Open Notebook Science – is it a blog or not?

Yesterday evening I received correspondence from Dr. Amber Budden, Director for Community Engagement and Outreach.

She inquired if I had accidentally posted my most recent open notebook log entitled “DataONE Sharepoint – E-Mailing Attachments to Sharepoint.

I see this as an understandable inquiry because this entry was “Pressed” from my personal site,, using the “E-mail to open notebook workflow.

Note: I think it would be worthwhile to create a diagram outlining the various workflows for an open notebook that this open notebook currently employs.

Essentially, the notebook entry duplicated an e-mail sent that afternoon.  The e-mail was a query to Dr. Miriam Davis, a post doctoral researcher working on the DataONE project at the Center for Information and Communication Studies, where I am also based.

The purpose of publishing my query to Dr. Davis was to document some of the difficulties in “streamlining” this open notebook, and to make apparent not only the technology used, but the problems encountered along the way in setting up the open notebook with the particular technology available.

Dr. Budden brought up an interesting point that I think that is worth considering (especially as she is on the executive team): is an e-mail appropriate reading material?

My answer was “Yes.” As I mentioned in my first Open Notebook entry in May, “Data Science Open Notebook” – this is not a blog.

It is apparent though, that a problem can arise with my open notebook when entries are not taken in context.  Further, I share this open notebook with a handful of other researchers who use it for different purposes.  Therefore, when a new post from me, especially via e-mail arrives, without context, it might be confusing why what appears to be a personal e-mail is visible.

Therefore, I think it may be worthwhile to modify the workflow to include some type of “slug” or other “boilerplate” material expressing that the material posted, especially correspondence posted via e-mail, is reflective of the “open notebook.” I could even incorporate that into the title.

For more on my thinking behind the open notebook and the potential conflict pointed out by Dr. Budden, I am supplying my reply:

Yes it’s intended.

This is principally because my “blog” isn’t a blog (in my eyes); it’s meant to be an open research notebook. In other words, there is no promise of a narrative or “point” to what I post – except to be completely transparent about what I’m working on, and allow me or others to reference my notes, if needed.

Caveat: you may notice that a key detail is replaced with [redacted] in the version I sent to the blog. I excise potentially sensitive material, in this case – the “secret” URL for depositing documents to our UT DataONE share point site.

I’m looking at how to incorporate e-mails I send into my notebook. E-mails will be tagged “correspondence.”

Essentialy, I’m working on a workflow to archive draft documents on our UTK sharepoint site and at the same time document those drafts in my open WordPress notebook.

I don’t post e-mails I get back, but rather summarize them.

I do respect my vision of the open notebook might be inconsistent with DataONE’s vision for the site.

If that’s the case, please let me know if you’d need a modification to how I present e-mail correspondence, or other entries in the data science open notebook.

As I’ve acknowledged, some modifications may be needed.  Open Notebook Science for DataONE is new territory for both me and Dr. Budden, along with the rest of DataONE students, employees, and interns – but exploring “new territory” is part of the fun of research.

I believe a schematic of the open notebook workflow will be warranted, pending work on some other research efforts I am working on at the moment.

About Tanner Jessel

I am a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE and pursuing a Masters in Information Sciences with an Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science. I assist scholarly research efforts supporting the Sociocultural, Usability and Assessment, and Member Nodes working groups within DataONE. I am based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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