The 21st Century Science Challenge: Communication with the Public

On my last trip to China, I was meeting with a former social science colleague at Tsinghua University, Professor JIN Jianbin, who received a new research grant to study public perspectives on science, such as around research on genetically modified crops. Our conversation about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) quickly touched on a variety of other issues, such as the public’s acceptance of research on climate change, on which sizeable proportions of the public in China, the US and other nations often dismiss, if not distrust, scientific opinion.

Bill Dutton and JIN Jianbin at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 17 Sept 2017

Of course, some level of public distrust of scientific authorities is not new. I recall some famous work by political scientists in the US who studied the politics of conspiracy theories around the fluoridation of water that was prominent across American communities since the 1950s, but which – surprisingly – carries on to this day. So while it is not new, distrust of the political motivations behind scientific opinion is arguably growing.

Some indicators have suggested that diffuse public support for scientific institutions is not declining.[1] However, there is some limited and more recent evidence that universities and academics are being perceived as more partisan.[2] And anecdotally, science is increasingly questioned as biased by researchers who are claimed to be in the pockets of the sponsors of their research, illustrated by controversies over pharmaceutical research.

Such assaults on the integrity of science have led universities and research institutions to place a higher priority on the prevention and detection of conflicts of interest rising in the conduct of research. Finally, symptoms of this growing distrust seem evident in the divisions over a rising number of issues, with GMOs, climate change, vaccinations, and evolution, being among the more prominent. Perhaps the controversies surrounding science simply reflect the many issues that have broad public implications, such as for the digital economy or public health, while issues such as the moon landing were more removed from immediate public impact on the redistribution of resources.

The bad news is that these controversies are likely to slow progress, such as on efforts to reduce man made climate change. In some cases these controversies are dangerous, such as in leading parents not to vaccinate their school children.

However, there might be some positive outcomes here, if not good news. One positive outcome of this developing problem might be that scientists will place a greater priority on better explaining their work to a wider public. Already, the study of science communication is a burgeoning field around the world, illustrated by new research being launched by my colleague JIN Jianbin, Professor of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in Beijing. And an increasing number of research councils and foundations stress the importance of public outreach.

Of course, scientists explain their research findings and their implications as a matter of practice. Not to be forgotten or dismissed is perhaps the most effective albeit long-term form of science communication, which is teaching in colleges and universities. Yet there are questions about whether top scientists, whatever their field, are as closely involved in teaching as they could be. For example, my former university, the University of Southern California, placed a priority on putting top senior scholars into the entry level undergraduate courses, which I thought was brilliant, but which is exceptional.

But arguably, most communication about scientific issues remains focused on peer-to-peer rather than public facing communication. Peer-to-peer communication is conducted   through journal publications and academic conferences and presentations. And when public facing, it is often limited to top-down or what I have called ‘trickle-down’ science, with scientists expecting their publications to be read and interpreted by others, and not themselves – the primary researchers.[3]

However, and here I could be wrong, it seems that the worse possible development might be what I see as a trend toward scientific persuasion, often based on appeals to authority and scientific consensus or by lobbying, such as through petitions, rather than by effective communication of research. Any scientist is quick to dismiss or place less credibility in appeals to authority. Why should the public be different? Where is the evidence? And once scientists move into the role of a lobbyist, petitioner, or activist, they diminish their credibility as scientists or researchers. Surely this kind of context collapse, when a scientist becomes political, or a doctor runs for a political office, invites the public to view scientists and academics as partisan political actors rather than scientific actors, and see them in ways that parallel other political actors and lobbyists.

How can scientists explain their work to a larger public? First, they need to recognize the need and value of effectively communicating their work to a broader public. This aim is rising across academia, such as in research councils insisting on research including components on outreach, and academic quality being judged increasingly by its impact. Unfortunately, this can sometimes drift into a tick box exercise in budgeting for conferences and seminars involving business and industry and the government, while serious efforts to communicate to the general public with an interest in the topic needs to be tackled directly. Academics need to guard against this tick box mentality.

Another concern is that this need for public outreach might simply lead to a greater focus on media coverage, getting the press to pick up stories on a scientist’s research. There is nothing wrong with this, universities love such coverage, and it can be helpful, but news coverage is generally overly simplistic, too often misleading, and potentially adding to the problems confronting good scientific communication. Researchers need to hold journalists and the media more accountable, and address inaccuracies or overly simplified messages in the press, cable news shows, and mass media.

Another, and a possibly more effective and more recently practical approach, is to communicate directly to the public. Join the conversation. Write reports on your research findings that are understandable to those in the educated public that might be seriously interested in your work now or in the future. You can reach opinion leaders in your areas of research, and thereby foster effective two-step flows of communication to the general public. Don’t worry about a mass audience, but aim to reach a targeted audience of those with a serious interest in your topic. When they search online for information about your topic, make sure that accessible presentations of your research will be found.

Unfortunately, too many academics are taught not to join the conversation, and to avoid blogging or writing for a general audience. Instead, they are taught to focus more than ever on only reaching the top peer reviewed journals in their field and being read and cited by their peers. As noted above, this too often leads to a weak form of trickle down science, which is not in the long-term interest of the scientific enterprise.

We should question this conventional wisdom in academia. Personally, I don’t believe there is a necessary risk to scientific publishing by also trying to communicate to a more general audience. That is what teachers do, and when researchers try to teach and communicate with their students, they can find problems with their arguments, and ways to improve how they convey their ideas.

So – scientists – offer up your best ideas to the public, not as your peers, but as smart and educated individuals who do not know about your work – even why it is relevant. Some of my most meaningful experiences with communication about my research have been exactly when I – focused on Internet studies – sat next to a physicist or mathematician over a meal who asked me about my research and vice versa. What am I working on? Why is it important? If we can do this over lunch or dinner, we can do it for a larger public online.

Perhaps this is more difficult than it sounds, but we need to accept the challenge. Arguably, the scientific challenge of the 21st century is effective communication to the larger public.


[1] See:

[2] See:

[3] Dutton, W. (1994), ‘Trickle-Down Social Science: A Personal Perspective,’ Social Sciences, 22, 2.


Notes to Pundits of the Trump-Russia Stories: If you were my students …

Sorry if this sounds patronizing, as you are stellar journalists and politicians, but if you were my students, writing a paper for a college class, what would I say?


I would definitely give you points for effort, and creativity, but would mark your work down on its analytical precision. Happy for you to come in during an office hour, but briefly, let me give you a few examples of my concerns. Apologies in advance for these quick notes.

First, take your vague attributions, which change over time. Who is responsible for meddling with the 2016 US Presidential election? Is it hackers in Russia, Russian oligarchs, Russian nationals, Russians, government hackers, agent’s of the government, the government, the highest levels of government, or President Putin? Your essays keep veering across these various actors. You must see that it makes a difference, so you must be more precise to be credible.

Likewise, what did they do – what was the meddling? Did they hack into email of the DNC, RNC, John Podesta, or others; gain access to county voter registration files; change voter registration files; meet with members of the campaign; loan money (at some point in the past) to members of the campaign; compromise members of the campaign; pass material to WikiLeaks, or one or more of the above? Your discussions keep shifting from one to another accusation as if this were a shell game.

When did this happen? Was it during the 2016 elections, happening now, or is it something that is likely to happen in the future? When you sometimes veer toward the future, it undermines your case.

Where is the evidence? Is it simply based on authority, the intelligence agencies, all of whom happen to agree, even when they seldom or ever confirm or deny anything? Is there evidence beyond hearsay? [By the way, you should not equate the heads of intelligence agencies with scientists, or doubts over Russian interference with climate change denial, as the analogy so flawed that it further undermines your credibility.]

Finally, in line with a major problem with undergraduate writing today, is it something that you often just feel is right? As you would have heard me say in class time and again, your feelings don’t count.

So you can see that given all the possible permutations of who did what, when and where, and all without strong evidence, the essays end up in an analytical muddle. You’ve constructed a wicked problem out of a set of vague accusations that are not critically assessed.

This would be funny if your work did not have such serious consequences. [I should add you do get high marks for impact.] And the impact will last decades and shape governmental institutions in the US in major ways, such as with respect to the role of Congress in foreign policy.

Finally, it would have been good to focus on some things that could be done to avoid the risks you identify, such as shoring up cyber security in all aspects of campaigns and elections, and not moving to electronic voting – a plea that has been made for well over a decade. [See Barbara Simons’ work, for example, who has been warning people about the difficulties of securing electronic voting systems for decades.] You might also reinforce the wisdom of how decentralized voting systems are in the US, meaning that there is no one system, even in a single state, and the need to keep it that way.

That said, great effort, well written, and convincingly spoken, but I regret to say that I cannot give you high marks on your work. And apologies for not addressing every individual journalist and politician talking about the Trump-Russia story, as that would not be possible given the number of you that chose this topic. Nevertheless, as a group, try to focus on developing a more analytically rigorous argument, and ensure that your evidence drives your conclusions rather than the opposite.


Identifying centres of cybersecurity research expertise – results to date

We have volunteered to help CDEC find expertise in areas key to its work. One of the first areas we’ve considered is cybersecurity.  Where does expertise lie in cybersecurity research in the UK, but also internationally. We asked six cybersecurity researchers in the UK to indicate the locus of the most important contemporary work. While we would not claim to have done a comprehensive study, we found a good deal of convergence through this reputational review of the field.
The top five sites that these experts identified (not in order of priority) were:

•    Cambridge University’s Security Group in the Computer Laboratory: one of the longest running security programmes in UK universities.
Contact: Ross Anderson at

•    Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre, which brings together relevant Oxford departments, and associated centres beyond Oxford, such as in the Cybersecurity Capacity Building Project.

•    Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast, founded in 2008 in the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, and claimed to be the UK’s largest university cyber security research lab.
Contact: Professor John McCanny, Principal Investigator

•    Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group, University of London
Contact: ISG Administrator

•    UCL’s Academic Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security Research, set up in 2012, by GCHQ in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Contact: Professor Angela Sasse

Other UK programmes that were mentioned, but not by multiple experts, were:

•    Bristol Security Centre, University of Bristol
•    Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College London
•    Security Lancaster, Lancaster University
•    Academic Centre of Excellence in Cybersecurity, University of Southampton

All of the above centres have been awarded Centre of Excellence status in cyber security research under the BIS/RCUK/EPSRC scheme. While they were not mentioned by our sample of experts, two other centres are among those awarded Centre of Excellence status in cybersecurity research: Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security, Newcastle University and the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham.

In response to more international programmes, all of the nominations by our reviewers identified US programmes as the most significant, including:

•    Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Harvard Kennedy School. This centre has launched a Cyber Security Initiative as part of a project known as Project Minerva, a joint effort of the Department of Defense, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.

•    CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University, perhaps the largest cyber security group in the US, joining researchers across more than six departments.

•    Cornell University’s Department of Computer Science that lists security as one of the major strengths of the department

•    .Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University

•    The Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS), Dartmouth

•    Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute (CSPRI) at The George Washington University

•    .Stanford Security Laboratory, Stanford University

•    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) National Security Directorate, Cybersecurity

We hope this list stimulates discussion about where relevant expertise on cyber security for the CDEC lies in the UK and abroad. This represents work in progress, and any feedback on our list to date would be very welcome. If there are centres omitted or where you wish to provide information about specific areas of strengths or contacts, please comment or email.

Thanks to our students Elizabeth Dubois, Gillian Bolsover and Heather Ford, who helped conduct, review and collate this research, and to the experts in the field for their supporting input in this area.

Bill Dutton and Bill Imlah

Business Models in a Mobile World: a one-day workshop at Oxford Brooks University, 12 September 2013

I’d like to bring your attention to a workshop that Paul Jackson is organizing at Oxford Brooks University:

9:00 to 5:00, 12 September 2013
Wheatley Campus, Oxford Brookes University

– What threats and opportunities do new mobile technologies present to your organisation and industry?

– How could mobile devices help you reach new customers, provide new sources of value and enable you to do business in more innovative ways?

These are just two of the questions Oxford Brookes will help you answer in a free one-day workshop. The aim is to guide an invited group of businesses through the ‘big issues’ involved in mobile innovation. At the end of the day, we believe you (and your organisation) will be better placed to understand the strategic threats and opportunities presented by mobile technology – as well as having ideas for new projects, products and services.

**Mobile technology – and why it’s important**
Smart-phones and tablet computers (e.g. iPads) have seen a rapid rise in recent years. Along with developments such as wifi and remote sensing equipment, a range of devices have emerged that allow people to work with a radical degree of flexibility. Customers, too, can consume products and services in entirely new ways (just think of books and music). In response to these changes, many organisations are already rethinking their products and processes – what they produce and how they do it – to take advantage of the new technology.

**Mobile adoption will often involve ‘business model’ innovation**
Business model innovation is about more than just new access and communications channels – important though these are! It’s about reconfiguring organisational designs and infrastructures, partnering in new ways, rethinking cost structures and pricing models, and generally developing new value propositions, perhaps for new customer niches. Such changes allow for a new ‘businesses logic’ to emerge – challenging established ways of meeting customer needs. Such developments can spur completely new markets and industries (think Facebook and the Internet). At Brookes we’re keen to look at these big, strategic issues, as enabled by mobile technology.

**How the workshop will work**
The workshop is aimed at practitioners who are interested in exploring these issues for their organisations. We are still looking for companies to express an interest in taking part (see below for more details). The first of these events takes place at Oxford Brookes’ Wheatley campus on 12 September, but other events will follow.

In taking part, you – or one person from your organisation – will work alongside some 10-15 other businesses. On the day there will be a few introductory and feedback sessions, but most of the time will be spent in small groups (just 3-4 people) working through a facilitated set of tasks. These will help you – and the others in your group – understand what mobile technology will mean (and is meaning) for your business and industry, and what you can do in response.

**Why will we be working in groups?**
Group working will provide an opportunity to learn from, and share ideas with, people in non-competitor organisations. Groups will be facilitated by academic members of staff from Brookes, representing a range of different subject areas, including: business strategy, digital marketing, information systems and innovation management. All will be helping you to work through a common methodology and set of exercises.

**Why is Brookes doing this?**
The workshop is an initiative of the Oxford Digital Research Group, based at Brookes. Mobile technology – and its implications for business models – forms part of the group’s research. By working with you, we will be better placed to understand where businesses are on this agenda, and to test and improve our ideas and techniques for helping organisations address it. Put another way, it’s about engaging with businesses in order to generate findings that will have practical effects while adding to the stock of academic knowledge.

**OK, I’m interested. What do I do now?**
Just email Dr Paul Jackson at Brookes on expressing your interest. You should also say who might attend the day on your organisation’s behalf, if not you. Please also say why you’re interested and what you’ve done to date on this agenda (if anything). The team at Brookes will then form suitable groups of businesses for the workshop. Note that we’ll be doing our best to have a good spread of organisations and industries, as well as avoiding potential competitive conflicts. There will be other events, subsequent to the 12 September event, so if we can’t fit you in this time, we may suggest a later workshop.

**What else do I need to know?**
If invited to attend, we will ask you to sign a document about ethics and confidentiality. This is just to ensure that everyone understands what will (and will not) happen to the information and ideas they share. Our aim is to make sure you feel comfortable in participating and able to do so in a constructive and open way. Further details on the structure of the day will also be shared at a later date.

Please email or visit if you have any more questions.

Innovation and Digital Scholarship Lecture Series

About this series

Scholars collaborate online. Data are collected, delivered, analysed, and distributed via the Internet. Communication, both formal publications and informal exchanges, have moved online. Yet face-to-face conversations are still valued, seminars and lectures retain prestige, conferences proliferate, and frequent flyer miles accumulate. This lecture series will provoke a rich discussion of innovations in digital scholarship with an international array of scholars, examining implications for the sciences, social sciences, and humanities and for libraries and publishing.

The series is co-convened by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman, Visiting Fellow and Oliver Smithies Lecturer at Balliol College; Professor William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies at the OII and Fellow at Balliol College, and Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Fellow of Balliol College.

Sponsors and Partners

The Digital Scholarship Lecture Series is organized by Balliol College, the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and The Bodleian Libraries with support from the ESRC’s Digital Research Programme, based at the Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford.


21 February 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Alyssa Goodman, Harvard University

Respondent: Dr Chris Lintott, Department of Physics, University of Oxford

Title: Seamless Astronomy, Sea Monsters, and the Milky Way


Most astronomy researchers use online travel tools like Kayak and Expedia, yet they don’t expect such integrative services in their research.  Instead, they use “modernized” versions of old technologies, such as sending each other email in lieu of paper letters.  Some astronomers, however, are leading the way toward a future that has much less precedent in a pre-internet world.  In this talk, I will explain elements of what future-leaning astronomers mean by “Seamless Astronomy,” a term which effectively describes an ecosystem for scholarly research as smart and streamlined as Kayak is for travel.   I will also explain why more traditional astronomers are not always quick to appreciate or adopt “Seamless” principles–even though they use its products (including a wealth of well-organized, interconnected, literature and data) all the time.  To make the theoretical situation more real, I will organize my talk around an ongoing astronomical research project that concerns a long so-called “infrared dark cloud” named “Nessie” and how it can be used to map out the skeletal structure (“Bones”)  of our Milky Way.  The 10-person collaboration working on the Nessie/Bones project includes researchers whose preferences range from traditionalist to futurist, and so offers no end of anecdotes with which to illuminate the Seamless Astronomy story!

For previews of this talk’s content, see and


Biographical Sketch

Alyssa Goodman is Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution.  Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education.

In her astronomical pursuits, Goodman and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars.

In more computationally-oriented efforts, Goodman co-founded The Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) at Harvard, and she served as its Director from 2005-8. The initiative created an university-wide interdisciplinary center at Harvard fostering work at the boundary between computing and science.   More recently, Goodman organized a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers into an ongoing effort known as “Seamless Astronomy,” aimed directly at developing, refining, and sharing tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy.  Current Seamless projects include Glue, Authorea, the ADS All Sky Survey, the Astronomy Dataverse, and the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program.

Goodman’s personal research presently focuses primarily on new ways to visualize and analyze the tremendous data volumes created by large and/or diverse astronomical surveys, like COMPLETE. She is working closely with colleagues at Microsoft Research, helping to expand the use of the WorldWide Telescope program, in both research and in education.   In 2009, Goodman founded the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program which pairs PhD-level researchers with educators and outreach professionals to improve STEM teaching.

At Harvard, Goodman teaches courses on astrophysics and on the display of data, including one called The Art of Numbers. 


28 February 2013, 17:30 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Dieter Stein, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf

Respondent: Victoria Gardner, Taylor & Francis Group, UK

Respondent: Wolfram Horstmann, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Title: Open Access Electronic Publishing: A View from the Frontier


Most discussions of the cultural changes linked to the Internet are holistically focused – discussing the effect of technical changes on the characteristics of as a system as a whole. This talk will take a complementary perspective by focusing on how cultural change is being shaped from the bottom-up “makers” “, sufferers” or “perpetrators” of Open Access publishing.

The main part of the talk will give an insider’s perspective, as a case study, of the decisions, motivations and constraints of individuals and stakeholders at different points in the development of a major Open Access publishing project in linguistics.  The perspective will then be widened to situate this particular development in the larger development of a “publication” as one functional element in the concept of open science.

Biographical Sketch

Dieter Stein is Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf (Germany). He obtained degrees (Staatsexamen) in Geography and English at Saarbrücken University (1972) and a Doctorate in English Linguistics at Saarbrücken (1975).

After being part of a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sonderforschungsbereich on electronic language research and computational linguistics, he taught Applied Linguistics and Translation at Heidelberg University (until 1982). After his Habilitation at Aachen (1982) he was appointed professor for English Linguistics (text- and discourse linguistics) at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen and transferred to Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf in 1990, where he has taught since then in courses for teacher training, as well as general Masters, BA and MA courses. He has served in most administrative capacities, including dean and several terms as chairman. He has also taught at various universities in the United States, Canada, Spain and Italy, was invited scholar at UCLA, Berkeley, UBC Vancouver and Stanford.

His publications are on a broad range of topics ranging from the theory of linguistic change, via applied linguistics, the linguistics of discourse, to language and communication in the Internet, the theory of genre and the language of law and the development of modern English. He was President of the International Society if Historical Linguistics, he is currently President of the International Language and Law Society, he is also editor-in-chief of the Linguistic Society of America’s digital Publication Portal “eLanguage”. He was the organizer and conference director of a number of major international conferences, including “Berlin 6”, the Max Planck Open Access conference at Duesseldorf. He was also involved in organizing “Berlin 9”, the Open Access conference at Howard-Hughes Medical Institution, Bethesda, Md, USA.  His current main research areas include: Language of the Law, Computer-Mediated Communication and language development.


21 March 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor James Evans, University of Chicago

Respondent: Professor Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute

Respondent: Dr Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

Title: Choosing the Next Experiment: Tradition, Innovation, and Efficiency in the Selection of Scientific Ideas 


Abstract: What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science suggests that the choice is shaped by an “essential tension” between a professional demand for productivity and a conflicting drive toward risky innovation. We examine this tension empirically in the context of biomedical chemistry. We use complex networks to represent the evolving state of scientific knowledge, as expressed in digital publications. We then build measurements and a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network. Measuring such choices in aggregate, we find that the distribution of strategies remains remarkably stable, even as chemical knowledge grows dramatically. High-risk strategies, which explore new chemical relationships, are less prevalent in the literature, reflecting a growing focus on established knowledge at the expense of new opportunities. Research following a risky strategy is more likely to be ignored but also more likely to achieve high impact and recognition. While the outcome of a risky strategy has a higher expected reward than the outcome of a conservative strategy, the additional reward is insufficient to compensate for the additional risk. By studying the winners of major prizes, we show that the occasional “gamble” for extraordinary impact is the most plausible explanation for observed levels of risk-taking. To examine efficiency in scientific search, we build a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network, namely node degree and inter-node distance. We infer the typical research strategy in biomedical chemistry from 30 years of publications and patents and compare its efficiency with thousands of alternatives. Strategies of chemical discovery are similar in articles and patents, conservative in their neglect of low-degree, distant or disconnected chemicals, and efficient only for initial exploration of the network of chemical relationships. We identify much more efficient strategies for maturing fields.

 Biographical Sketch

James Evans is Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, Associate Professor of Sociology and member of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. Evans work explores how social and technical institutions shape knowledge—science, scholarship, law, news, religion—and how these understandings reshape the social and technical world. He has studied how the Internet and Open Access shapes knowledge in society.  He has also investigated the relation of markets to science by examining how industry collaboration shapes the ethos, secrecy and organization of academic science; the web of individuals and institutions that produce innovations; and markets for ideas and their creators.  Finally, Evans is interested in using digital scholarship to identify biases in research and discovery and then using these as statistical instruments to identify promising but under-appreciated hypotheses and unasked questions. He is currently working on related projects in biology, chemistry, and medicine that explore these possibilities. His work uses natural language processing, the analysis of social and semantic networks, statistical modeling, and field-based observation and interviews. Evans’ research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Mellon and John F. Templeton Foundations and has been published in Science, American Journal of SociologySocial Studies of ScienceAdministrative Science Quarterly and other journals. His work has been featured in the EconomistAtlantic MonthlyWired, NPR, BBC, El Pais, CNN and many other outlets.


25 April 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Dame Lynne Brindley, former CEO, British Library

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Respondent: Professor Christine Borgman, Balliol College and University of California, Los Angeles

Title: Future of Research Libraries in the 21st Century


Great libraries are facing both major challenges and opportunities,  now and in the next decade. Research libraries operate in the context of global complexity in a digital information world that envelops scholars, researchers, consumers and citizens. The ‘data deluge’ and ‘always on’ digital culture combine to be awesome in global impact, unprecedented in terms of innovative possibilities, and yet inhuman in many dimensions. The speaker will consider core values of research libraries, whether those values continue to be relevant, and how they might be manifest in new ways. Questions to be addressed include what information should be preserved; whether the physical library still important; whether a new balance can be achieved between information as a public or private good; and how libraries can still be relevant to many disciplines.

Biographical Sketch

Lynne Brindley was Chief Executive of the British Library for some twelve years until Summer 2012 when she stepped down from the role. She was responsible for opening up the BL in its new flagship home, as one of the world’s greatest resources for scholarship, research and business, to a much wider global audience, through major digital programmes and cultural and educational activities. She had previously spent much of her career in UK higher education, as Pro-Vice Chancellor at Leeds University and at the

London School of Economics and Aston University. She had a spell in the private sector as a senior consultant with KPMG. She is now a non-executive Board member of Ofcom (UK Communications and Media Regulator), a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council, a member of Council of City University, the Wolfson Trust Arts Panel, and the Court of the Goldsmiths’ Livery Company. She holds a BA in music from Reading University, an MA from UCL and was made a Dame in 2008 for services to the British Library and to education.


16 May 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Dr Frances Pinter,

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Title: New Open Business Models for Academic Book Publishing in the Post-Finch Era


The 150 page Finch Report has less than three pages on books. It takes the view that just as with journal articles any publication arising out of public funding of research should be made publicly available free to the end user. However, as the traditional book business models differ significantly from journals other types of solutions need to be considered.  Finch encourages experimentation. Open access book publishing is being tried in a very tentative way by a few publishers. So far there are only a handful of models all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Dr Frances Pinter will provide a review of these approaches. She will also present an overview of her own new initiative Knowledge Unlatched.

Biographical Sketch

Dr Frances Pinter is the founder of Knowledge Unlatched, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) devising and implementing a new open access model for scholarly book length publications. ( She was the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and ran the Churchill Archive digitisation project. Frances is a visiting fellow at both the Big Innovation Centre and the London School of Economics. Previously she was Publishing Director at the Soros Foundation (Open Society Foundations). In the late 90s she devised the business model for EIFL, one of the world’s largest library consortia. Earlier she founded Pinter Publishers that also owned Leicester University Press and established the imprint Belhaven Press.  She has been active on a number of publishing trade boards and committees. She holds a BA from New York University and a PhD from University College, London.

23 May, 17:00-18:30 TENTATIVE


Dr. Salvatore Mele

CERN – Head of Open Access –

SCOAP3 – Interim Project Manager –

INSPIRE – Strategic Director –


5 th or 6th June
Prof. Christine Borgman, Oliver Smithies Lecture

Big data, little data, no data: Research data as a lens to view the evolution of digital scholarship

Ted Nelson’s Bucket Course: ‘Cinema of the Mind’

Posted with the permission of Ted Nelson, who wrote:

Theodor Holm Nelson will be teaching a possibly final, or ‘bucket’, course on all his computer work and ideas.  The title is “CINEMA OF THE MIND: Philosophy and Art of Designing Interaction” (Computer Science 194, U.C. Santa Cruz, winter quarter 2013).  ☛ Further course details will be found at the end of this note.

The Ted Nelson at the OII
The Ted Nelson at the OII

Dr. Nelson is an independent designer and thinker who for fifty years– since before others imagined personal computing or screen-to-screen publishing– has had deep designs for a computer world very different from that we now face.  While Microsoft, Apple and the Web veered backward, imitating the past and paper, Nelson always designed for the screens-only world we are at last approaching.

Nelson’s Xanadu document designs, well known if not well understood, are generally recognized as precursors to the World Wide Web.  His broader alternative software designs, and their radical theoretical underpinnings, are not well known.  This course boosts their survival and the chance some may eventually prevail.

While other software depicts time as conventional clocks and calendars, Nelson shows it as a spiral that can be tightened to nanoseconds or opened to the lifetime of the universe, wherein you can reconcile people’s schedules for next week or annotate historical theories. While others’ bookkeeping systems show only money, Nelson’s applies to all exchanges– money, Christmas cards, favors, grudges. Instead of today’s isolating “apps” and social cattle pens, he plans a sharable, unifying world of interactive diagrams that zoom to all work and reading, with everything annotatable.

His radical infrastructure includes automatically-coupling data structures, an operating system without hierarchy, and connection-lines between the contents of windows.  These lead to a completely different computer world, and– he fervently hopes– a different human life around them.

All of this is viewed through Nelson’s Schematic Philosophy, offering new terminology and diagrammatics for analyzing complex subjects.


The class is scheduled for Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 7:30, Engineering 2, room 399.  A typical class will consist of a discussion session, a tough lecture, a break, an easy lecture, and another discussion session.

There will be two midterm examinations and a final.  Projects for extra credit (leading to a possible A+) must be negotiated in the first three weeks.

The course is open not just to UCSC undergraduate and graduate students, but to outsiders as well, via a process known as “Concurrent Enrollment.”  Outsider tuition cost appears to be $1355 ($100 application fee for Concurrent Enrollment, plus $1255 tuition).  Two
forms are required: “Concurrent Enrollment Application” to join the university loosely, at  (to be mailed or faxed to the University with the $100– or $65 if
before 14 December) and a form to be signed by the instructor and sent in with tuition payment, at  (final deadline appears to be in mid-January).
More details (not necessarily all consistent) are at:

Theodor Holm Nelson PhD
Designer-Generalist, The Internet Archive
Visiting Professor, University of Southampton

My recent books, POSSIPLEX and ‘Geeks Bearing Gifts’, are available from and Amazon.

“Ted Nelson is an idealistic troublemaker who coined the word ‘hypertext’ in the sixties, and continues to fight for a completely different computer world.”

The New Institute for Internet and Society – HIIG

Internet Studies has gained another centre for research and teaching with the establishment of the Alexander von Humbolt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). I attended one of the first meetings of the HIIG’s Scientific Advisory Council on 12-13 September 2012, and left encouraged by the plans and progress of the Institute during its first months, and very optimistic about the developing network of Internet research centres around the world, to which HIIG provides a major addition.

The centre has been founded as a joint initiative of a collection of strong academic institutions, configured by ‘the Humbolt Universität zu Berlin, the Berlin University of Arts and the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB) in collaboration with the Hamburg-based Hans Bredow Institute (HBI) by way of an integrative collaborative’ agreement, as noted on our papers. HIIG’s establishment was enabled by a base of funding from Google, which will be broadened in the coming years.

Lunch at Entrance to HIIG

The meeting was held at the HIIG’s stunningly located offices at Bebelplatz 1, Berlin (see photos from the front entrance). I was impressed both by the collaborative nature of the centre itself, which is co-directed by four leading academics, who represent the founding institutions: Dr Jeanette Hoffman (WZB), Prof Dr Dr h.c. Ingolf Pernice (Humbolt Universität zu Berlin), Prof. Dr Dr. Thomas Schildhauer (Berlin University of Arts), and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz (HBI).

The four directors have established a framework for guiding their research on issues of innovation, law and policy, a step that proved invaluable to the first years of the OII. Also the HIIG has taken an early leadership position in establishing a network of Internet research centres with the Berkman Institute, MIT, Bangalore and others.

More could be said, but let me refer you to their Web site at I certainly left encouraged about the continuing growth and maturity of Internet Studies, and the potential for HIIG to take a leading role as part of an international network of centres to jointly cover the increasing range of issues and approaches tied to Internet Studies.