Seamless Astronomy, Sea Monsters, and the Milky Way (Innovation and Digital Scholarship Lecture Series)

Professor Alyssa Goodman, Dr Chris Lintott

Thursday 21 February 2013 17:00 - 18:30

Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3JS

Please email your name and affiliation to events@oii.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 287210.

Abstract

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 projects.iq.harvard.edu/seamlessastronomy/ and milkywaybones.org.

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.

Partners

About the speakers

Professor Alyssa Goodman (Speaker)

Harvard University

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.

Dr Chris Lintott (Respondent)

Department of Physics, University of Oxford