Speaking about open science

Over the next few months, I’ll be giving talks to help raise awareness of open science in many cities in North America and Europe: what open science is, what the benefits are, what the obstacles are, and how we can overcome those obstacles.

If you’re interested in having me speak in your city, I’d like to hear from you. Please drop me an email at mn@michaelnielsen.org.

As a sampler of the kind of talk I can give, see my talk at TEDxWaterloo. That talk was for a general audience – I’m also interested in speaking to audiences of scientists in all disciplines, to librarians, to people in technology companies and organizations, to people in government. I’d also love to meet people everywhere who are working on open science projects!

My speaking is being supported through a generous grant from the Information Program of the Open Society Institute, with assistance from York University.

As a result of this support, there will be no speaker’s fee. Furthermore, if your organization does not have a budget to support travel, that should not be a barrier.


  1. I am a semi-retired physicist, who spent most of his career doing research and publishing papers in condensed matter/laser physics. I now work about half-time as an Assoc. Editor for Phys Rev B. I have been organizing biannual Caltech Alumni events in Santa Barbara, CA which involve a dinner followed by a speaker, and I’m looking for a speaker for October 2011.
    You were recommended by Charlene Ahn and David Beckman, who knew you at Caltech.
    We have no travel funds at all. The best I can do is a free dinner. The audience includes Caltech Alumni & guests, so less than half are scientists, and we typically have 45-50 attendees. The last 3 talks were (1) What can your DNA tell you; (2) Recent results from the Large Hadron Collider; and (3) The art & science of underwater photography. All speakers were Caltech grads, but your connection as a postdoc would qualify you. Send me an email if you are interested. If you have some contacts at UCSB, you might be able to arrange something with them on the same trip, but I can’t help much with that.

  2. Hi Michael,

    is there a public version of your tour plan somewhere? It probably doesn’t make sense to discuss the possibility of you giving a talk in Europe if it is already clear you are going to be in America for the rest of the week.


  3. Just watched your TED talk at TEDxWaterloo – thanks!

    This is how the web got built… what we (web monkeys) always said, back in the days of the wild web frontier – and still do, if we’re freelance, not in agencies where restrictions are where the money is made – is that if we help other people do better work, we all get to do better work. Denying other people knowledge when we have to work with them means we’re working below our peak, getting bored, not advancing anything,

    It’s blindingly obvious in science, harder for some to see the benefits in business: not sharing information results in less fun. It’s a bit like being an ace player wanting a good game of tennis but refusing to help someone improve their game in case they get good enough to beat you.

    Let’s all play better games!

  4. I just watched your TED talk at TEDxWaterloo. I really enjoyed it.

    A thought occurred to me though, after watching it. You said in your speech, that you believe that in order to get people to contribute to open source science initiatives, they need to feel it is part of their job. I do not necessarily agree with that. I think that people are willing to do things even if they don’t believe it is part of their job (look at WikiPedia, who thinks contributing there is part of their job?).

    I think that people are motivated by rewards. If you can create a site that rewards people who contribute (even virtually), then you have created something where people will participate. The rewards may be that it is a tool that they will use later, or simply points that they can earn on the site. Gamify the experience, and people will be more likely to participate.

    Just take a look at FoldIt. They have an application that lets people play around with protein folding. After releasing a protein that scientists had been trying to understand how it folded for over 10 years, users figured it out in 10 days! Because it was a game.

    If we can create tools like this and allow people to contribute this way, we can make a huge difference. Speed of discovery can be dramatically increased.

  5. Hi Becky – Thanks for the kind words! On your point: I entirely agree with you. I was speaking only of professional scientists when I talked about open science being part of a scientist’s job!

  6. I am reading your book and enjoying it. I notice from the index that mathoverflow/stackoverflow are not mentioned in the book. I find this omission surprising.

  7. Hi Navin – I omitted virtually all open science projects now happening. To do otherwise would have meant the book was little more than a very long laundry list. MO is, of course, very interesting.

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