Thursday, August 21, 2008

Elsevier Grand Challenge

Elsevier recently announced the 10 semi-finalists for their Grand Challenge. To my consternation, I'm one of them. I wrote a proposal entitled "Towards realising Darwin’s dream: setting the trees free" (I have uploaded a copy to Nature Precedings, it should be available shortly see doi:10.1038/npre.2008.2217.1). The "setting the trees" free is a reference to my oft expressed view that much of our knowledge of evolutionary history is locked up in the pages of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Of course, writing a proposal is one thing, making something useful is quite another. I envision something along the lines of this, but *cough* better. Meantime, the other semi-finalists look scarily good.


Drycafe said...

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to the proposal appearing on Precedings. BTW as for citation networks, have you seen the co-authorship networks on TreeTapper? E.g.,

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but how do you feel about this:

"Elsevier shall be granted the right of first refusal for the exclusive commercial development of any finalist’s submissions. "

Roderic Page said...


I hadn't seen the co-authorship networks in TreeTapper. I've been playing with networks that show the links between the coauthors rather than just the links between author and co-author (inspired in part by the Facebook Friend Wheel). I think this gives additional insight into the sociology. For example, the co-authorship graph for Mark Wilkinson shows that Mark has published with two rather different clusters of people.

Roderic Page said...


There's a slight feeling of dancing with the devil, but the important clause is:

"All participants retain ownership of any software they develop or any other intellectual property rights they create; these will not be used by Elsevier unless there is explicit agreement with the participants regarding this use."

If I develop software and make it available under, say, GPL, then nothing is lost. Part of what I'm trying to do is show that even if Elsevier doesn't make full text freely available, they could make their journals much more scientifically useful by publishing additional metadata (i.e., beyond the standard bibliographic details).

Anonymous said...

Cool, that was my question. By the way they've set up the contest, you're basically stuck either doing things exclusively with Elsevier or giving it away for free (assuming their lawyers don't stretch the definition of "commercial development"). As long as you were planning to go open source anyway, no harm, no foul.

Anonymous said...

Hi David and Roderic, I just wanted to clarify that semi-finalists can certainly develop with a 3rd party (or as you say, make their work available for free). Elsevier just retains the right to match another commercial offer (if they want to)and semi-finalists always have the right to refuse that offer.

Kevin said...

and if the scare isn't big enough i jus realised that u are the only single member team in the list!

Anonymous said...