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… 🙂

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Open Science Training in Practice

I know some of you have been waiting for a while to hear in full about the outcomes of January’s pilot scheme for the Open Science Training Initiative (OSTI). Well – the moment is finally here. Those of you who’ve been keeping a close watch on the Open Science Training Initiative website may have noticed that the post-pilot report went live last Saturday. In case you haven’t happened upon it yet, you can download a copy here:

Click here to reach the download page for the Open Science Training Initiative post-pilot report.

I should also clarify that the link above isn’t for my year summary, Panton Fellowship report (which provides a more general overview of the Panton year and the open science work that’s entailed beyond the OSTI project). For that, you’ll need to look at blog postings for April…

Just so you know what to expect, the report:

  • provides an outline of the general OSTI pattern,
  • explains how this template was modified to suit the needs of the Doctoral Training Centres in Systems Biology and Life Sciences at the University of Oxford;
  • delivers an in-depth analysis of the feedback from the auxiliary demonstrators and the students themselves, alongside my own perspectives as course leader.

You’ll also notice that it’s been a busy time for the OSTI website: videos from the pilot initiative have been appearing on the site over the last week, for those of you who’d like to see how the pilot went. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any videos from the main work area, or from the daily supervisions, which is where the bulk of the teaching and discussion took place – as you can see from the photos below.

group-discussion-3group-discussion-1

The videos you can see on the OSTI website only represent a small fraction of the pilot scheme: much of the teaching relies on discussion with individuals or small groups and the students’ hands-on application of licensing and other Open approaches is a core part of the learning process within the initiative.

Hopefully this heralds the start of an exciting new era for open science training, in which our graduates enter the research world fully equipped with experience in open science techniques and the confidence to implement these practices under their own judgment in their day-to-day working life!

Feel free to add your comments below if you have any thoughts on the post-pilot report, or feel that OSTI’s rotation-based learning techniques could benefit students in your institution.

Introducing the Panton Principles: The Video!

After quite a bit of filming, a fair few retakes and a lot of editing work by Alastair, it’s finally time to unveil the new Panton Principles video. For now, you can view the HD version on YouTube here.

The video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY-3.0) so you’re free to reuse any or all of it subject to inclusion of the attribution detailed in the credits. We’ll also be making the video available for download very soon – I’ll post details here, on Twitter (@stilettofiend) and on the YouTube page itself once details are finalised. So keep checking back!

I’d really appreciate any comments, feedback or discussion on the video, so feel free to get in touch. And I’d also love to hear from you if you end up using the video in your work, in a presentation or anything like that – always good to hear what the users think 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you: happy data licensing!