Public Lab Research note

Recent citizen/open science articles

by warren | February 06, 2012 21:28 06 Feb 21:28 | #758 | #758

Hello all -- here's a few good articles on open/citizen science I wanted to share (along with what made me excited or glum about them):

Forbes, "Now Every Company Is A Software Company" (

Sunnyvale-based Picarro, with 90 employees, has developed a highly accurate mobile measurement device for gasses, with related software that turns the tool’s output into an easy-to-understand visualization. Any organization or individual can drive Picarro’s $70,000 instrument around and create stunningly detailed maps documenting, say, point-by-point methane leakage from a pipeline or a refinery. The implications are enormous. Rather than produce in blissful ignorance, industrial and energy giants can now know what, if any, toxins they are putting into the atmosphere. More critically, if they’re unwilling to look at this data, anyone with a car and Picarro’s tools can do it for them.

This is depressing because $70k is "cheap"? And maybe because they're championing this as accessible tech for "any organization or individual"? Well, i guess this is Forbes...

NYTimes, "Cracking Open the Scientific Process" (

Facebook for Scientists?

“I want to make science more open. I want to change this,” said Ijad Madisch, 31, the Harvard-trained virologist and computer scientist behind ResearchGate, the social networking site for scientists.

Started in 2008 with few features, it was reshaped with feedback from scientists. Its membership has mushroomed to more than 1.3 million, Dr. Madisch said...

The Web site is a sort of mash-up of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and “like” and “follow” buttons (but without baby photos, cat videos and thinly veiled self-praise). Only scientists are invited to pose and answer questions — a rule that should not be hard to enforce, with discussion threads about topics like polymerase chain reactions that only a scientist could love.

Grumble... 'cause of course science is not open *mainly* because scientists don't have their own nerdy version of Facebook. I hate the last sentence, too -- "only a scientist could love" -- go tell that to DIYBio.

Speaking of which, they (DIYBio, Genspace in Brooklyn) were featured in another article in the NYTimes:

NYTimes, "When Breakthroughs Begin at Home" (

Great to see them getting good coverage. Apologies for the grumbles.



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