Charles Basenga Kiyanda

ICDERS 2015 poster

I had a poster at icders 2015 this year on a version 0 of an online database for experimental HE data. I did put the address of my personal webiste on that poster, so you might have ended up here from there.


I couldn’t attend, but my colleague was nice enough to put the poster up and probably discuss a bit with some people. The whole point of the poster was to present the first pass at a database that is meant to be, in time, explorative and participative. By that, I mean that the goal is for people to use the interface as an exploration tool and not merely to download data and for researchers to share, submit, download, use data in a (relatively) simple format that facilitates things. The tone of the poster ended up being a little light-hearted, but the content was very real. The main criticism I’ve heard of the participative approach is that some sort of central command is needed to ensure the quality of the available data. I disagree and I gave a few examples, one of which is probably not very well known, yet is very close to what this project aims to be, that is openstreetmap.

OpenStreetMap (OSM)  is a participative and collective database that aims at mapping everything that is permanent in the world. There is no enforced tagging scheme in the database, so you can end up with competing nomenclature in the database. Everything is community decided and nothing is actually technically enforcable. The file format is akin to xml and hence is completely open. Nonetheless, the project is, I would say, unquestionnably succesful. Large organizations use openstreetmap as the backbone of their mapping needs. Some examples of that:

These examples, I hope, will convince you that the participative model can and has lead to high quality, reliable products in the recent past. This database project’s aim is to use a similar model in our field. Hopefully, this will be the start of a fruitful discussion.

Again, ff you want to try the databse, go here.

NB: It’s been pointed out to me that there was an overlay mistake in the poster and some words were cut off slightly. Annoingly, everything was fine in the original PPT file and it seems powerpoint screwed something up when the file got converted to a tiff for printing. This is highly annoying as I would kind of expect (and indeed use to trust) powerpoint to get “overlay of objects on a page” right as that’s kind of a core function of the software. Another reason to move towards open source and open data: auditability. The original poster is available here (Icders 2015 poster on HE database) if you’d like to see it.

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