something I’ve been meaning to blog about for years, so here we go.


What exactly is the Stone of Scone and what is it’s history? Go here.


To this day, I’m not big into historical stuff in a major way. However, at the tender age of around 8, my Father told me about the Stone and in particular, how it was removed from Westminster Abbey in 1950 by a group of four Scottish students (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart) and that is was returned home to Scotland.

I recall my Father mentioning the story about the 1950 incident again in my teens and showed me some newspaper clippings that he had carefully kept. Specifically of interest was that of the four Scottish students, one of them, Ian Hamilton, was a family relative and the name Hamilton in terms of our family tree goes back over two centuries. Indeed my late brother Richard was named Richard Hamilton Steel.

The story came up a third time in 2008 when Uncle Ian decided to spill the beans about the heist.

Image“It was the 1950s student jape that re-ignited Scottish nationalism. As the ‘liberation’ of the Stone of Destiny is turned into a film, ringleader Ian Hamilton, now 83, tells Olga Craig why he is still proud of the heist”. SOURCE

Around that time, I discover that Ian is an active blogger (and still is) and my Father (sporting a Hamilton tartan tie) met him in person when Ian launched his book “Stone of Destiny: The True Story” and we have a personally signed copy acknowledging the family connection.

The launch of the film occurred the same year starring Charlie Cox as Ian and also featured Robert Carlyle as John MacCormick.


I told the above to my 14 year old Nephew, Jamie Steel upon his 1st trip back home from New Zealand last October who was most fascinated and he suggested looking for the film on YouTube. I have the DVD but didn’t have it at that time.

We did manage to watch the film together though online and I cherish that moment.


The above in part may explain why I have a blog entiled “McBlawg” and have a Twitter handle of @McDawg 😉

Altmetrics and the lack of a page about it on Wikipedia

August 10, 2013

If you are new to the philosophy and background to altmetrics, there are lots of resources out there.

See the likes of this page from PLOS.

It came to my and others attention this afternoon here on Twitter that there is not a page on Wikipedia about altmetrics. “Instead redirects to Impact Factor page” pointed out Martin Fenner.

There most certainly should be one….

“We’re Scientists”

August 9, 2013
McDawg’s Match Report on Science Blogging 2008: London

Pleasant train journey from Glasgow (via Edinburgh) to London (Kings Cross) Friday 29th August. Met up with Dr Jennifer Rohn as roughly scheduled and then the Guardian’s, James Meikle.

Whilst Jenny and I were waiting for James at the Guardian’s reception area, who troops in? None other than Weblebrity Ben fucking Goldacre (he likes to swear you see):-

Never met Ben before although we have exchanged a few emails, the most recent, the day before (since Ben gets gazillions of emails, he didn’t immediately recall my name).

NOTE: Ben is the Keynote Speaker tomorrow.

Rough transcription, “So Ben, have you finished preparing your talk for tomorrow?” – Ben, “I haven’t thought about it yet” etc. Blimey.

A couple of drinkies and some very interesting chat in a local pub with James and Jenny but with differing schedules, James pissed off to a local Morrisons store for some grub and Jenny and I hoofed it back to where we started off from-ish.

Off to Paddington Station for me and a one hour train journey to an undisclosed (sorry) location in Taunton. Was met at the station by a friend as scheduled, couple of drinks at the local pub (such a nice quiet friendly establishment), was treated to a lovely meal back home and crashed without being too late. Who needs Hotels when you have friends/places like this.

Cue Times Like These: Acoustic This is entirely appropriate under the circumstances, plus it’s just a bloody great song.

Early start, HUGE cooked breakfast (which came in very handy) and returned to the local rail station. A points failure though on the line, all trains cancelled. Shite. Thankfully, the half dozen or so of us commuters were taxied 17 miles to a much larger station and caught an alternative connection back to Paddington.

Quick ride on the London Tubes and arrived about 30 mins. later than scheduled at the Royal Institution (RI) for the event in question. Due to the delay, I had sadly missed Ben’s keynote (apparently, he swore shed-loads but they’ll bleep ’em out from the yet to be seen video) but there was a long absorbing day still ahead.

Are there any bloggers in da house?

When I opened one of the three doors to the Faraday, and peeked inside, I truly felt like a young boy late for his school lesson.

A hundred or so. Fuck, how can I get “into class” unnoticed?

A distant memory which I actually rather enjoyed, if only for a second. I waited. Oh, there’s someone else who’s also late who’s wandered through, so I followed their slipstream unnoticed. I like to be discreet/polite anywhere where I can.

I joined the Conference at the early stages of the first panel discussion.

Now, McDawg being an active member of Nature Network etc. knew many of the attendees by name but not many by face at this juncture.

On the floor, obviously, I recognised Jenny. Oh, next to her must be Anna Kushnir.

In “the audience” who did I spot. Ah, that must be Henry Gee. Is that Bob O’Hara down there – I think so. Now that will be Cameron Neylon. Is that Jean-Claude Bradley sitting beside him? I think so. Oh, and there’s Timo Hannay down there. I think that might be Heather Etchever Now that looks like Attila Csordas. There’s Ben Goldacre again. Oh, that must be Corie Lok. etc. etc.

Tea/coffee break and my first chance to mingle. Now at this juncture (posted two days post event) I don’t intend to report much about the Conference itself in detail since many others have already done so most adequately.

Time to (literally) recharge those batteries? Well yes. Whilst I charged my vid camera overnight – I stupidly left it on play-mode so all the juice had gone. Like an Eagle, I spotted a much in demand spare plug socket and Corie confirmed it was fine to use it. Thanks Corie…

Really superb lunch I have to say c/o the Conf. organisers.

Had lunch with Henry, Bob and Viktor Poór. Since I was still stuck for accommodation (lengthy saga) that night, this came into discussion and within seconds, Mo Costandi’s accom. offer was made and accepted straight away. PHEW. That part of my brain could now relax.

After muchos chatting, munching, slurping and networking, everyone headed off for the afternoon sessions.

During the final session “embracing change: taking online science into the future”many interesting things were discussed as one might have expected. Quite unexpectedly, Peter Murray-Rust, whilst talking about blogging and patient advocacy asked me to comment and briefly divulge my background. This I did but having now listened back to the recording of that session, I fully agree with Corie who mentioned later on in the pub that as bloody usual, I spoke too fast. Anna, bless her, commented that she got the general gist though of what I said.

Time for a change of T shirt before we commenced networking post Conf. I found what I thought was a quiet spot (broom cupboard) to change but was caught in the nude with, sorry by a Nature employee. She’s since recovered.

After that, on went one of my two navy blue PLoS ONE T shirts, quick spray of body de-od, clipped the name badge on again and completed the transformation/pit-stop in under 19.56 seconds thus setting a new ‘personal best’ in the process. Nice.

Rejoined the masses and lost track of the number of people who made comments such as, “weren’t you wearing orange a few moments ago?”. “Yes, I replied, I just fancied a change”. Fair enough.

My gosh, the bar at the RI is a tad expensive 😦

Off to the King’s Head PH (public house) down the street for the evening. As was announced during the final session, Peter and I found a quiet spot to work on our Manuscript for the OA Journal: Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine PEHM for short. Great to get this back on track but this was a tad anti-social. Matters got more complicated though when Mo told me that he was going to be heading home fairly soon. WHAT?? 9.30 on a Saturday with all these fine minds around?? Surely not.

Peter let me go (thanks Peter) and continued writing until he lost power on his laptop. The only plug points available were 2-pin sockets so we couldn’t re-charge the laptop or my vid cam. I did spot a double socket just down below but after I attempted a recharge, Peter informed me that he had already tried this but the sockets, and I quote, “don’t contain any electrons”.

Very thirsty work this Manuscript writing business you know.


At closing time (~ 11pm) around a dozen of us wandered off into Soho in an attempt to find a suitable drinking hole. At £10 a head to get in anywhere though, we spent what felt like a lifetime finding “our utopia” for the night. Small, clean, ambient Moroccan restaurant was where we ended up. Well it was ambient till we turned up and loud music started blaring within a minute or so after we sat down.

It was getting late, so time to part company and head into the night. Mo, Attila and I took a cab (well, we think it was a cab) but the science related chat continued to flow.

Our cab driver asks Mo what he did. Mo’s reply of “We’re scientists” in the context of the situation and indeed the day to me was totally spot on. Now, I is no scientist, but Mo and Attila are. In a way though, I kind of felt that I had morphed into the role of scientist by now, at least for a day. Is it within the remit of a Patient Advocate/anyone to socialise with scientists in this manner? Absolutely, and the more of this, the better.


We dropped Attila off, hit Mo’s, Mo and I had a couple of cups of tea before shut-eye. Big thanks to Mo for letting me crash over. Much appreciated Mo.

As it happened, we both chose to wear our new sciblog T shirts the next day. Tube was down so took a bus to Victoria and parted company. Several hours later, I was back in Glasgow but turned a number of heads with my latest science slogan bearing garment along the way.

All in all, what a really fantastic bunch of cool, intelligent, creative and friendly people and Richard P. Grant. I was one of the lessor experienced bloggers but I came away with much to contemplate.

Sign O’ The Times.


Duncan Hull said…

Hi Graham, good to meet you (very briefly), I’m gutted I missed all the drinking, had to slink off early. See you next time. Duncan

2 September 2008 07:14

McDawg said…

Hi Duncan,

Thanks for dropping by on my blog.

Shame we never got the chance to say more than Hello to each other.


2 September 2008 08:22

Anna said…

Hi Graham,

I was so happy to meet you in person at long last! I understood you no problem 🙂 I did, in the back of my stressed out mind notice a color change in the Tshirt department. Sneaky. Odd question – was that PLoS tattoo on your arm real or fake? Not sure which would be more bad*ss, under the circumstances.

Mo is such a nice person, isn’t he? I really enjoyed chatting with him.

Hope we get the chance to catch up again soon!

2 September 2008 14:03

McDawg said…

Thanks Anna, we must meet again.

Someone understood my Scottish accent? That’s a first.

God, I really really hate tattoos with vengeance. Why was I sporting one/two?

The one(s) you saw were part of my diverse kit that I received from PLoS-NY last year.

Utterly unplanned, I pressed one on each arm during my train journey from Edinburgh. I was simply bored during the 4.5 hour journey.

Mo (as you say) is well cool and I look forward to further communications with him.

As for me smoking? Well, as I said to all, I’ve cut down big style, honestly, but thanks to you, I have little options left (than to stop completely) – or you will kill me – right?

Hope too to see each other again soon.

2 September 2008 14:36

Karen James said…

Hi Graham, this is my first visit to your blog, thanks to FriendFeed, (I’m a newbie there). Loved your play-by-play… it was like living the conf all over again (a good thing) and though I didn’t actually meet you there, it’s always nice to hear that other people were thinking the same thing I was at the same moments in the day …well, except for that thing with the broom closet.

2 September 2008 16:21

McDawg said…

@ Karen – el broom closet sketch I have you know was simply me, changing my T shirt – shocking I know. I’ll do do this in public next time !!

2 September 2008 16:40

McDawg said…

Hi Karen.

Such a shame that we didn’t get a chance to speak to one another. As with most events, too many people, not enough time.

Must drop by the Beagle Project blog more often.



3 September 2008 04:19

Abel Pharmboy said…

Thanks for the post, Steely – sorry to not be able to make it over to your side of the pond. Happy to hear that you could attend one of these blogger cons in person.

Rock on, brother!

3 September 2008 09:14

McDawg said…

Hey there AP,

Thanks for dropping by.

Was really neat to meet scibling’s Mike Dunford and Grrl Scientist.

Watching Mike live-blogging was fucking awesome.

I counted at least 8 who were tapping away. Was this a first for the Faraday? Possibly/probably.

Regardless, I’m sure Faraday would have given this an almighty thumbs up.

3 September 2008 10:21

maxine said…

Well I am glad someone said that about the RI bar. As I have not been in a bar for 17 years (thanks to my nose to the grindstone at Nature, only let out to look after children or sleep), I casually offered to buy the drinks for the 3 people next to me in the queue….two fruit juices and two (rather titchy in my view) glasses of white wine came to £17. And the barman did not hear one of the wine orders so had to be reminded. (Glad it was not £17 for two squashes and one wine).

But yes, I think it was a good conference!

3 September 2008 14:14

McDawg said…

“As I have not been in a bar for 17 years”

No comment.

3 September 2008 14:44

Viktor said…

I have ejoyed reading this post, as Karen said before: I lived the whole day again.

And so many ‘great’ pictures of me 🙂

5 September 2008 02:53

McDawg said…

Nice to meet you Viktor.

I really enjoyed writing this post so nice that others enjoy reading it =)

5 September 2008 10:23

Mo said…

Good to meet you Graham. It was a pleasure accommodating you for the night.

6 September 2008 06:54