On Science Commons’ Moving West…

I’ve kept this blog quiet lately – for a wide range of reasons – but a few questions that have come in have prompted me to start up a new series of posts.

The main reason for the lack of posts around here is that I’ve been very busy, and for the most part, I’ve used this blog for a lot of lengthy posts on weighty topics. At least, weighty to me. If you want a more informal channel, you can follow me on twitter, as I prefer tweeting links and midstream thoughts to rapid-fire short blog entries. The joy of a blog like this for me is the chance to explore subjects in greater depth. But it also means that during times of extreme hecticness, I won’t publish here as much.

Anyhow. I’ve been busy with a pretty big task, which is getting me, my family, and the Science Commons operation moved from Boston to San Francisco. We’re moving from our longtime headquarters at MIT into the main Creative Commons offices, and it’s a pretty complex set of logistics on both personal and professional levels.

As an aside, I’m now very close to some downright amazing chicken and waffles, and that’s exciting.

Now, I would have thought this would have been interpreted by the world in the clear manner that I see it: us Science Commons folks are, and have always been, part and parcel of the Creative Commons team, so this didn’t strike me as super-important if you’re not one of the people who has to move. If you email us, our addresses end with @creativecommons.org. That’s where our paychecks come from. So having us integrate into the headquarters offices doesn’t seem such a big deal. But I keep getting rumbles that people think we’re somehow “going away” or “disappearing” – that’s why there’s going to be a series of posts on the move and its implications.

So let me be as blunt as possible: Science at Creative Commons, and the work we do at the Science Commons project, isn’t going anywhere. We are only going to be intensifying our work, actually. You can expect some major announcements in the fall about some major new projects, and you’ll learn a lot about the strategic direction we plan to take then. I can’t talk about it all yet, because not all the moving pieces are settled, but suffice to say the plans are both Big and Exciting. We’ve already added a staff member – Lisa Green – who is both a Real Scientist and experienced in Bay Area science business development, to help us realize those plans.

Our commitments and work over the past six years of operations aren’t going anywhere either. We will continue to be active, vocal, and visible proponents of open access and open data. We will continue to work on making biological materials transfer, and technology transfer, a sane and transparent process. And our commitment to the semantic web – both in terms of its underlying standards and in terms of keeping the Neurocommons up and running – is a permanent one.

You can catch up with our achievements in later posts, or follow our quarterly dispatches. We get a lot of stuff done for a group of six people, and that’s not going to change either.

Some things *are* likely to change. For example, I don’t like the Neurocommons name for that project much any more – it’s far more than neuroscience in terms of the RDF we distribute, and the RDFHerd software will wire together any kind of database that’s formatted correctly. But those changes are changes of branding, not of substance in terms of the work.

It is, however, now time to get our work and the powerful engine that is the Creative Commons headquarters together. I’m tired of seeing the fantastic folks that I work with twice a year. We’re missing a ton of opportunities to bring together knowledge in the HQ – especially around RDFa and metadata for things like scholarly norms – by being physically separated. Not to mention that the San Francisco Bay Area is perhaps the greatest place on earth to meet the people who change the world, every day, through technology.

I’m also tired of living on the road. I’m nowhere near Larry Lessig and Joi Ito in terms of my travel, but I’m closing in on ten years of at least 150,000 miles a year in airplanes. It gets old. Most of our key projects at this point are on the west coast, like Sage Bionetworks and the Creative Commons patent licenses, and we’re developing a major new project in energy data that is going to be centered in the Bay Area as well. The move gives me the advantage of being able to support those projects, which are much more vital to the long term growth of open science than conference engagements, without 12 hours of roundtrip plane flights.

I’ll be looking back at the past years of work in Boston over the coming weeks here. I’m in a reflective mood and it’s a story that needs to be told. We’ve learned a lot, and we’ve had some real successes. And we’re not abandoning a single inch of the ground that we’ve gained in those years. So if you hear tell that we’re disappearing or going away, kindly point them here and let them know they will have us around for quite some time into the future…