Skip down to main content

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

With Professor Alyssa Goodman, and Professor Chris Lintott
21 Feb 2013
With Professor Alyssa Goodman, and Professor Chris Lintott
Filming venue:

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

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 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 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 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 and

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.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC)Bodleian LibrariesDigital Social Research



Professor Alyssa Goodman

Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University