Published in the British Neuroscience Newsletter’s autumn edition available here
The tools many of us use on a daily basis would have barely been imaginable this time last century. But the ways in which we report our findings and judge our peers have barely changed at all. Driven by concerns over reproducibility, as well as by a plethora of technological advances such as the widespread availability of the internet, the best research practices are rapidly being remoulded. While these changes, reflected in a movement often referred to as “Open Science”, are increasingly being included in research evaluation frameworks, many universities are failing to provide the training or incentives that would enable young researchers to keep pace.
Fortunately, in many online spaces and non-traditional organizations opportunities for training and networking are flourishing. My introduction to Open Science involved stumbling across the Mozilla Science Lab’s website a few years ago. They support Open Science advocates through “fellowships, mentorship and project-based learning”. For me, the key to their influence in this sphere so far has been their success in facilitating truly inclusive and diverse online communities.
The benefits of such networked communities are apparent even for developing skills in the classroom. Software Carpentry has grown from the frustration of a few computer scientists trying to teach engineers how to parallelize their programs to a global organisation running intensive two-day workshops for tens of thousands of scientists every year. The development of their teaching materials in an open and collaborative environment has led to their continuous refinement by a diverse community. Its impact is visible in lessons having been altered to fit within an evidence-based educational psychology framework. Too many curricula are created without the recognition of how much research has been done on how people learn!
While the Mozilla Science Lab, Software Carpentry, and a multitude of other online resources and communities continue to support scientists’ educational needs, as of yet, there is no one-stop-shop for learning about Open Science. In a massive collaborative project led by paleontologist Jon Tennant, we are proposing the development of a new Open Science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC; website), which will be designed to equip researchers with those skills that are needed to excel in a modern research setting. It aims to foster students’ agency over their self-representation and identity on the Web, and to create individuals with the ability to collaborate openly. Both these skills are crucial for the participation of future scientists in a global research environment.