Bryan Lawrence : Bryan's Blog 2009/02

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Bryan's Blog 2009/02

Strongly Defend Weakly Held Positions

I've just been at a NERC data management workshop. I may well blog some more about it, but one thing I spent a lot of time repeating to lots of people was one of Bob Sutton's mantras: "Strongly Defend Weakly Held Positions".

There were (at least) two strands at the meeting where this mantra is particularly important, both in the context that we (the data management community, like everyone else) are trying to find our way forward in uncertain technical times - we know the science drivers are demanding interoperability, but doing so without strong constraints on what that actually means:

  1. As Chris Rusbridge pointed out, integrated science (a loosely defined phrase but which at least points to why interoperabilty matters) means that scientists will be using unfamiliar data, therefore someone (data curators and managers) must make data available for unfamiliar users. This means we're often struggling to work out what needs to be communicated, how it can be communicated, and how to get data into differing toolsets, which brings us to

  2. The technical options available to support interoperabilility are evolving rapidly, funding is limited, and while potential usage is effectively infinite, actual usage will drive us forward.

Both of these lead to the necessity for a strategy which simultaneously makes progress while yielding ground when progress via a particular route is overtaken by progress via another route. However, we need to actually make progress, and it's incumbent on those of us who have an overview of the options (scientific, social and technical) to provide leadership in terms of directions - and strongly defend those choices. But it's just as incumbent on us to yield quickly and gracefully when we (inevitably) make some wrong calls. It's also incumbent on us, individually and collectively, to recognise that sometimes it's the mistakes we make - even the expensive and time consuming ones - that tell us how we should have done things, and sometimes doing something wrong is the only way to find out how to do it right!

As an aside, just in case I don't follow up with more about the conference (and let's face it, this blog is a bit stop and start), Chris's point about unfamiliar users lead him to introduce to us the "fourth Rumsfield": the unknown knowns. I rather like to think that leads to part of the job description for data management:

  • We exist to mitigate against the unknown knowns associated with the collection (or production) of data and it's usage becoming known unknowns!

by Bryan Lawrence : 2009/02/19 : Categories curation management badc : 0 trackbacks : 0 comments (permalink)


For some reason both bloglines and technorati seem to have turned up their noses at my blog. I wouldn't mind, but I kind of rely on them to find if there are any inbound links to my blog (and thus anything worth pursuing). There aint much point asking the lazy web a question if I can't find any links pointing to the question ...

  • Tecnorati is stuck claiming my latest post is from the 6th of October last year (despite the little preview graphic actually being current and a ping from yesterday).

  • Bloglines has a post from November the 14th, but amusingly finds a citation to a january post when I look for posts, but doesn't find that post when I look for citations.

  • Google blog reader finds my blog ok, and google web search finds stuff in my blog, but not google blog search. What to make of that?

Oh well. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, there's never been much overlap in what they found as citations, so the fact my posts themselves have disappared into obscurity snouldn't surprise me.

by Bryan Lawrence : 2009/02/03 : 0 trackbacks : 2 comments (permalink)

NDG papers appear in Phil Trans

I'm really glad to see that our papers on

have appeared in the NERC e-science special edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

by Bryan Lawrence : 2009/02/03 : Categories ndg metadata : 0 trackbacks : 1 comment (permalink)

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