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Mathematics professor honored at White House

Oral Roberts University professor of Mathematics, Dr. Andrew Lang, received honors at the White House this summer for his contribution in Open Notebook Science.

Dr. Lang helped create Open Notebook Science, a completely public online notebook where scientists work together.

“I collaborate with a lot of people from around the country and, actually, from around the world,” Lang said. “One of the ways to do that easily is to put everything, all the research that all of us do, in one location online where everyone can read it.”

The idea started six years ago with two collaborators. It has since grown to 15 collaborators from around the world.

“It’s not like 20 mathematicians. We have organic chemists, physical chemists,” Lang said. Lang said for every professor there were at least three students working in Open Notebook Science.

The professors and students collaborate around the world on current scientific  issues. The increased number and diversity of fields present in Open Notebook Science give the forum an advantage compared to the “Lone Ranger” scientists.

“Some of these problems are really big for one person to try and tackle,” Lang said. “Like finding a cure for malaria is quite a challenge.”

In the 21st century, one would assume a forum that allowed people around the world to discuss  scientific issues had been  present for decades. Lang said this isn’t the case.

“Since the 17th century, the way science was communicated was via traditional paper and pen and journals,” Lang said. “We’re sort of still in that model.”

He said the Digital Age has helped mathematics and science become  less of individual tasks and more of social endeavors, and aren’t the only disciplines represented in this move toward open  information.

Lang worked with a student to make Frederick Douglas’ handwritten diary digitized and searchable through Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Lang co-presented Open Notebook Science information in the White House’s Indian Treaty Room.

He connected with John Holdren, President Obama’s chief adviser on science and technology and Todd Park, the chief technology officer of the United States.

In the midst of scientific experts and White House officials, Lang said his trip was “a little bit surreal.”

“We were like a little group of tourists being led around,” Lang said.

“The only way to top it would be if I got invited to see the queen.”

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