5 Mar 2012

Extending Open Access to Open Science: Interview with Donatella Castelli, CNR-ISTI and EUBRAZILOPENBIO European Scientific Director

When talking about Open Access, we normally think about scientific papers and publications made accessible to scientists through academia network channels and peer review journals. However, what happens if we shift from a concept of openness of research results to a concept of openness of the research instruments, i.e. data, software and resources used by researchers to drive their discoveries?

We asked this question to Donatella Castelli, EUBrazilOpenBio European Scientific Director.

EUBrazilOpenBio project aims to ambitiously combine the Biodiversity Science and the Open Access Movement, promoting the concept of openness for scientific research. What is the novelty introduced by EUBrazilOpenBio?

Donatella Castelli: „EUBrazilOpenBio project aims at setting up an infrastructure facilitating the scientific communication among biodiversity scientists.

Communication means conveying meaningful information between a scientist and many recipients that are not known at the time in which the communication occurs. The communication process is complete only if the recipient has understood the message of the sender. Today scientific communication is mostly based on textual publications. A textual description is not always sufficient to support a complete scientific communication. In order to understand a result and being able to exploit it in different contexts often other elements are needed. For example, assessing a result often requires access to the experimental datasets used and to the analysis software employed. In many case also require to be able to run it on appropriate storage and computational capabilities.

EUBrazilOpenBio aims at offering an e-infrastructure supporting a more complete form of scientific communication in the biodiversity domain based on the sharing and accessibility of not only Open Access papers, but also modelling tools and different types of data, ranging from taxonomies to observational data“.

EUBrazilOpenBio will deploy an e-infrastructure built by federating and integrating existing European and Brazilian infrastructures and resources. What is the strategic value of EUBrazilOpenBio? From a technical perspective, what value-add will the project bring and how will it advance the state of the art?

D.C.: „EUBrazilOpenBio leverages on isolated results of many European and Brazilian projects to develop a technological hybrid infrastructure that aims at innovating the way in which biodiversity scientists perform their research. In particular, by integrating different clouds solutions, it provides an elastic access and usage of data and data-management capabilities. By exploiting this capabilities the access to knowledge and the efficacy of the current software tools used by the biodiversity community can be improved. In the course of the project, for example, the OpenModeller framework, a well known environment developed by CRIA providing a uniform method for niche modelling distribution patterns using a variety of modelling algorithms, is being adapted to maximise the exploitation of the underlying cloud platform. The expected result of this porting is a much efficient model generation offered as a service by the EUBrazilOpenBio infrastructure.

In EUBrazilOpenBio a rich array of data sets will be made available to perform computational analysis exploiting grid and cloud technologies.

What do you expect, as a computer scientist, from the sharing of data repositories that this project will allow? How will access to these data sets benefit the work of computer scientists?

D.C.: The EUBrazilOpenBio e-infrastructure can support innovative scientific approaches. I expect that by reducing the complexity and the costs of exploiting open access data, software tools, and cloud resources, it will open the way to the experimentation of new models and domain specific applications. I also expect that the concrete availability of an initial set of them, that will be accessible either in specialised Virtual Research Environments, or as public Apps, or programmatically, will exemplify the new potentiality and stimulate a wider use of them in the everyday scientific practice“.

You have considerable experience in coordinating European research groups, but this time an intercontinental team has been built. Have you found any differences in the scientific coordination of groups across the Atlantic?

D.C.: „Certainly, starting a strict collaboration among teams that have never worked together before is challenging, especially when the project is based on the integration of software components developed by different partners. However, the complexity of the coordination is not considerably influenced by the geographical distribution of the partners. The project is mostly based on the collaboration of researchers belonging to the computer and biodiversity scientific areas. Researchers in these two areas are largely used to collaborate at international level on common scientific problems and on the joint development of new technologies. In addition, today most of the collaboration occurs remotely by exploiting Internet-based cooperation tools. This makes completely transparent whether the collaboration occurs at National, European or International level“.

Donatella Castelli is a Senior Researcher working at the “Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie della Informazione” of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-ISTI). She has been the principal investigator of several European and National funded projects on digital libraries and data e-Infrastructure acquiring considerable experience in these domains. She is currently acting as iMarine Project Director and as scientific director of the EU co-funded D4Science-II project and as technical coordinator of the OpenAIRE project and EUBrazilOpenBio project. These four projects address the development and operation of widely distributed data infrastructures serving multidisciplinary communities.

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