Week 10 April 5, 2011: Guest Lecture - Anita de Waard, Elsevier

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Advanced Semantic Technologies (Spring 2011) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Stories that persuade with data [Download]
The Future of the Journal? [Download]
From Proteins to Fairytales [Download]

‘Stories, That Persuade With Data: the research paper, and the knowledge within'
Anita de Waard, Disruptive Technologies Director, Elsevier Labs, http://elsatglabs.com/labs/anita/
Slides: Dr. de Waard's Presentation Slides [Download]
This week we will have a guest lecture and discussion by Dr. Anita de Waard, Disruptive Technologies Director, Elsevier Labs. (See a brief bio below.) In this class we will discuss the bread-and-butter of scientific communication: the (experimental) research paper. Dr. de Waard posits every research paper has three components: a narrative component, an argumentational component, and a data component. In other words: research papers are stories, that persuade (its readers: the reviewers, and the scientific community at large) with data (and references). Her first question to the audience is whether this model is correct: are there key aspects of research papers that are not represented in this way?

Exercise 1:

  • a. Please read a research paper (any full-length research paper, as long as there is an experiment involved)
  • b. Please mark (using an online tool or by printing and marking with a pen) what the key narrative components are, what the key argumentational components are, and what the key data elements are.
  • c. Are any key elements of the paper overlooked? If so, which?

Next, I would like to discuss a few projects that concern themselves with identifying the narrative, argumentational, and data components of research papers. My next question is whether these projects are, in your view, any good at representing these elements.

Exercise 2:

  • a. Please go to http://hypothesis.alzforum.org/swan/ and browse through the hypotheses here. You are probably not a neuroscientist, but do you have a feeling this allows you insight into the underlying papers? If not, what is missing?
  • b. Go to http://cohere.open.ac.uk/ and browse the existing claims - make a few of your own. Is this useful? Can you conceive of representing your science in this way?
  • c. Can you find 3 other sites (not necessarily concerning science) that represent either narratives (stories), networks of claims/hypotheses, or research data in a way that is compelling and insightful?

Lastly, Dr. de Waard will pose some ideas regarding the changes that need to be made to make papers (and not just individual papers, but the entire worldwide 2-papers-per-minute avalanche) more effective at transferring their content to the head of their possible audience. Her third question concerns ways in which you are:

  • Informed and enlightened
  • Convinced by argumentation
  • Convinced by data
    • Exercise 3: Using the websites from your earlier answer or any others, can you propose how one of them might be changed or used to improve scientific information exchange? Think wild here, e.g. the Wii is a great learning environment; stories are told on Facebook, etc. If you have a good idea that does not yet exist, you're welcome to present that, as well.

      Reading Assignment for this class:

      Written Assignment for this class:

      • Course learning objectives for each student. These objectives will be used for the final Self-Evaluation.

      'Stories, That Persuade With Data: the research paper, and the knowledge within'
      Anita de Waard, Disruptive Technologies Director, Elsevier Labs, http://elsatglabs.com/labs/anita/

      Dr. Anita de Waard has a background in experimental physics. She joined Elsevier as publisher in physics and neurology in 1988, and since 1997 has been employed as a Disruptive Technologies Director within the Elsevier Labs group. Her main focus is the development of innovative product concepts, with a specific interest in establishing collaborations between Elsevier and academic groups in information and computer science. Her interests include the application of Semantic Web technologies for scientific communication, and the development of a new, semantic form for the scientific article. She developed and led the Elsevier Grand Challenge for Life Sciences and the Killer App Award, both rewarding researchers for ideas pertaining to novel forms of science publishing. In 2006 and 2009, she was awarded the Reed-Elsevier award for Excellence in Innovation. Other projects include running the W3C HCLS SiG Subtask on Rhetorical Document Structure, a group she has formed on representing scientific documents as hypotheses and evidence, and running a number of workshops with the goal of providing a platform enunciating the key possibilities and main impediments for changing scientific communications. From January 2006 onwards, de Waard has been working as a part-time researcher at the University of Utrecht, funded by a Casimir project grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Her current research focuses on discourse analysis of biological text, with an emphasis on finding key rhetorical components, which offers possible applications in the fields of hypothesis detection and automated copy editing tools.

      Know more @ http://elsatglabs.com/labs/anita
      Email | a.dewaard@elsevier.com