Want to Open up Your Work? Try a Data Mine!

Have you heard of the Open Science movement?

The general idea is to make scientists’ work openly accessible, both to the general public and to other scientists. This doesn’t just include published results, but the raw data as well. The goal is to make it possible for anyone, in principle, to check the validity of important results.

I’m of the opinion that this sort of thing isn’t always feasible, but when it is it’s usually a great thing to do. And in my field, the best way to do this sort of thing is to build a data mine.

I’m thinking in particular of Blümlein, Broadhurst, and Vermaseren’s Multiple Zeta Value Data Mine. Multiple zeta values are the result of generalizing the Riemann Zeta Function, and evaluating it at one. They’re transcendental numbers, and there are complicated relations between them. Finding all those relations, even for a restricted subset of them, can be a significant task. Usually, there aren’t published programs for this sort of thing, like most things in physics we have to jury-rig up our own code. What makes the folks behind the multiple zeta value data mine unique is that when they had to do this, they didn’t just keep the code to themselves. Instead, they polished it up and put it online.

That’s the general principle behind building a data mine. By putting your tools online, you make them available to others, so other researchers can use them as a jumping-off point for their own work. This can speed up the field, bringing everyone up to the same starting point, and has the side benefit of gathering heaps of citations from people who use your tools.

My collaborators already have a site with some of the data from our research into hexagon functions. Originally, it was just a place to house extra-large files that couldn’t be included with the original paper. For our next paper, we’re planning on expanding it into a true data mine, and including enough technology for someone else to build off of our results.

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