Research Remix

February 20, 2020

American Expat? You can vote today in Dem Primary!

Filed under: politics — Heather Piwowar @ 6:18 am


Are you an American who is living temporarily or permanently outside the USA?  You can vote in the Democratic Primary!  Even better, it is fast and easy, and you can do it today!

It’s this easy:

  1. Join Democrats Abroad to get an ID number:
  2. Download your ballot:
  3. Fill in and email the PDF to by March 10th

That’s it!  It is that easy.

This casts your vote in the global primary instead in of your home-state primary.  There are 57 constituencies who decide the Democratic presidential nominee: 50 states, 5 territories, DC, and Democrats Abroad.   Democrats Abroad has 13 pledged delegates (for context, Vermont has 16, Alaska has 15, Wyoming has 14, Guam has 7).

There are approximately 5.5 million US citizens overseas, and 3 million of us can vote.  We pay taxes, we love our country, and we want what’s best for it — let’s vote! 


More info:

February 17, 2020

Why I’m All In for Elizabeth Warren

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 6:36 am


I’m all in for Elizabeth Warren because life in the US shouldn’t be like Snakes and Ladders — your lot in life shouldn’t be so heavily determined by luck.

In the USA if you get bad luck (born poor, bad school district, get sick, get laid off, get arrested, etc) it is really really hard to recover.  In contrast, people who have really good luck (they may have worked hard, but privilege and right time right place is luck) keep more of it than every before and more of it than our peer countries in the world.

Our system is broken.

Elizabeth Warren has the empathy, passion, intelligence, and determination to fix it.

She can win.

I’m voting for her — I’ll post details here tomorrow on how you can vote in the Democratic primary as an expat American.

ps More of the reason why I support Warren here and here.  Her 2003 book The Two Income Trap was paradigm-shifting for me.

November 27, 2019

Video of Open Repositories Keynote, and Thankful.

Filed under: conferences, openaccess — Heather Piwowar @ 12:07 pm

I just posted on the Our Research blog (I’m not blogging much there either, but a bit more than here) and wanted to cross-post the content here.  Partly because it includes a link to the video of my Open Repositories keynote, which I’m proud of :), and partly because I really do feel thankful and want to share the thanks in all the venues I have.


It’s American Thanksgiving this week, and we sure are thankful. We’re thankful for so many people and what they do — those who fight for open data, those who release their software and photos openly, the folks who ask and answer Stack Overflow questions, the amazing people behind the Crossref API…. the list is long and rich.

But today I want to shout out a special big thank you to OA advocates and the people behind repositories. Without your early and continued work, it wouldn’t be true that half of all views to scholarly articles are to an article that has an OA copy somewhere, and even better this number is growing to 70% of articles five years from now. That changes the game. For researchers and the public who are looking for papers, and for the whole scholarly communication system in how we think about paying for publishing in the years ahead in ways that make it more efficient and equitable.

I gave the closing keynote at Open Repositories 2019 this year, and my talk highlighted how the success of Unpaywall is really the success of all of you — and how we are set for institutional repositories to be even more impactful in the years ahead. It’s online here if you want to see it. We mean it.

Thank you.

January 8, 2019

Still time to submit to OR2019; I’ll be keynoting!

Filed under: conferences, Uncategorized — Tags: — Heather Piwowar @ 6:44 am

There is still time submit talk proposal for Open Repositories 2019, till January 16th.   It’s going to be in Hamburg Germany this year, and there are fellowships available for those with financial need.

And I’ll be keynoting!  :)  Super looking forward to it…. repositories are at the center of so many exciting changes right now.

Anyway, details below.  I hope you can make it, it would be great to meet you and/or see you again!

Open Repositories



January 3, 2019

How to read and write to a google spreadsheet from heroku using python

Filed under: Tech Tip, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Heather Piwowar @ 6:30 am

Hi all!  This post isn’t about scholcomm or open science so won’t be of interest to most people who used to read this blog back in the day, but I’d kinda like to get back into blogging more and I’m deciding the way to do that is just start blogging more to get the habit back.  Fingers crossed.  :)

Also, all the techies among us have benefitted enormously from others who write posts about their “been there, done this, it worked for me” so I’d like to start giving back a bit more on that front!

Here’s how to get python to read and write from a google spreadsheet, storing the creds in an environment variable so you can run it from heroku for example.

First, read this great post by GREG BAUGUES at Twillo because this solution is just a minor modification to his great instructions.  Go enable the API as he describes, get your credentials file, and don’t forget to go to your google spreadsheet and give permissions to the generated email address as he directs.

Then, set up an environment variable with the value of the contents of the credential file you created, in single quotes, like:

heroku config:add GOOGLE_SHEETS_CREDS_JSON='{
  "type": "service_account",
  "project_id": "my-project",
  "private_key_id": "slkdfjlksdfljksdf",
  "private_key": "-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----\nlsdjflskjdfljsdjfls



Then use the code in this gist, replacing the url with the url of your spreadsheet.

import os
import json
import gspread
from oauth2client.service_account import ServiceAccountCredentials
# based on
# read that file for how to generate the creds and how to use gspread to read and write to the spreadsheet
# use creds to create a client to interact with the Google Drive API
scopes = ['']
json_creds = os.getenv("GOOGLE_SHEETS_CREDS_JSON")
creds_dict = json.loads(json_creds)
creds_dict["private_key"] = creds_dict["private_key"].replace("\\\\n", "\n")
creds = ServiceAccountCredentials.from_json_keyfile_dict(creds_dict, scopes)
client = gspread.authorize(creds)
# Find a workbook by url
spreadsheet = client.open_by_url("")
sheet = spreadsheet.sheet1
# Extract and print all of the values
rows = sheet.get_all_records()

Add gspread and oauth2client to your requirements.txt, push it all to github, and it should work!  You can test it with heroku run python… it should print out the contents of the first sheet of your spreadsheet.

I got it working a day or two ago so the details are a bit hazy now, but I think at some point I was prompted to go to and also give permissions for the “Google Sheets API” in addition to the “Google Drive API” so heads up to try that if you run into any snags.

Anyway, hope that helps somebody!

Long live blogging!

December 11, 2018

Open Science Beers Vancouver: Dec 2018

Filed under: events — Heather Piwowar @ 3:50 pm

In Vancouver and love #OpenScience? Come meet up! Next #OpenScienceBeersYVR is coming up: Thursday December 13th at 6pm in Gastown: . Come hang out with #Scholcommlab, @Impactstory (meet our new team member!) and others! #OA #opendata

“The Local”
3 Alexander Street, Gastown.
See you there! :)

November 4, 2018

open science beers vancouver

Filed under: events, openscience, Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 10:59 am

Open Science Beers Vancouver has been declared!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
6 PM – 9 PM
The Lido
518 East Broadway, Vancouver, British Columbia V5T 1X5
organized by Ente Hbayar

I’ll be there, come join us!

Would love to meet everyone doing open science in Vancouver!
Needless to say the beers part is optional, come even if you don’t want to drink beers :)
If you are interested but can’t come this time, let us know so we can gauge interest for future events.
Hope to see you there!

September 13, 2018

It’s time to insist on #openinfrastructure for #openscience

Filed under: openinfrastructure, openscience — Heather Piwowar @ 9:00 pm

It’s time.  In the last month there’ve been three events that suggest now is the time to start insisting on open infrastructure for open science:

The first event was the publication of two separate recommendations/plans on open science, a report by the National Academies in the US, and Plan S by the EU on open access.  Notably, although comprehensive and bold in many other regards, neither report/plan called for open infrastructure to underpin the proposed open science initiatives.

Peter Suber put it well in his comments on Plan S:

the plan promises support for OA infrastructure, which is good. But it never commits to open infrastructure, that is, platforms running on open-source software, under open standards, with open APIs for interoperability, preferably owned or hosted by non-profit organizations. This omission invites the fate that befell bepress and SSRN, but this time for all European research.

The second event was the launch of Google’s Dataset Search — without an API.

Why do we care?  Because of opportunity cost.  Google Scholar doesn’t have an API, and Google has said it never will.  That means that no one has been able to integrate Google Scholar results into their workflows or products.  This has had a huge opportunity cost for scholarship.  It’s hard to measure, of course, opportunity costs always are, but we can get a sense of it: within 2 years of the Unpaywall launch (a product which does a subset of the same task but with an open api and open bulk data dump), the Unpaywall data has been built in to 2000 library workflows, the three primary A&I indexes, competing commercial OA discovery services, many reports, apps of countless startups, and more integrations in the works.  All of that value-add was waiting for a solution that others could build on.

If we relax and consider the Dataset Search problem solved now that Google has it working, we’re forgoing these same integration possibilities for dataset search that we lost out on for so long with OA discovery.  We need to build open infrastructure: the open APIs and open source solutions that Peter Suber talks about above.

As Peter Kraker put it on Twitter the other day: #dontLeaveItToGoogle.

The third event was of a different sort: a gathering of 58 nonprofit projects working toward Open Science.  It was the first time we’ve gathered together explicitly like that, and the air of change was palatable.

It’s exciting.  We’re doing this.  We’re passionate about providing tools for the open science workflow that embody open infrastructure.  #OpenSciRoadmap

If you are a nonprofit but you weren’t at JROST last month, join in!  It’s just getting going.


So.  #openinfrastructure for #openscience.  Everybody in scholarly communication: start talking about it, requesting it, dreaming it, planning it, building it, requiring it, funding it.  It’s not too big a step.  We can do it.  It’s time.


ps More great reading on what open infrastructure means from Bilder, Lin, and Neylon (2015) here and from Hindawi here.

pps #openinfrastructure is too long and hard to spell for a rallying cry.  #openinfra??  help :)

September 3, 2018

Impactstory is hiring! Come work with us!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 8:46 am

We’re hiring our first developer!  Until now all the code behind Unpaywall, Impactstory Profiles, Depsy, and everything else we’ve done has been written by Jason (mostly frontend) and me (mostly backend) (with design of both parts done by us together).

But it is getting to be more than we can do ourselves, and we have money to hire, so we are really excited to expand the team!

Job ad is on the Impactstory blog, reposted here to make it easy.  Help spread the word so we can find the perfect person and they can find us :)



We’re building tools to bring about an open science revolution.

Impactstory began life as a hackathon project. As the hackathon ended, a few of us migrated into the hotel hallway to continue working, completing the prototype as the hotel started waking up for breakfast. Months of spare-time development followed, then funding. That was five years ago — we’ve got the same excitement for Impactstory today.

We’ve also got great momentum.  The scientific journal Nature recently profiled our main product:  “Unpaywall has become indispensable to many academics, and tie-ins with established scientific search engines could broaden its reach.”  We’re making solid revenue, and it’s time to expand our team.

We’re passionate about open science, and we run our non-profit company openly too.  All of our code is open source, we make our data as open as possible, and we post our grant proposals so that everyone can see both our successful and our unsuccessful ones.  We try to be the change we want to see 🙂


The position is lead dev for Unpaywall, our index of all the free-to-read scholarly papers in the world. Because Unpaywall is surfacing millions of formerly inaccessible open-access scientific papers, it’s growing very quickly, both in terms of usage and revenue. We think it’s a really transformative piece of infrastructure that will enable entire new classes of tools to improve science communication. As a nonprofit, that’s our aim.

We’re looking for someone to take the lead on the tech parts of Unpaywall.  You should know some Python and be familiar with relational databases (we use PostgreSQL) and have plenty of experience programming.  But more importantly, we’re looking for someone who is smart, dedicated, and gets things done! As an early team member you will play a key role in the company as we grow.

The position is remote, with flexible working hours, and plenty of vacation time.  We are a small team so tell us what benefits are important to you and we’ll make them happen.


We’re at about a million dollars of revenue (grants and earned income) with just two employees: the two co-founders.  We value kindness, honesty, grit, and smarts. We’re taking our time on this hire, holding out for just the right person.


Sound like you?  Please email your resume, GitHub, and any work you’re particularly proud of to and we’ll get back to you.

May 6, 2018

Where’s Waldo with Public Access Links

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 9:56 pm

Five years of blog silence!  Good news: I’m not dead!  :)  Working hard on Unpaywall these days.  Making no promises about any additional blogging, but what the heck, feeling it today, so here goes :)

Was digging into some publisher pages today, and I noticed a trend.  Links to Public Access author manuscripts that CHORUS says are publicly available thanks to funder mandates are often very difficult to actually find on publisher pages.  Want to see what I mean?

There is a “read for free” link on this page. Can you find it?

… hint: scroll down, far, ignoring the big sticky “Purchase PDF” at the top, to the very bottom of the page, past another subscription login and Purchase option, finally, to “View Open Manuscript”:




Another one. Can you find the free download link on this American Physical Society paper? It’s there, but I bet most people wouldn’t find it unless they knew to look.

It’s in the margin, beside “SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED”, under “Buy Article”, and under “Log in to Institution”. Nope, not “Available via CHORUS”, that’s takes you to the CHORUS website.  Under that.  Yup!  Pretty clear once you see it, it’s true, but is the Public really going to go looking for that when they don’t know to look?



On this one though?
On this one the publishers are *counting* on you to know that if you click on “CHORUS” you will get to a free version of the paper, because that’s the only label the free version is given.  If you naively think clicking “PDF” or “Full Text” would be the best way to get you to the full text, you just get these options… with no indication you can also read the author manuscript for free.


Not very happy-making.

And the thing is the Author Manuscripts are peer-reviewed versions! They have all the same info as the PDFs these journals want to selling us, they are just missing the prettying up etc.  So Publishers aren’t doing an important quality gate-keeping role here — they are just making it harder than it needs to be for people to find free versions of articles, the free versions that funders have mandated be made available.  I have no problem then if they want to sell the Public a pretty PDF version.  Heck I might even buy it sometimes.  But let it be an informed decision.  The publishers are telling funders “oh yes of COURSE we link to the free articles on our page” but then doing it a way that makes it really unlikely it will actually improve Public Access.  #notcool

It’s pretty disappointing, but not very surprising. Counting on toll-access publishers to implement our infrastructure is kinda likely to end up this way, yeah?

Anyway,  I don’t know if anyone is looking at these issues systematically, but I think doing so would be a great idea so we can start making noise to our funders and our publishers to do better.

[original twitter thread on this]



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