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Showing posts from November, 2011

Research without walls

I recently signed the Research Without Walls pledge, which says that I will not do any peer review work for conferences, journals, or other scientific venues that do not make the results available for free via the Web. Like many scientists, I commit hundreds of hours a year to serving on program committees and reviewing journal papers, but the result of that (volunteer) work is essentially that the research results get locked behind a copyright license that is inconsistent with the way in which scientists actually disseminate their results -- for free, via the Web.

I believe that there is absolutely no reason for research results, especially those supported by public funding, not to be made open to the entire world. It's time for the computer science research community to move in this direction. Of course, this is going to mean a big change in the role of the professional societies, such as ACM and IEEE. It's time we made that change, as painful as it might be.

What is open acc…

Highlights from SenSys 2011

ACM SenSys 2011 just wrapped up this week in Seattle. This is the premier conference in the area of wireless sensor networks, although lately the conference has embraced a bunch of other technologies, including sensing on smartphones and micro-air vehicles. It's an exciting conference and brings together a bunch of different areas.

Rather than a full trip report, I wanted to quickly write up two highlights of the conference: The keynote by Michel Maharbiz on cybernetic beetles (!), and an awesome talk by James Biagioni on using smartphone data to automatically determine bus routes and schedules.

Keynote by Mich Maharbiz - Cyborg beetles: building interfaces between the synthetic and the multicellular

Mich is a professor at Berkeley and works in the interface between biology and engineering. His latest project is to adding a "remote control" circuit to a live insect -- a large beetle -- allowing one to control the flight of the insect. Basically, they stick electrodes into …

Software is not science

Very often I see conference paper submissions and PhD thesis proposals that center entirely on a piece of software that someone has built. The abstract often starts out something like this:

We have designed METAFOO, a sensor network simulator that accurately captures hardware level power consumption. METAFOO has a modular design that achieves high flexibility by allowing new component models to be plugged into the simulation. METAFOO also incorporates a Java-based GUI environment for visualizing simulation results, as well as plugins to MATLAB, R, and Gnuplot for analyzing simulation runs....

You get the idea.  More often than not, the paper reads like a technical description of the software, with a hairy block diagram with a bunch of boxes and arrows and a detailed narrative on each piece of the system, what language it's implemented in, how many lines of code, etc. The authors of such papers quite earnestly believe that this is going to make a good conference submission.

While th…