Research Workflows, Sustainability and Software Education: Panton in October

Well, October has been a rollercoaster month: owing to an unfortunate spell of ill health, it’s been a much quieter time than I originally intended. Nonetheless, there have been plenty of new contacts, interactions, meetings and developments…

October brought interesting discussions with Jun Zhao about sustainability in research, drawing on her expertise in scientific workflows. Jun is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Zoology department at the University of Oxford, focusing on a broad spectrum of projects that address linked data, the semantic web and aim to facilitate fuller integration of data into our published research. In particular we spoke about one of her main projects, Wf4Ever, which aims to foster “repeatable, reproducible and repurposable research” by uniting scientific workflows and digital libraries as well as facilitating systematic data processing. We spoke at length about my plans for open science graduate training in Oxford and I’m looking into the possibility of incorporating a live demo of her research tools into the OSTI in January, as part of the “lightning lectures”.

My ongoing contact with Kirsty Grainger and Amy Vitale at NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council) has continued during October, ahead of the Town Meeting taking place on 11th December. NERC has this week officially opened the competition to award Doctoral Training Partnerships across the UK. Jenny Molloy and I are now officially signed up for the meeting in order to promote my OSTI and to generally encourage the applicant groups to incorporate open science into their courses. It’s a great opportunity to increase the uptake of open science practices nationally and we’re really looking forward to it! This also represents great timing in relation to my OSTI, which is entering the late stages of planning at the moment. The OSTI’s aims in fostering reproducibility and equipping students for interdisciplinary research across the sciences has great potential to contribute to the “research and training excellence” demanded of the new DTPs. The landscape of research is changing rapidly: we need to teach our upcoming young researchers to deal with this evolution NOW, and graduate training represents a fantastic way to achieve this. If science as a whole is to transition to an open model, we need this change to come from the bottom up as well as from the top down. With an OSTI website, flyers and other promotional material in production at present, there should be rather a lot to talk about in next month’s blog post 🙂

Unfortunately though I was ill for Open Access Week, which was a real shame. Quite a few events were arranged in Oxford, including a seminar series throughout the week from the Bodleian Library and culminating in a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, which extended the Women in Science work started earlier in 2012 by the Ada Lovelace Day event at the British Library. Seminars ranged from Open Law to examining the ethics of OA in health research, to looking at how OA initiatives are shaping the research environment for Generation Y, our youngest generation of researchers. And if you missed the talks you can find the slides on the Bodleian’s OA Week page here. And while I’m on the subject, those of you who haven’t yet seen the fantastic PhD Comics video on Open Access should take a look now:

 

I was fortunate to join the much-anticipated Software Carpentry workshop at the end of the month, held over two days at the University of Oxford’s Department of Biochemistry. These workshops introduce scientists to basic computing and programming skills, enabling them to program with confidence and handle coding more effectively and efficiently in their research. I was really impressed at how the material engaged with the broad spectrum of experience amongst the attendees: some people I spoke to had minimal experience in programming, while others joined for the more challenging tasks and applications. The session was friendly and accessible and the people I spoke to also praised the online tutorials available on the course website. Massive thanks to the main organiser of the Oxford workshop, Philip Fowler, for letting me sit in on the session! If you think there’s an opening for an SWC boot camp at your institution, I’d really recommend getting in touch with the team to see what can be arranged – it’s a great initiative that has a great deal to offer the scientific community. And even better, all their content is available under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

MozFest, Mozilla’s annual festival showcasing a variety of tech and web developments, hands-on peer learning sessions and educational initiatives, is a matter of hours away at time of writing. I’ll be arriving in London on the Friday and am really looking forward to it…if you’re going to be there and fancy some open science chat, then feel free to drop me a message! And keep an eye out for my OKFN colleagues running the Saturday workshop, “Data Expeditions: Scouting the Data Landscape with our Data Sherpas” which focuses on data wrangling skills and techniques and promises to be both fun and informative.

So, what for the next month? Planning and preparation for the OSTI will really start to gather pace over November: in my next Panton update, I’ll be reporting on the OSTI website and promo materials; hopefully releasing the provisional timetable; sharing my experiences of MozFest; and keeping you up to date on progress with the plans Jenny and I are forming for an Oxford-based hackday. And to finish on a lighthearted (and tasty) note: in lieu of full participation in OA Week, I am tempted to make some Open Access Cupcakes in the very near future…methinks an Open Knowledge Okapi can be realised in ready-to-roll icing. Bring on the Open Kitchen – photos to appear soon!

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