A Blog Around The Clock

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.

Today, I asked Hope Leman to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?

i-512d888c524205ac2fea0ab16f5fdda6-Leman01.jpgHope: I am 46 and Research Information Technologist at the Center for Health Research and Quality of Samaritan Health Services (SHS), which is a health network in Oregon. I live and work in the town where I was born, Corvallis (home of my alma mater Oregon State University) and am happy to work for the same organization that ran the hospital I was born in and for which my father, a general surgeon, spent most of his career.

I am a late bloomer in that I graduated only in 2009 from the master’s program (which I did via distance learning) in library and information science at the University of Pittsburgh.

My job at the Center is developing Web services for the research community locally and internationally and keeping up on the incredibly exciting worlds of Medicine 2.0, Health 2.0, Open Science, Open Research, Open Access, e-medicine, e-science, the e-patient movement, Participatory Medicine–as you can see, there is a lot going on!!

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

Hope: I am incredibly privileged to work for an organization that emphasizes professional growth and development. For instance, I started as a medical records clerk for Samaritan. That is really the ideal way for someone new to healthcare to learn how hospitals work. I learned what makes up a medical record, what kind of doctor does what and was surprised when I started in the field of health information management in 2002 how much of medicine was still paper based and how expensive and complex it is to transition to electronic medical records/electronic health records. I still follow the important subject of informatics closely (particularly via the work of Ted Eytan).

After about two years in the medical records department I applied for and was delighted to get a job as a library technical specialist (which is a paraprofessional position) in the larger of the two medical libraries at SHS and worked under my greatest hero, medical librarian Dorothy O’Brien (now retired). That was in 2004 and Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 were just taking off. It was absolutely exquisite timing for watching the revolution that is occurring in the field of medical librarianship vis-à-vis the rise of Open Access and the battle for public access to the published results of taxpayer-funded research. Dorothy gave me a solid grounding in the fundamentals of librarianship and also enabled me to explore what were then fairly new technologies like RSS.

In 2008, SHS established the Center I now work for and I got to know the director, Jana Kay Slater, who hired me initially to help with finding grants for our system and helping to monitor those SHS had already been awarded. We realized that we needed a Web-based service that SHS researchers and staff could use to easily search for grants and scholarships. We came up with ScanGrants.

SHS decided that ScanGrants was so useful that we should provide it free to those throughout the world who are looking for announcements of funding in the health sciences. I am really proud of ScanGrants. There really is no comparable free service. There are other free listings of funding opportunities, but they are not health science focused the way ScanGrants is.

Given our success with ScanGrants, we realized that researchers needed a free Web-based platform that would encompass the whole research continuum from looking for a grant to fund a particular project to finding places to publish and otherwise disseminate the results of the research conducted. Therefore, we are developing a service called ResearchRaven that will provide subscribable lists of professional conferences, and calls for papers for periodicals and conferences. I am really excited about this service, as I think it will be a boon to scientists and public health researchers who should not have to spend hours in Google and Bing and other search engines trying to figure out where they should submit their papers or who want to find out what kinds of meetings are being held in their fields. We hope to launch ResearchRaven sometime in the next few months.

As to my scientific background, it is embarrassingly sparse!! This is a source of great regret and mortification for me. I sadly confess to being an ignoramus when it comes to the basic sciences like chemistry. I just don’t have the aptitude or brilliance of the people I admire in the sciences. What I try to do is provide tools that scientists can use and publicize their efforts to make the scientific process more efficient and to render the results of research easier to disseminate for the benefit of researchers and, ultimately, for patients and their families.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Hope: Most of my time is spent on my beloved ScanGrants. I try to list as many announcements of grants, research fellowships, prizes for scientific achievement, travel grants for researchers and students and for patients to attend meetings of disease advocacy groups as I can manage. It is immensely rewarding to tell the world about everything from an essay contest on DNA for middle school and high school kids to a film contest on the subject of brain diseases to a grant for clinical research on breast cancer. It is great fun and absolutely absorbing to scan the Web looking for such listings. Most of the rest of my time at work is spent on developing ResearchRaven.

Outside of work, I am working very hard helping to organize the conference Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest. I am really excited about that because it will bring together groups I hope will get to know each other ever better: those interested in Medicine 2.0, Open Science and Open Access plus librarians, technologists, information scientists and others in health and medicine. I am very fortunate to have recently attended ScienceOnline and to have seen a superb conference up close. I can see why you, Bora, and Anton Zuiker were applauded so resoundingly by the audience on the first night. Conference organizing is a lot of work!

The rest of my time is spent on trying to blog on all of these topics on my blog, Significant Science.

I use the interview format much of the time and it takes many hours to write up the questions and for the poor interviewees to slog through the questions. Serves me right that you are making me work as hard in this interview as I make the interviewees on Significant Science work!

As to my goals, my immediate goals are to see more and more adoptions by libraries (medical, academic, public) and offices of research administration of ScanGrants (and, eventually, ResearchRaven) and to see Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest go beautifully.

My long-term goals are to see Open Science/Open Research become mainstream and for the increasing clamor by members of the public and the research community for greater public access to taxpayer-funded research to result in major reform of the current system, which is far too heavily weighted in favor of commercial publishers to the detriment of science and suffering patients. I applaud the initiatives of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and of the stalwart advocacy of groups like SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in this regard.

Another of my long-term goals is to connect people in the health sciences with those in Open Science and those in the fields of informatics, search and librarianship so that people like John Wilbanks, Jean-Claude Bradley, E-Patient Dave, Dorothea Salo and Peter Suber and those in the private sector like the search engine designer Abe Lederman of Deep Web Technologies will all be able to address a multifaceted audience at a single conference at least once a year: one place, one audience, many constituencies.

My long term life’s work goal is to make science and medicine run as smoothly as possible so as to cure and prevent disease. People like Heather Joseph of SPARC and those listed above are making that happen.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

Hope: I love someone who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and so am passionate about advancing research in the area of neurodegenerative diseases and improving the quality of life of those with such illnesses. That is why I admire people like Jamie and Ben Heywood of PatientsLikeMe and Augie Nieto. The Heywoods are creating new paradigms of research, such as sponsoring patient-initiated clinical trials (like on lithium for ALS) and publishing about them in respected medical journals. When my friend was first diagnosed with ALS, I impressed with the practical advice and social support to be found for patients and caregivers on PatientsLikeMe.

Nieto is predicating his grant making on up front agreement by grantees to share the results of their research as much as possible. That seems like a no-brainer, but it has not always been the case. Funders like Autism Speaks are following his lead.

Additionally, I very much respect the pioneering work of those in the fields of Participatory Medicine like e-Patient Dave and Gilles Frydman of ACOR (Association on Online Cancer Resources). E-Patient Dave is a powerful advocate for the right of patients to obtain access to their own health data, for instance.

I am also very interested, as I have mentioned, in the whole debate about public access to taxpayer-funded research and was quite shocked that so many of the professional societies (who have a vested interest in the status quo given their lucrative revenue streams from their publishing operations) who argued on the forum on the issue that OSTP sponsored that only they could determine what good science is and that peons (i.e. scientists who don’t happen to be members of their societies and members of the general public who had funded the research in the first place) outside of their charmed circle are supposedly incapable of benefiting from access to the research results or contributing to activity in their specialties. I am hopeful that such positions will dismissed for the self-serving, science-impeding nonsense that they are.

I am also interested in the work of Science Commons in the areas of copyright, legal infrastructure and technical issues (e.g., matters of metadata) in science and very much look forward to actually meeting John Wilbanks at Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest.

And there is the work of Peter Binfield on the matter of article metrics and all the work people like Jean-Claude Bradley and Steve Koch do on Open Notebook Science and Cameron Neylon’s work on the potential of Google Wave in Science and many other areas.

As you can see, there is a lot to be interested in these days!!

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

i-1e9942e429160c824e90298a682c35dc-Hope Leman pic.jpgHope: Blogging has been a huge boon vis-à-vis my ability to learn about Open Science and Medicine 2.0 and all of these subjects. I got into blogging in a funny way. As I mentioned, I love and care about ScanGrants. I am constantly working on spreading the word about it (like, say, in this interview!) and so asked Charles Knight of what was then AltSearchEngines (Charles now blogs elsewhere) to write it up. He not only very courteously featured ScanGrants but nurtured me as a writer and introduced me to the world of search, which gradually led me to the world of Open Science and Medicine 2.0. Charles is one of the best connected people in the world of search. I owe him a lot. As a result of my blogging I have been blessed with press passes to conferences such as Health 2.0, Web 2.0, the e-Patient Connections Conference and have been able thereby to hear excellent speakers and see new technologies that I would otherwise not have gained exposure to.

Via Charles, I got to know Walter Jessen of Next Generation Science which is an outstanding blog. Walter has been another formative influence and a very generous mentor and colleague (he also moderated a lively session at ScienceOnline2010 on the commonalities of and differences between Medicine 2.0 and Science 2.0).

Blogging has enabled me to connect with people (via the aforementioned press passes) I would not have otherwise met and has enabled me to learn in depth about the work of those I am lucky enough to interview. After all, if I am interviewing someone I had better know what I am talking about. Therefore, I do a huge amount of reading as I prepare my interview questions and I learn a lot from the answers I get from my subjects. My main vice is that I tend to go on at great length about how much I admire the people I am interviewing.

I like to think that the interviews I conduct are providing a window on important developments in health and science and are a ready resource of the cast of characters of all of these movements. (Another of my vices is mixing metaphors.)

As to social networks, I like Twitter very much, but they need to fix the bugs that drive us all crazy. Nothing is more annoying than trying to tweet and getting hung up for various reasons. I don’t tweet as much as I would like, as there is so much else to do. I do appreciate the trouble others take to retweet links to my blog posts–thank you, selfless viral marketers!

Facebook–ugh. I have an account, but do nothing with it. It is too gated for me and too me-centered.

I don’t spend nearly as much time in the Life Scientists room of FriendFeed as I would like (or the rooms related to librarianship, Science 2.0. etc.). There is a huge amount of really fascinating discussion in there. In a perfect world, I would spend hours reading the comments of Cameron Neylon, Bill Hooker, Martin Fenner, Jean-Claude Bradley, et al there.

I find all of this online activity to be a net positive. But I can say that because I am single person with few other interests and of rather obsessive-compulsive habits.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?

Hope: I first discovered science blogs c. 2008 when I started blogging about search. That led me to write a bit for Walter Jessen’s Next Generation Science, as mentioned above. Next Generation Science is a marvelous resource for those interested in Medicine 2.0 and Open Science.

And those interested in Open Science and Open Notebook Science in particular should follow Jean-Claude Bradley’s Useful Chemistry and Steve Koch Science and anything Cameron Neylon writes. His blog is Science in the open, and then there is well, the one you run, Bora, A Blog Around the Clock. Where do you get your energy?

As someone very much interested in medical and science librarianship and thoughtful discussion on its role in Open Science, I recommend Dorothea Salo’s, The Book of Trogool .

The following people did not attend ScienceOnline, but their blogs are useful for those who want to keep up on developments in the field of Participatory Medicine and the e-patient movement. I suggest the blogs of e-Patient Dave and that of Ted Eytan MD. And you can follow what e-Patient Dave, the analyst Susannah Fox and other movers and shakers in Participatory Medicine and online health matters say here. And I just discovered this one of Charles J. Greenberg Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University. That is an excellent one about Open Access in Medicine.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

Hope: The best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for me was simply the opportunity to attend (and to be able to give a little talk about ScanGrants) and actually meet people I had not met before but had only read about or corresponded with. They were all as charming and as brilliant in person as I had hoped. I met Jean-Claude Bradley, Cameron Neylon, Antony Williams of ChemSpider, Steve Koch, Walter Jessen and attended Dorothea Salo’s excellent session on institutional repositories and Peter Binfield’s on article metrics. During the months leading up to the conference, I also learned a lot about the immense amount of work that goes into planning conferences. You are an impresario par excellence in that realm, Bora! Talk about tireless.

In one session at ScienceOnline2010, I was impressed by a young woman who spoke very cogently about Open Access issues, both legal and technological, and wondered who she was and wanted to meet her. She turned out to be Victoria Stodden, who had made some very incisive comments in the OSTP forum on public access. I got to chat with her and later heard her talk on her ideas about legal aspects of publishing, sharing and blogging science. She is a truly innovative thinker and she definitely did change the way I think about science communication. I recommend, in particular, her paper “Enabling Reproducible Research: Open Licensing For Scientific Innovation,” which can be found here.

As to suggestions for next year, I hope that more people in the search industry will attend. Search needs to get into the Open Science space. The online reference manager/bookmarking services (e.g., Mendeley, CiteULike) attended and gave a good presentation and I kept thinking, “Where are the search engines?!” I imagine that as the conference grows ever more important, they will get a clue! I did get the chance to meet and chat with Sol Lederman of the Federated Search Blog. Sol is widely read in search, so here is hoping!

And I am hoping many more librarians can come next year. Dorothea Salo is doing yeoman’s work on bridging the worlds of online science and libraries.

I hope more people from the world of Medicine 2.0 can come, too. Perhaps Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest will help in connecting the world’s of online science and medical and science librarianship. I have had a good deal of help from librarians in publicizing the symposium and I hope that momentum will lead to greater participation by them in the many movements that ScienceOnline so scintillatingly highlights. Librarians are cutting-edge techno whizzes.

I’d also be interested in a session on technologies for disabled scientists.

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

Same time next year at ScienceOnline for me!

Comments

  1. #1 Victoria Stodden
    February 28, 2010

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Hope. It was a pleasure to meet you too!

    Victoria