An Update: Shuttleworth and Beyond

Some of you have been wondering where I’d disappeared to over the past 18 months – an update is indeed long overdue. In short: life happened and certain projects had to be put on hold. This was in part for a really lovely reason, namely the arrival of my daughter in early 2015 (yes – the DPhil was completed and I became Dr. Sophie a mere fortnight before the little one’s arrival: how’s that for a deadline, eh?). Unfortunately though the other, less pleasant, reason, has been that I’ve spent a lot of time since then in and out of hospital, so blogging has been forced to take a back seat for a time.

But at least I’m blogging now, and I’m particularly keen to let you know how I’ve been using the Flash Grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation, which I received early last year. The main areas I’ve put the money into are:

  • Covering natural overheads for the Open Science Training Initiative;
  • Ergonomic equipment to assist with long-term medical issues;
  • Conference registration;
  • Consolidating my existing work in education via application for HEA Fellowship.

Before I discuss that though, I’d like to say a massive thank you to the Shuttleworth Foundation for supporting me with funding, and for being willing to accommodate my situation of both medical- and baby-related delays over the past year or so. And many thanks too to Peter Murray-Rust, for nominating me for the grant in the first place.

First things first…overheads

The main application of the Shuttleworth money was to cover OSTI’s natural overheads, namely: domain name and hosting costs for the website, print cartridges/paper, and like-for-like replacement of IT equipment when items have finally given up the ghost (namely the Toshiba laptop in May 2015, which is used for most of the day-to-day jobs relating to OSTI, and the iPad in March 2016, which is used when I’m at conferences or when having online meetings). That list might not sound particularly riveting but, believe me, it’s been a vital help in keeping things ticking over – there’s been no other funding to cover these expenses since my Panton Fellowship with the then-OKFN concluded in 2013.

Some other bits that worked…

The Shuttleworth money has helped me provide a partial ergo setup (keyboard and mouse) for my office, to mitigate some long-term medical issues. These really help to avoid and/or reduce joint and muscle pain when typing or using the computer for long periods, and also make typing more manageable on the bad days. I’ve actually used these for years, but previous versions were all owned by my respective departments, so when I left, the equipment couldn’t come with me.

Even if you don’t need to seek out an ergo setup for health reasons, I’d definitely recommend you take a look if you get the opportunity, as I suspect many people would find ergo equipment beneficial, especially if you have to spend a substantial portion of the working day using a computer (and that’s a lot of us!). Do consider trying a few different ergo keyboards and mice out to find what works for you though: remember that there are lots of designs out there, and you might have to work through a few before you find the best one for you. And be aware that there’s a bit of a settling in phase where you get used to using “weird” incarnations of keyboard/mouse. Believe me, you get used to it pretty quickly.


I use a Goldtouch V2 keyboard, which splits in the centre and can be angled to suit your natural hand position. On first use, this can feel a little strange, but once you’re used to it you’ll never go back to a regular flat keyboard. The other plus point (and one which I hadn’t foreseen before I got one of these) is that it forces you to improve your touch typing, by making you use the correct fingers for particular keys. For the mouse, I use an Evoluent Vertical Mouse, which helps to reduce torque in the wrist and is really, really comfortable (they market it as “the handshake grip”).

…and some that didn’t

I also signed up, very optimistically, to attend both the Wikimedia UK Science Conference and MozFest, both in 2015. The plan was to take baby with me in a sling and head around things together in a bit of a mother-daughter open science mission. Unfortunately though, when each of these events hit, I wasn’t mobile enough to make it out of the house and into London (yes, the dastardly health/mobility issues again). Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to find people able to use my ticket instead – bad luck, as I would still have liked someone to benefit from the experience. Was such a shame to miss out but hopefully I’ll be around and about at these in the future, and thankfully the registrations were very low-cost, so didn’t put too much of a dent in the grant.

Current things: Teaching Accreditation

I’m also working towards Fellowship accreditation with the HEA for the teaching experience I’ve gained over the past 7 years, and some of the grant is going towards this. I’ve been fortunate to have had a range of opportunities to design and deliver both undergraduate and graduate teaching and training, but I now want to consolidate this while I have the opportunity.  Further work on OSTI and related projects will be strengthened by me broadening my awareness of the education literature, and enhance the credibility of the work I’m delivering. Application is going to happen around my other commitments, so it’ll most likely be a work in progress for a couple of months. I’ll let you know how I get on!

And the rest?

I’ve not actually spent all the Shuttleworth funding yet, but have plenty of areas I’d like to put it into. Amongst these options are getting one or more people on board to help a little with updating the website design, content and navigability.

In particular, I’d like to set up a dedicated area of the site for people to share their experiences – both good and bad – of using the rotation-based learning which underpins OSTI, potentially allowing them to connect with each other and even advise RBL newbies on how to go about it. An online community of RBLers, if you will. Whether you’re into Open Science, or an educator, or a community builder, I would love to hear people’s opinions on this.

I have yet to make final decisions on the remaining cash of course, but I’ll be blogging here and on the OSTI site once that happens. And although it’ll be a while yet before I can provide some tangible stats on the effects of the Flash Grant upon the uptake/impact of OSTI, I can say with certainty that it’s proving a wonderful lifeline in keeping the project going and developing it further. I’ll keep you posted – and hopefully without making you wait 18 months for an update next time… 🙂

#OpenScience Training Initiative: Progress & Plans for 2015

Well, what a long while it’s been since my last blog post! Things have been pretty busy here and I had to put the blogging on hold temporarily – for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. I emerged from DPhil thesis hand-in last month, and the viva – at 38 weeks pregnant – followed 2 weeks later. Since then, it’s been great having some time to delve back into the various strands of the Open Science Training Initiative and see where things need to head over the coming year, and as you’ll see from my first subject, there’s good scope for making plans right now…

Funding from the Shuttleworth Foundation

If you've been paying close attention to the main OSTI website, you may have noticed the addition of the Shuttleworth Logo in December 2015.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the addition of the Shuttleworth Logo to the OSTI website in December 2015. Great news!

Perhaps the most significant piece of news is that OSTI was awarded a Shuttleworth Flash Grant in December 2014. This is really exciting news, as the project has been run without funding since my Panton Fellowship concluded back in Spring 2013. Many thanks to Peter Murray-Rust for nominating us in the first place 🙂 Thus far, the grant has helped to manage some of our basic running costs (including, for example, domain renewal) and we have a few other ideas in the pipeline for channelling the money into various projects over the coming months.

Perhaps inevitably, there are too many strands on the current to-do list to mention everything here. Some of the projects under construction include a redesign of our website and materials to improve the experience for dyslexic and sight-impaired users; provision of interactive spaces on our website, allowing those who’ve run OSTI- or RBL-style courses to share their experiences and offer advice; and a continued push for translation of the main teaching materials into other languages. I’ll let you know how these various projects progress!

OSTI’s addition to Mozilla Teaching Resources

Our Learning With LLegoBoxCircularego course, which made its debut at SpotOn London in November 2013, is about to become available as a stand-alone workshop as part of Mozilla’s Lo-Fi, No-Fi teaching kit. The kit aims to deliver courses and exercises which are suitable for teaching useful skills for the web, and training in technical and scientific thinking, but which can be successfully delivered in an environment with low or no Internet connectivity.

Lego microscope from the “Learning With Lego” course, made using correct instructions. Photo by Sophie Kay, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, CC-BY-4.0

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the News section of the OSTI website, you’ll be aware this this one’s been waiting in the wings for a while. I’m glad to say that it’s now up and running – the page still has to go through some final checks before its listing is added to the Lo-Fi No-Fi page proper, but a version is already available on the Mozilla website. Click here for a nosy at the Mozilla-fied page of our Learning With Lego course!

The downloadable instructions are the same as those used for the inaugural workshop, but were previously only available via the OSTI GitHub repository. Hopefully this neatly-packaged set of instructions will encourage more of you to give Learning With Lego a try, whether that’s with high school students, undergraduates or academic researchers.

The 2014-15 academic year has also seen Learning With Lego implemented at Royal Holloway, University of London, to train their first-year mathematics undergraduates in technical writing, science communication and repeatability/reproducibility. Each weekly instance of the course sees the use of full rotation based learning: not only does each group have to build the microscope model from faulty instructions and critique its description, but they must also create a Lego model of their own design, fully described with accompanying instructions. These new designs are uploaded onto a database for further use and assessment in future sessions.

Encouragingly, the success of the Royal Holloway scheme has already drawn interest from their Educational Development team, who will be discussing it with the arts and humanities divisions. This may even lead to non-scientific versions of the course in the future and I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads over the coming year.

Accessible Materials – An OSTI For Everyone

This is a really important area, and one I’ve been wanting to address for quite some time (alas, running OSTI as a one-woman team makes it pretty much impossible for me to do everything at once!). The first round of OSTI teaching materials was constructed for the pilot scheme which, as none of the participants required adapted materials, didn’t account for users with specific needs.

Image by Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr), CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Image by Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr), CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s high time this was remedied though, and so I’m currently developing modified versions of the OSTI materials which are suitable for sight-impaired and dyslexic users. As part of this endeavour, I’m currently in touch with the British Dyslexia Association and the RNIB to discuss how the website and educational materials in their present form need to be adapted. Both organisations also provide web pages and advice sheets to guide educators in developing suitably adapted educational materials, so I’ll also be using those to shape refinements. Hopefully we’ll see some progress here in the near future.

This definitely calls for a more specific blog post sometime soon – including a bit of a call to action for those amongst you who can offer any personal insights or advice into what developments you’d like to see in the materials, where we’re falling down at the moment, and maybe even give us an appraisal of the new materials once they’re available!

Efficacy of Rotation-Based Learning

One thing I’d love to achieve with OSTI in 2015 is to gather extensive data on the efficacy of Rotation Based Learning (RBL) in a variety of settings. For example:

  • What does it achieve for student motivation?
  • How easy is it to implement for a given subject?
  • What are the tangible benefits of this approach, and are they maintained after the conclusion of the course?

Of course, instances such as the OSTI pilot scheme and the recent Learning With Lego series at Royal Holloway have provided partial answers to these questions, but much more data is required. Running a one-hour workshop with the RBL teaching pattern is a completely different thing to integrating it into a two-week academic course. Not only do those two extremes involve completely different settings, but the attendee demographic will differ and the subject-specific context may interface more or less well with the RBL structure accordingly.

I’d like to know more, not just about these two extrema, but about everything in between. Please get in touch (sophie[at]opensciencetraining.com) if you’ve already run an RBL-style course of any kind, or if you’re thinking of running one. I’d really appreciate any on-the-ground insights you can provide into how you found it!

And so…

I’ll hold it there for today, otherwise this post is going to get far too long. But all being well, I’ll provide another progress update soon – and in any case, I’ll be providing a summary of how OSTI has put the Shuttleworth Funding to good use in due course, as per the grant’s requirements. As always though, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to discuss running an OSTI/RBL course of your own, whatever the subject area, setting or timespan!

Open Science Training: Lego, Languages & Lo-Fi, No-Fi

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last had a chance to blog about progress with the Open Science Training Initiative, so it’s about time I provided you with a bit of an update. Nor have things have been quiet on the open science front – admittedly I have been providing some soundbites over at the News feed of the main OSTI website – but juggling the final months of thesis writing with everything else is making things pretty busy!

So: this month’s update gives you a bit of Lego, a bit of Berlin, some opportunities to get involved with translation and/or education activities and a little glimpse at some upcoming changes to the OSTI website. Read on…

Calling All Linguists!

Currently, the bulk of OSTI teaching materials are only available in English, over at the Open Science Training GitHub repository. However, OSTI was designed for in-person teaching and for adapting local, subject-specific courses to deliver integrated open science training too. English-language versions alone cannot provide for this. Last year, some of the slides made it into Finnish as part of the Finland Open Knowledge Roadshow, care of Joona Lehtomaki and colleagues. I’d love to see a broader range of translations to take things further – some of you may already know about this from our recent discussion on the OKFN Open Science community call the other week.

Image by Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr), CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do you have language skills to offer? Image by Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr), CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Realistically, I’m going to need YOUR help in translating OSTI materials into other languages. I’ve already heard from individuals from a variety of countries who would like to translate the resources we have into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian – I’d like to add Arabic and German to that list too. If you have language experience and an interest in open science, then I would love to hear from you – feel free to email me via the OSTI “Contact Us” details, or drop me a message in the reply box below. And if your language isn’t listed above but you’d like to be the person to add it to the list and recruit a communtiy of fellow translators, then let me know!

So, a few things you might want to know:

  • Before we can start the process of translating OSTI, I’m looking to revise the materials and get them into Markdown or similar;
  • Transifex has been suggested to me as one tool to assist with translations. If you know of any others which might be useful, or have any experience (good or bad) of working with Transifex, then leave a message below…
  • I’ll also be adding a Translations page to the OSTI website, as a central place for information, and establishing some mailing lists for our volunteer translator team to share their thoughts and ideas and to discuss any obstacles they meet during the translation process;
  • Obviously the above will take me a little time, so keep an eye on this blog and the OSTI site for further announcements – if I know you’re interested in being one of our translators, then I can email you once plans are taking shape.

So get in touch now and help to lead OSTI to pastures new!

Learning With Lego

Some of you may recall the  “Consequences of (Bad) Communication” workshop which I ran at last year’s SpotOn conference in London, which addressed the issue of science communication through the fabulous medium of Lego. I’ve been absolutely delighted with the response to this one – but then, who doesn’t love Lego (bare feet treading-on-bricks notwithstanding)? I have a suspicion that part of the appeal of Lego-based teaching sessions lies in the happy childhood memories it evokes in so many of us…

Happiness and Lego at SpotOn 2013 :) Photo by Sophie Kay

Happiness and Lego at SpotOn 2013 🙂 Photo by Sophie Kay (@StilettoFiend), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, CC-BY-4.0

Microscope base in progress. Photo by Sophie Kay (@StilettoFiend), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, CC-BY.

Microscope base in progress at SpotOn 2013. Photo by Sophie Kay (@StilettoFiend), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, CC-BY 4.0.

Since I ran the session at SpotOn in November 2013, the session instructions have been downloaded from the OSTI website a fantastic 193 times. Although I can’t be sure which of these were read out of interest and which involved practical use, hopefully this means the ideas surrounding the session are spreading further. Furthermore, the mathematics department at Royal Holloway, University of London, will be adopting our Learning With Lego workshop as of this September. It’ll form a compulsory course for the first-year undergraduates and will take place on a weekly basis. It’s designed to get the students to identify what makes for good communication in a general (for which read, “Lego”) setting and, it is hoped, to pave the way for translating these experiences into improved communication of mathematical concepts during their day-to-day work.

Lego on Mozilla’s “Lo-Fi, No-Fi” Kit

And if you’ve been keeping an eye on that OSTI News page, you’ll also be aware that the Learning With Lego workshop is soon to appear as part of Mozilla’s “Lo-Fi, No-Fi” teaching kit. Established by Kat Braybrooke and colleagues at Mozilla and drawing on input from a variety of educators, the kit provides templates and ideas for teaching the web – and associated skills for using the web – in situations where connectivity might be low or even non-existent. I’m currently revising my original, informal instructions and packaging them for the kit, so I’ll be letting you know when our Lego lesson has officially appeared.

Homepage of Mozilla's Lo-Fi, No-Fi Teaching Kit
Homepage of Mozilla’s Lo-Fi, No-Fi Teaching Kit, offering educational sessions ranging from “Code Thief Cards to Teach Javascript Offline” to “Use Puzzles to Teach HTML”.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014: Berlin, July 15th-17th

Well, I did promise a little of Berlin at the start of this post, although it’s a visit to come rather than one that’s already taken place. Thanks to the generosity of the Wikimedia Foundation, I’ll be attending OKFest next month on a Wikimedia Scholarship. While I’m in Berlin, I’ll be looking to find ways of extending and adapting OSTI, as well as starting to build a strong community of educators willing to teach OSTI programmes in their home institutions – if that sounds like your kind of thing, then please come and talk to me at OKFest! I’ll be around for all three days of the festival and will also be hosting a session – I’m co-presenting Skills and Tools for Web Native Open Science with Karthik Ram on the final day of the programme, so I hope to see a mixture of new and familiar faces in the audience… And if you haven’t bought a ticket yet, then sign up here.

Well, it seems as though my “short” update is more than long enough for now. There’ll be more news later this week though, so watch out for a second post before we hit the weekend. You wait ages for a bus eh, and then… 🙂

Panton Fellowship: End of Year Report

PLEASE NOTE: This article is just the advert for my Panton report, NOT the report itself! You can download a PDF of my 12-page end of year report here, all in glorious technicolour…

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Twelve months on from the start of mine and Ross Mounce‘s Panton Fellowships with the Open Knowledge Foundation, it’s time to take stock of where we’ve got to in that time. And how quickly the time has gone!

The Contents of a Year

Yes, the time might have flown by, but it’s time for the concluding Panton report. At the request of the OKFN, I’ve produced a full report on my work in Open Science and Open Education over the past year – you can download a copy here. I’ve tried to provide a fairly all-round picture of the major meetings, trips and of course an overview of the Open Science Training Initiative. Alas though, there wasn’t space to fit every last bit of news in, so feel free to leave me a comment/message on this blog or on my Twitter account if you’d like to know more about my Panton experiences!

Just to clear up any confusion though: I know some of you are also awaiting my post-pilot report on the inaugural OSTI scheme. It should be released in the next fortnight , and is a completely separate report to the one I’ve listed above. So don’t worry – those details, and indeed all the OSTI course materials, will be appearing very soon. I’ll be publicising it on Twitter and here on my blog once that happens, although I can add you to the direct mailing list for OSTI releases if you send an email to enquiries(at)opensciencetraining.com 🙂

Much of my focus has been on furthering the integration of open practices within academia, through development and delivery of graduate-level open science education. Meanwhile, my Bath-based counterpart, Ross Mounce, has done a phenomenal amount of work for policy development in open access and open data, including trips to Brussels and appearances on the radio, alongside data mining work inspired by his background in phylogenetics. That’s only the tip of the iceberg though, so I’ll leave it to Ross to tell the story in his own words – I’ll be posting a link to his blog in the next 24 hours, as soon as his review appears online. [EDIT: Ross’ review now up on the OKFN blog – read it here] So definitely take a look! And we’ve both enjoyed some great opportunities to promote the world of Open at conferences, workshops and meet-ups to a diverse range of audiences. We’ve met some fantastic people along the way.

And last but not least…

I also want to reiterate the final message from my end-of-year report: many thanks to the Panton Advisory Board, and indeed to all the folks at the OKFN who have provided sterling support throughout the last year. While I’m keen to avoid the excessive “Gwynnie” approach, there are nonetheless some particular names I’d like to mention. Thanks to Laura Newman, for seeing me through the hectic early days of the fellowship term and to Joris Pekel for stepping in to look after the Fellows since September; to Peter Murray-Rust, for inspirational, ebullient mentorship; to Greg Wilson, for being an absolute guru for educational practice and a bringer of calm; to Puneet Kishor, for his advice and faith in OSTI’s potential; and to Jenny Molloy, for advice, opinions and Oxford-based support!

I’m aiming to put together another blog post in early May, reflecting on what it’s been like to combine the Panton role with my DPhil/PhD commitments. If you’re a prospective Panton applicant for future Fellowship calls, hopefully it’ll prove useful.I should stress though that the end of the Fellowship certainly isn’t spelling the end of my work with OSTI – in fact, it’s more of a beginning. The fellowship year has provided the opportunity to create this wonderful initiative – now we move on to the process of growing it over time. But for today, it’s back to research with me (more specifically, to making my little in silico cells behave in C++). Bye for now!

Making the Case for Open Science Training: Panton in Jan/Feb 2013

Without a doubt, I’ve never blogged from a nicer location. This month’s update comes to you from the Creative Commons offices at Mt. View, just outside San Francisco. The California sunshine has put me in a good mood to write about the happenings of the past 2 months of my Panton Fellowship…and a LOT has happened since my last update. Setting aside my wonderment at how the year went by so quickly, it’s time I updated you on the Open Science Training Initiative (OSTI) pilot, the follow-up meetings in the immediate aftermath, and developments at Oxford with potential for further instances of the OSTI.

Culmination of the Panton work: Running the OSTI Pilot

I realise now that I was being seriously optimistic in hoping to blog progress with the OSTI pilot day-by-day. Perhaps inevitably, the demands of running a course for 43 graduates, involving in-person supervisory meetings with all the groups and delivery of the accompanying lecture series, left little time for me to get near a computer. Apologies to those who had anticipated watching the course unfold through my blogging!

The pilot scheme ran from January 10th through to January 18th, at the Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Oxford. Themed on computational biology, the course developed knowledge of programming and mathematical modelling, while mandating students to license their research outputs and deliver a coherent research story. This required them to draw on all elements of the research process (code, data, writing) as an integrated whole, rather than focusing on the written report alone. Lecturing in Open is all very well and good, but it’s first-hand experience of the techniques, approaches and culture that is most effective in breaking down misapprehensions and which provides researchers with the confidence to implement Open approaches in the future.

The first lecture of the course provided one of the biggest wake-up calls to the Open community I’ve yet encountered. Informally, I asked the students to raise their hands if they’d heard of open science, or knew something about it. Of those 43 students, only ONE raised their hand. Now this might be a fairly approximate metric, but it says a great deal about how much work we need to do in educating people about the ways of Open – let’s not forget, these are pretty switched on, well informed students in general. There’s plenty of fantastic work going on in the development of policy and infrastructure to support the transition to an open working culture, but we have a lot of work to do if the transition to openness is to happen effectively and smoothly. Now is the time to ask how we can engage with those who aren’t part of the Open community.

So here’s a challenge for you. If each of us could find even one way to engage with academics at our respective institutions – BEYOND the open community – at some time over the next 2 months, to educate in Open, raise awareness, and dispel the myths and misinformation, then that will represent some small progress in what we’re all trying to achieve.

Students filled in a questionnaire on completion of the course, and I’ve also been able to draw on the opinions and experiences of our course demonstrators and centre directors. Based on this, and on my own impressions of how things went (it was hard work, but I was there full-time for the whole thing, supervising each research team on a daily basis), I’m compiling a post-pilot report on the outcomes. Watch out for that over the coming weeks – as soon as it’s ready, it’ll be made available for download online.

OSTI Online

Yep, I mentioned the post-pilot report being released online just now, didn’t I? More to the point, it’s going to be released via the OSTI website, which is now live at www.opensciencetraining.com and whose content will grow over the coming months as I have the opportunity to extend the copy. There’s a lot more to be done of course, but for now there’s a brief intro to the motivation behind OSTI and an outline of its structure. There are also listings for the Lightning Lecture component of the programme, to provide you with some idea of the topics addressed. I’m in the process of curating and refining the slide decks for the course, based on exit feedback from the pilot participants; these will be released online over the next month once final versions are available. So watch this space!

Open Training at Oxford

I’ve also spent some of the past month engaging with the administrative arm of the University of Oxford, regarding provision for open science training. Basically, MPLS Division (maths, physical & life sciences) have indicated an interest in taking my OSTI and putting it out for use in other departments. Really excited about this! If we can get the training initiative installed in other settings in a variety of forms, it should provide us with a template for adaptable open training across an institution. The OSTI pilot demonstrated proof of concept: now it’s time to diversify its applications and see which forms work for people, and in what form the course can be most beneficial.

And given my current location in SF, California, it’s apparent I’ve spent recent weeks preparing for a trip Stateside, to carry out a promo drive for the OSTI. But more on that another time…there’s going to be lots more to tell in my next posting. See you then!

Open Science Training Initiative – Pilot Scheme Complete!

You could be forgiven for thinking I’d gone very quiet this week. As many of you may remember, the pilot scheme for my Open Science Training Initiative kicked off on January 10th. It’s been a pretty hectic time since then, but we’ve finally reached the closing day – the students are pushing final versions of all their work onto GitHub in the next hour, before presenting their findings from 10:30am onwards.

I’d had this insanely optimistic idea at the outset of blogging progress with the course every other day, or at least at the end of each of the rotation phases. Yep, that turned out to be WAY too optimistic. Once all the lecturing and project supervision meetings were factored in, I barely made it anywhere near my computer each day. Those of you who emailed me may have noticed the, ahem, somewhat tardy replies. All for good reason though – the students have done a fantastic job, produced some really creative work, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the results today – even if it’ll leave me stuck under a stack of marking for a fortnight!

I released a short feedback questionnaire to the students just now, so by the end of today we should have some idea of what they’ve enjoyed in the course, and importantly, how they think we could improve it in the future. I don’t think I’ve ever been subjected to this much judgment in one go before, so let’s hope it all goes ok… Ultimately I’ll be releasing all the findings and analysis in an evaluation report (most probably sometime in February), which will also take account of comments from the course demonstrators, some of whom were with the projects right from the beginning of the course. So keep an eye out for that.

I have to say I was seriously impressed by how they’ve taken to licensing as well. From the general show of hands I asked for in lectures, this area was completely new to all of them. This really shows how much work we need to do in educating our academics in Open practice if we’re going to aid the uptake of these approaches – at the moment, the awareness isn’t there in vast sections of the community. By the end of Phase 1 on the Monday, they’d got the hang of data, code and content licensing to the point where I was fielding some fairly subtle questions in specific cases. Some of you may have noticed me tendering one of these out to the OKFN discussion lists… GitHub for Windows proved really problematic though – more on that in the report and any other blog posts I get around to writing. We’d definitely need to do things differently in that department next time.

Anyway, proper update on the details of both rotation phases will follow, once I get through today and actually get some sleep. For now though, it’s probably time to get ready for the onslaught of the talks. It’s already snowing pretty heavily outside – something tells me I may end up walking home tonight, once the day is done! :S

Promotion, Preparation and Productivity: Open Science Sabbatical, December 2012

This month’s posting comes to you from a train somewhere between Manchester and Oxford – I’m making my most of the work time as I journey home from the seventh wedding I’ve been to in the past eight months. At time of writing, the start of the OSTI pilot is only 5 days away, so as you can imagine it’s been a bit of a nonstop month! The run-up to Christmas brought a combination of a website launch, promotional work, design and brand development for the OSTI, masses of lecture planning and preparation of course materials.

Perhaps the most significant development of December was the supervisors giving the thumbs-up to a “mini-sabbatical” of sorts, allowing me to focus solely on my open science fellowship. It’s really helped shape the course materials into an almost-finished state. I’ll save the finer details for the OSTI blogging phase later in the week, but the rough schedule of lightning lectures looks something like this:

  • Thursday 10th – (2 lectures) Reproducibility and Open Science; Open Source Coding & Version Control Using GitHub
  • Friday 11th – Licensing Your Data
  • Monday 14th – Data Management Plans & Scientific Workflows (incl. guest speaker Jun Zhao)
  • Tuesday 15th – The Changing Face of Publication
  • Thursday 17th – OKFN Session
  • Friday 18th – Presentation Day (assessment requirement for all participants)

Bear in mind that by the start of the course, the students will have already received 2 weeks’ training in Matlab and its applications, including GUI development and parallel implementation. The OSTI phase will span the assessment period for the course, themed around mathematical modelling of cancer and infectious disease.

The NERC Town Meeting (as I mentioned in my post from August 2012) provided considerable motivation for development of a website and other promotional materials for the OSTI, and took place in London on December 11th. Trialling the OSTI in an EPSRC DTC provides an excellent basis for transferring the course to similar DTP teaching models in other disciplines, and so I joined the preliminary meeting to promote the OSTI to prospective contract bidders. Drawing academics from across the UK, the meeting proved to be a reasonably productive day for open science discussion and I enjoyed some really good conversations with representatives and educationalists from, amongst others, Warwick, Oxford, Royal Holloway and the Natural History Museum.

So, what of the new aesthetic for the OSTI brand? In the interests of developing a cohesive identity for the initiative, the design needed to be consistent across all physical handouts and the website. I opted for a green, black and gold colour scheme in the end, and you can see the results in the images below (front and reverse sides of the leaflet are shown). And in keeping with the spirit of OSTI, the striking images in the design are all Creative Commons licensed content – it’s a pleasure to see such high-quality images available for use under CC license and certainly made the design process much easier for me. A CMYK version for printing will be made available via the OSTI website once the content is expanded.

OSTI Promotional Leaflet (Reverse)So, what of that website? I should warn you now that the site is live in its basic form, but hasn’t had its official public launch yet (announcement on that will follow when the time comes). You can find it at http://www.opensciencetraining.com – at present there’s just a mission statement on the opening page and a couple of other tabs with contact details. I’ll be adding content over the next month, starting with a description of the course structure and lectures, and extending to downloadable slides and materials once the course is underway. Feel free to drop me a message if you’d like to be emailed once full content and materials downloads start to appear…

Another exciting development in December was a meeting with Will Hutton, author of the bestselling work “The State We’re In” and current Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. Organised by Jenny Molloy, the gathering included a variety of faces from the Open community in Oxford, including Chas Bountra of the Structural Genomics Consortium, Simon Benjamin of Quantalk and Sally Rumsey of the Bodleian Library. Will discussed his plans to establish a series of studentships in Open Science at Hertford College, potentially in association with the Big Innovation Centre, and provided us all with a fantastic opportunity to debate the state of open science too. If this project gains the necessary funding and support to come to fruition then it could lead to a considerable hub of open research activity being established in Oxford, with the power to unify the diverse threads of open activity already taking place within the University’s departments, and to inspire novel working practices in young academics. I should stress that it’s early days yet, so keep an eye out for further news as the project develops.

So, what for January 2013? This year involves something of a running start, given the imminent beginning of the OSTI pilot on the 10th. I’m aiming to blog my progress with the course as it happens, or at least every other day if things end up being pretty hectic. Once we hit the 18th (and, moreover, once marking of the assessed work is out of the way) it’ll be onto the evaluation phase and the post-pilot report. I’ll also be following up with a few people from the NERC Town Meeting and meeting with MPLS (the physical and life sciences division) in Oxford to discuss how the OSTI might be applied to other departments outside the DTC. And there may even be a trip to the States in the pipeline…but more on that in a few weeks’ time…