News

Making Transparency Work for Harvard's Dataverse Project

A culture of transparency permeates the Dataverse project, contributing to its adoption in dozens of research institutions around the world. Headquartered at Harvard University, the Dataverse development team has more than a decade of experience operating as an open source project within an organization that values transparency: the Institute of Quantitative Social Science (IQSS). Working transparently helps the Dataverse team communicate changes to current development efforts, provides opportunities for the community to support each other, and facilitates contribution to the project...

Recovering from Disasters: Social Networks Matter More than Bottled Water and Batteries

Standard advice about preparing for disasters focuses on building shelters and stockpiling things like food, water and batteries. But resilience - the ability to recover from shocks, including natural disasters - comes from our connections to others, and not from physical infrastructure or disaster kits. Almost six years ago, Japan faced a paralyzing triple disaster: a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that forced 470,000 people to evacuate from more than 80 towns, villages and cities. My colleagues and I investigated how communities in the hardest-hit areas reacted to these shocks, and found that social networks - the horizontal and vertical ties that connect us to others - are our most important defense against disasters...

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3 Open Source Alternatives to MATLAB

For many students in mathematics, physical sciences, engineering, economics, and other fields with a heavy numeric component, MATLAB is their first introduction to programming or scientific computing in general. It can be a good tool for learning, although (in my experience) many of the things that students and researchers use MATLAB for are not particularly demanding calculations; rather they could easily be conducted with any number of basic scripting tools, with or without statistical or math-oriented packages. However, it does have a near ubiquity in many academic settings, bringing with it a large community of users familiar with the language, plugins, and capabilities in general...

How Open Government Is Helping With Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico

Just weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, two more "unprecedented" hurricanes made their way to the southeastern United States. Although changes in Hurricane Irma's path spared Florida from the bulk of the damage, both Irma and Maria directly hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria was particularly devastating for the more than 3.5 million American citizens living in these U.S. Caribbean territories. The CEO of Puerto Rico's sole electric company indicated that the grid had been "basically destroyed." Without electricity, communications were severely limited. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, embracing open government principles—such as open data, collaboration between citizens and government, and transparency—can save lives.

Europe Pledges Support for Open Source Government Solutions

Estonia has long been the digital envy of many European Union member states. An effective and open policy approach to digital government has yielded extraordinary results—from 90%+ uptake of electronic identification (E-ID) solutions to an open source e-government platform (X-Road) to meet the ever-growing expectations of IT-savvy citizens as well as other countries wanting to pool IT across borders. Perhaps the most significant development for open source supporters is the explicit recognition of open source software (OSS) as a key driver towards achieving ambitious governmental digitisation goals by 2020. Under the declaration, European goverments will...

Initiative for Open Citations Making Great Progress

It is enormously satisfying when a good idea captures the imagination and takes off and that’s precisely what happened with the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) over the past 6 months. Citations are the way that researchers communicate how their work builds on and relates to the work of others and they can be used to trace how a discovery spreads and is used by researchers in different disciplines and countries. Creating a truly comprehensive map of scholarship, however, relies on having a curated machine-readable database of citation information, where the provenance of every citation is clear and reusable. With the launch of I4OC that map, and the potential for anyone to use it to explore the scholarly landscape, comes much closer...

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Elon, Do We Have a Disaster for You!

One of the most interesting twists resulting from Hurricane Maria striking Puerto Rico was Elon Musk's offer that Tesla could help Puerto Rico solve its energy crisis, with a long-term, 21st century fix. After all, its electrical grid was devastated, with almost all the power wiped out. It didn't help that even prior to this disaster its system was antiquated and badly in need of repairs. It is telling that we don't have similar offers to rebuild the Puerto Rico's health care system, which is similarly devastated. Or, for that matter, our system, which is its own kind of disaster. Mr. Musk was asked on Twitter if Tesla could help Puerto Rico using solar and battery power, and he responded in the affirmative, saying it had done so on smaller islands but faced no scalablity issues...

Why Cloud-Based Public Health Solutions are a Good Option for Clinical Decision Support

Cloud computing is one of the most powerful technology deployment strategies in use today. In fact, the notion of cloud resources has become prominent in consumer computing with only a limited understanding of what it means or does (e.g., Apple iCloud and Google Cloud). In this article we will examine some of the key reasons to host public health clinical decision support (CDS) solutions in the cloud. In a recent national survey, 95% of respondents indicated that they were using some form of cloud computing in their environment...The first step is to to understand the difference between cloud computing and traditional computing.

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Let's Hope This Bores You

I think I know what is wrong with health care: not enough people are bored. These are stressful times for health care. There's a never-ending stream of innovation, constant pressures about costs, concerns about the quality of care, conflicting research findings, ongoing uncertainty about how we should finance what coverage for which people, and new business models and organizational structures. There's too much to take in, and everyone in health care is working too hard, too long.  Honestly, who has time to be bored? But that's a problem. We usually think of being bored as a bad thing. You don't often find people saying they're looking to be bored. You don't find many activities that bill themselves as being boring...

3D Printers: A Revolutionary Frontier for Medicine

Mission control on earth receives an urgent communication from Mars that an astronaut has fractured his shinbone. Using a handheld scanning device, the crew takes images of his damaged tibia and transmits them to earth. Orthopedic surgeons then use a 3D printer to create an exact replica of the astronaut’s leg from medical imaging files obtained before the voyage. Surgeons on earth use a robot to stabilize the bone with a metal plate on the 3D replica. The data is transmitted back to Mars, where surgical instruments, a personalized plate and screws are 3D printed. Finally, a surgical robot operates on the injured astronaut...