What resources do we need to break down barriers to open science? #MozFest 2017 session recap

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I was recently interviewed for Read, Write, Participate about my Mozilla Open Leaders project to create an open science toolkit for astronomers: Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA). As part of my application for the program, I submitted a session proposal for Mozilla Festival 2017 relating to my project — I wanted to get input on what researchers would actually find useful in an open science toolkit.

In the Read, Write, Participate interview, I talked about how on the first day of MozFest, the day of my session, I was overwhelmed and really nervous. What if no one showed up to my session? What if they did, but didn’t get anything from it? I was really worried about wasting participants’ time.

I sought advice from my mentor Bastian Greshake Tzovaras, Chris Hartgerink and other Mozilla Open Leaders (who I was able to meet at MozFest in person!). I ultimately scrapped the etherpad and many of the slides that I prepared, stripping my plans for the session down to its simplest form. We kept it analogue by only jotting notes on post-its and focused on engagement and discussion, which seemed to work successfully as the conversation has carried on well beyond MozFest — I’ve made new collaborations!

A nice succinct conclusion from the session was that we need a “Hello, world!” example for open science, but you can read a more in-depth recap of the session below.

On Saturday, 28 October (my birthday!) 2017, I facilitated Session #582 at MozFest: What resources do we need to break down barriers to open science?

Many scientific fields are still dominated by closed research practices — it is often difficult to reproduce results and frustrating to build on the research of others. The reasons for this are diverse, but one prominent barrier is a lack of understanding about how to work in an open way. An open science toolkit could help researchers overcome this barrier.

The goal of this session was to address the why’s and how’s of open science in order to incentivize and make it easy for researchers to open up their workflows. We discussed the barriers to and benefits of open science based on our own experiences, and from this discussion, we gained insight into what an open science toolkit for researchers should contain and began compiling resources.

We first broke into small groups to introduce ourselves and discuss the challenges we have faced in researching openly and/or what benefits we have experienced — putting each item on a separate colored post-it note. Challenges to researching openly were written on pink and orange post-it notes, whilst the benefits we’ve experienced were written on blue and green.

We read the post-it notes out loud and identified some common themes: culture, data, feedback, money, replication and skills.

We then broke into groups again to think about our given barrier — what open science benefit, solution or rebuttal could we use to break down that barrier? What open science tool or resource would allow someone to overcome that barrier?

A summary of our discussion of each theme is included below.

Culture

Cultural barriers to open science that we experienced included:

  • Colleagues against the open science movement
  • X Journal is the best / that open one is just about a blog — no good!
  • Requires active challenging of status quo consistently (requires mental energy)
  • Falling out of the mainstream, not taken with the same level of appreciation
  • Very narrow definition of open!
  • Disinterest
  • Collaborators not aware of benefit of OS & prevent sharing
  • Convincing my colleagues to work open: data sharing, preprints, etc.
  • Institutional support for proprietary software only

Benefits of open science related to culture that we experienced included:

  • Better interaction with the community
  • Community support/review improves code
  • Students get really engaged and excited about open science!
  • Ability to include the public in ideation, creative process of research
  • Open means others can tell you about mistakes & suggest fixes

Our discussion/tools/resources/solutions related to culture were:

  • Science communication training for scientists (need to make it accessible)
  • Open & closed science can coexist
  • 101 innovations
  • More visibility & reach i.e. people read & use it
  • Making it easy to practice it — step by step guides
  • Toolkits for PhD students — they will make a difference
  • Open Science conferences?
  • Publishing research processes
  • Giving open science advocates a voice

Data

Barriers to open science relating to data that we experienced included:

  • Data privacy
  • Protected data can’t be uploaded to GitHub

We didn’t have too much of a discussion around data, but the tools/resources/solutions we came up with were:

Feedback

The barrier to open science relating to feedback that we experienced was: Lack of external feedback on my project for 2 years. We did not discuss this topic further in the session.

Money

Barriers to open science relating to money that we experienced included:

  • Time & money i.e. doing it well needs some effort
  • Need to protect intellectual property
  • Limited understanding of resources around openness (e.g. CC licenses)
  • Access to science knowledge/new research to people who can’t access journals & academic papers (i.e. people who don’t work for a university)

Benefits of open science related to money that we experienced included:

  • Serendipitous reuse of outputs (data, materials)
  • New collaborations
  • Unexpected links
  • Grant money
  • Finding jobs

Our discussion/tools/resources/solutions related to money were:

Replication

Benefits of open science related to replication that we experienced included:

  • Multi-lab replication efforts
  • Easier reproducibility
  • Greater confidence in correctness of results due to best process management

Tools to help solve the challenges to replication included, Docker, Open Science Framework and GitHub workflows in markdown.

Skills

Barriers to open science relating to skills that we experienced included:

  • How to be OPEN as opposed to ‘more open’ (definitions/scope)

Benefits of open science related to skills that we experienced included:

  • Encouraged me to explore and learn lots of new technical skills
  • Learning new skills
  • Cross disciplinary research/projects e.g. as an artist working with science ideas/research

Our discussion/tools/resources/solutions related to skills were:

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