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… 🙂

A World of Digital Openness: Panton in September

With October now well underway, I’m actually halfway through my Panton Fellowship year: how on earth did the time pass by so quickly? Time does indeed fly by when you’re having lots of (open science) fun. Much of September centred around data release and licensing and digital management, thanks to two big conference events. It was always clear that September was going to be a busy month! Juggling two conferences a week apart with DPhil research/chapter writing/papering up felt like an adrenaline sport at the time (offering the same combination of excitement, fear and tiredness) but was a really valuable and enjoyable experience. So, here’s what went on in September…

First up was the Digital Research 2012 conference, hosted by the Oxford e-Research Centre and held in the striking surroundings of St. Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford. Peter Murray-Rust, Jenny Molloy and I organised and led the OKFN session on the Tuesday morning, starting with Peter’s plenary lecture (read his blog on the subject here, followed by Jenny showcasing several different OKFN projects, including CKAN, DataHub and PubCrawler, through an on-screen software demo. I rounded out the session by chairing a 45 minute panel debate entitled, “Surfing the Wave of Open Data: Why, When and How?“, which aimed to generate discussion on how we release and publish our data and to consider how our approaches to this need to evolve in the years to come. We were joined by a fantastic line-up of panel speakers: Mark Hahnel of Figshare, Juan Bicarregui of STFC, Mark Elliot of CCSR and Brian Hole of Ubiquity Press. As far as I’m aware, the entire conference programme was filmed: the footage is being processed at the moment and should be up on the ‘Digital Research 2012‘ YouTube channel as soon as it’s ready. Will update you as soon as I hear anything! Hopefully the OKFN session will be online for viewing very soon, so you can all catch up on the presentations, demos and debate you may have missed.

The intervening period between the two conferences was mostly given over to completing the Panton Principles video I mentioned in my previous two posts. I started scripting and filming this at the end of August: it’s only the second video I’ve ever made, so I’m still getting used to the medium really, but it’s great fun. The first ‘film short’ I made was actually my application video for the Panton Fellowship (back in February of this year). Location spotters amongst you may be interested to know that we filmed this one in the library of Keble College, Oxford – it seemed appropriate that I should be surrounded by lots of scientific information while promoting principles which support the release of scientific data! Thankfully I overcame most of my filming nerves earlier this year, so it was easier to stand in front of the camera second time around. It wasn’t without its problems though: natural lighting conditions on the first morning of filming were far too bright and I ended up looking practically corpse-like on screen; not a healthy look for a promotional video! Thankfully the second morning of filming (assisted by the return of my now-familIar red dress) proved more successful. Huge thanks to Alastair Kay for endless patience behind the camera and for all his work editing the material into finished form, and to Ross Mounce for looking over the script and suggesting some additions…hopefully they’re as pleased with the end result as I.

The video is available on YouTube, released under a CC-BY-3.0 licence, so please feel free to use it to spread the open science gospel further afield 🙂 I’m also arranging for a downloadable version to be released in the very near future, so watch this space. Information in text form might be useful in some cases, but lots of legal-looking writing or formal guidelines can look rather intimidating and deter people sometimes. Alternative media such as film provide a great way of imparting the same information in an accessible, friendly and non-intimidating way. Let’s embrace this more in the future!

The subject of OKFest needs no introduction really…with the #okfest hashtag not just trending but skyrocketing on Twitter from the first day of the conference, it was always set to be a dynamic, exciting and much talked about event. I won’t repeat the multitude of bloggers who’ve already described so many aspects of the week: suffice to say it was utterly fantastic and I was sad that I could only join for two days (and you can read my previous blog post with all the relevant video links here). I arrived in Helsinki on the Tuesday and was on a plane flying back to Heathrow by the Thursday night, but it realy was a fantastic two days. Wednesday was the busiest day for me, with plenty of involvement in the Open Education stream, chairing the panel discussion on ‘Immediate Access to Raw Data from Experiments‘ before Ross Mounce and I showcased our Fellowship work. And so it was time for the much-awaited unveiling of my new Panton Principles video I mentioned earlier…and then into my presentation as part of the Panton Fellows’ session (available on Bambuser here, and you should also check out the other videos from the stream, including the panel discussions and Ross Mounce’s Panton presentation, as well). Much of my talk addressed the issues of reproducibility in scientific research, before introducing the audience to my OSTI ahead of its launch in December 2012. Following on from OKFest, I have a few articles in the pipeline on the reproducibility issue, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Equally invaluable at OKFest were the many opportunities to make new contacts: amongst others, I was fortunate to be introduced to Puneet Kishor of Creative Commons and Philipp Schmidt of the Peer-to-Peer University. It was great to meet them and discuss my plans: my discussions with Puneet will hopefully help in expanding the OSTI approach into the US once I’ve run the pilot, which is a hugely exciting prospect. In fact, all my conversations with fellow scientists, data wranglers, educationalists and open science aficionados over the past month has made me really excited about the prospects for my OSTI when we launch later this term. My conversations with Puneet were in fact one of the things that cemented my resolve to establish a proper website for the scheme, which will be one of the major focuses in the coming months. It’ll provide you all with updates, progress, information and more as the project evolves and is being planned right now. Needless to say, I’ll keep you posted…

Well time is short this month, so  I’ll have to disappear for now – but it looks as though plenty of things are happening in October. I’ll be liaising further with several people at NERC to confirm the details of the town meetings for their prospective Doctoral Training Partnerships in Nov/Dec: getting our OSTI up and running across the UK would be really exciting! I’m also getting to work on planning course content and a further video on “Demystifying Data Licensing” as well as doing early-stage planning and development on the OSTI website. Lots to keep me busy – I’ll let you know how it all goes!

OKFest 2012: Videos and Links from Panton Showcase

Having now returned to the UK and caught up on sleep, I can happily say that OKFest in Helsinki was an absolutely fantastic experience – the best conference I’ve ever attended, and a mightily well-attended one at that! It’s an uplifting feeling to meet so many proactive individuals from all walks of life, who are willing to capitalise on the phenomenal power of our connected and data-driven world and to realise that potential for the benefit of all, whether that’s through changing how countries are governed; driving change in academic practices; or development of commercial schemes. I for one can’t wait to see how all the various projects I saw progress between now and next year’s event: so many of the speakers are breaking new ground with what they’re doing (and in particular, how they’re doing it). The open world is a welcoming community of true pioneers. Inspiring stuff.

As befits an Open Knowledge conference, the events have all been meticulously documented through film, photographs and other resources and are available online. Each component of the programme was streamed live and the resulting videos can now be seen on Bambuser: so you can view my presentation online (complete with the premiere of the Panton Principles video). You might also want to take a look at Ross Mounce’s Panton presentation from the same session too!

I also chaired the panel discussion on Immediate Access to Raw Data, which featured Mark Hahnel of Figshare, Mark Wainwright of CKAN and Joss Winn of the Orbital project. The ensuing discussion covered a range of issues from the issues of data curation to asking “how immediate is immediate?” to contrasting the approaches of online data release vs. data papers. It was great to be involved in this session and hopefully our audience thought so too. Let’s keep the discussion going though! You can also read Joss’ posting on Orbital at OKFest here.

Right now things are looking wall-to-wall with my academic work, so I’m going to have to keep this post short, but I’ll be writing a proper piece on the issues of reproducibility that I covered in my Panton talk as soon as I’m able. Watch this space, and please get in touch with me in the meantime if you feel there’s room at your institution for some hands-on training in Open Science!

NERC, Young Researchers and the Buildup to OKFest: Panton in August

Firstly, how on earth did the end of August come around so quickly? With OKFest only a couple of weeks away, I think it’s fair to say that everyone within the open science community has had a busy month…and things are likely to continue this way as we head into September. My Panton counterpart in Bath, Ross Mounce, has also had a mightily busy month from the sound of things, so there’s also plenty of #pantonscience news available on his blog.

But before we get to talking about OKFest, I should really provide an update on what’s been going on in recent weeks. It certainly feels like a great deal has happened: news from me this month ranges from significant progress with my open science training initiative, to discussion with NERC regarding their provision for OS training in their forthcoming Doctoral Training Partnerships, to designing some promo literature for the Panton Principles. All exciting stuff!

The second week of August saw Jenny Molloy and me meet with Kirsty Grainger, who is Head of Skills and Careers for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC are in the process of establishing Doctoral Training Partnerships nationally – for those of you unfamiliar with the DTP/DTC model, these centres typically offer four-year doctorates, in which the three year research phase is preceded by a year of interdisciplinary and skills training. After I had explained the aims and structure of my OSTI scheme, Kirsty suggested that we attend the DTP Town Meetings in November/December of this year, where we’ll be able to meet the leaders of each NERC DTP application and discuss the possibility of them incorporating some or all of my open science training initiative into their own programmes. A massive thumbs-up to NERC for taking the lead with this! I’m hoping to convince many of the Natural Environment bidders later this year, and from there we can try to persuade other research councils to follow suit. The demands on DTPs/DTCs to include specific aspects of training in their skills provision can be high, but often it is entirely possible to enhance the content without overloading the existing syllabus and teaching burden, if one changes how a subject is taught. Let’s hope that this will translate into Open Science becoming an integral part of doctoral training over the next couple of years! And let’s not forget the JISC/British Library Researchers Of Tomorrow report from June of this year, which highlighted the tendency of young research students to adopt the existing practices of their group as regards attitudes to open science and coherent release of data. If we want open science to propagate through the system, we can’t ignore the need to train our researchers before they reach the research environment.

August has also seen significant progress with my Open Science Training Initiative (OSTI), the central focus of my Panton work. As a result of meetings with the DTC directors, we’ve now finalised the dates for the three-week course. Some rearrangement of the schedule from previous years has occurred, so my course will now be running over the penultimate week of December and the first two weeks of January. What better way to see out 2012 and welcome in 2013 than with lots of open science? The early phase of the course will involve training the students in programming skills, before progressing to some interesting applications at the start of the second week. Thursday of Week 2 will see the start of the ‘rotation‘ phase, where the students work in teams on a mini research problem and have to thoroughly document their code, provide a coherent written appraisal of the methods and outcomes, and release their code and data online for a successive group to work on. We also discussed the specifics of this and of how we’ll be assessing the students, but I’ll hold back for now to avoid this post getting too long. Plenty more details of this to come in the near future…

One of the main events of the past month for me was of course the Oxford Open Science session on the 22nd. We welcomed a fantastic line-up of speakers for the evening to discuss the current state of graduate training in data management and open science and to debate how we can take this forward in the future, so many thanks to Juliet Ralph, Oliver Bridle, Jez Cope, Anna Collins and Laura Newman for joining us. The evening saw a good turnout and some interesting outcomes in the discussion. There was a great deal of support for peer-led learning, and there was also the suggestion of establishing graduate-led “open science” advocates within academic departments: these advocates would act as the universal point of contact for open science matters. I don’t know of any universities in the UK already operating such a system – if you know of somewhere that is, let me know! One of the other key points that arose was the issue of students’ confusion as to what constitutes Open Access-this mirrors some of the concerns raised in the Researchers Of Tomorrow report and will require attention over the coming years until all our grads are well-informed as to the publishing options open to them. Those of you who weren’t able to attend will be pleased to hear that the talks and discussion were filmed: I’m currently waiting to receive the transferred movie files back from our tech managers so, all being well, you can expect to view the videos online later on next week. Another favourable outcome was that one of our attendees expressed an interest in establishing similar data and open science initiatives at her university in Saudi Arabia. Hopefully I’ll be meeting with her later this week to see how we might be of assistance in making this happen…

Exciting month ahead: OKFest in Finland! This week I’m planning, filming and cutting together a promo video for the Panton Principles, which I’ll be using to open my Helsinki talk on the 19th September. Expect to see some mock-up story boards and content online in the next few days – I’d love to hear your comments on those ahead of filming. I’ve also been busy designing some promotional postcards for the Principles over the last week. The OKFN team have already seen the provisional designs and I’ll be posting some images very soon once they’re a little further along! This is all part of a wider effort by other members of OKFN to develop promotional materials for open science and the Principles ahead of OKFest. Judging by progress over the last week, we’ll soon have some nice promo pieces at the ready to spread the word about Open Science.

Next week will also get off to a busy start as the Digital Research 2012 conference gets underway at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. Tuesday 11th in particular will see a programme of talks and debate on open access and data publication, featuring keynotes from Steven Harnad, Peter Murray-Rust and Neil Chue Hong, concluding with a panel discussion at the end of the morning. I’ll try to tweet updates as the morning progresses, although there’s still time to register for the conference if you haven’t yet had chance to do so.

Well, I think that’s enough from me this time: I daresay there’ll be plenty of news over the coming weeks before, during and after OKFest. Watch out for the OxOpenSci video and slides being released in the next fortnight, and as always, feel free to comment or get in touch with me if you have any questions, suggestions, thoughts or advice on the work I’m doing.

See you in Helsinki!

A month in the life of a Panton Fellow: July 2012

WIth August well and truly underway, it’s about time I updated you on my Panton Fellowship activities of recent weeks. Admittedly July has been a slightly quieter month than usual (mostly because I finally took my first proper holiday in over six years – three weeks in Singapore, of which 11 days was holiday and the rest was work!) but there have been some interesting open science developments nonetheless.

I was actually in the country for the first week of July, and what a busy week it was! In between moving house and flying out to Singapore, I managed to make it over to Cambridge for the day to see several people. Many thanks to Peter Murray-Rust and Laura Newman who made the time for a lovely lunch meeting, despite having come through a hectic week of wall-to-wall meetings with the other members of the OKFN. We had chance to discuss my progress with my Panton Fellowship work and how we might extend the pilot to other schemes afterwards, and Laura also updated me on how the School of Data has been doing since its launch earlier this year.

After meeting with Laura and Peter, I headed over to the current home of DSpace, the digital repository of the University of Cambridge, to meet Anna Collins. It was fantastic to meet Anna in person at last and we had an extended chat about her work in training students in data management and advising them on the use of digital technologies. Elin Stangeland also joined us later in the meeting and provided some useful suggestions as regards possible avenues for releasing information about the outcomes of my pilot study, once it concludes later this year. From my own perspective in developing graduate training suitable for a variety of subject backgrounds, it was great to hear from Anna and Elin about what the typical demographic at voluntary-attendance training sessions tends to be, and which elements of DSpace’s training initiatives have proved the most successful. For example, data beginners seem to sign up to sessions more readily – this echoes what I’ve heard from Bodleian representatives in Oxford and really underlines the need for careful consideration of how we promote digital technologies to scientists, especially those students in the physical sciences who develop their own management approaches as part of their studies (and by this I mean intermediate-to-advanced data users in computational disciplines, where code and high data output are intrinsic to work).Thanks to both Anna and Elin for taking the time to meet with me!

How best can we train graduates for research in the age of ‘Big Data’? This is the question we’ll be addressing in the upcoming August meeting of the Oxford Open Science group, to be held in the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) at 7.30pm on Wednesday 22nd August. I’ve been busy putting together a varied and exciting programme of speakers in recent weeks and am delighted to be able to announce our official panel of speakers for the evening, providing a range of perspectives on the key issues facing academia in the face of the “rising tide of scientific data”. We’ll be hearing from:

  • Juliet Ralph and Oliver Bridle from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, discussing information seeking amongst students and the current provision of digital/data management tools (including a discussion of the recent JISC/British Library report on the working practices of Generation Y research students);
  • Anna Collins from DSpace Cambridge, talking about the “long tail in the shadow of big data”, whose responsibility data management is in these contexts and how this might develop in the future;
  • Laura Newman from the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN), talking about progress and plans for the newly-launched School of Data;
  • Jez Cope from the Doctoral Training Centre in Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath, talking about his experiences in data management and social media training with DTC students.

I hope you’ll agree it’s shaping up to be a highly engaging series of talks on a range of interesting topics. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for discussion and debate as well, so please do come and join us, even if you’re only able to drop in for part of the evening. I’ll be releasing a proper running order for the talks as soon as we have more details. Those of you looking to enjoy the highly social side of open science may also like to join us for a drink in one of the local pubs afterwards. Watch this space for further details – I’ll be posting again nearer to the time with an official reminder and full details of where and when things are happening. Looking forward to seeing you then!

In other news, I’m all signed up to attend OKFest in Helsinki next month: flights and accommodation all booked as well, really looking forward to it 🙂 If you haven’t registered yet, then you might want to snap up a reduced-price Early Bird ticket now before tomorrow (Aug 8th), after which the General Sales ticketing phase starts. My Panton counterpart in Bath, Ross Mounce, and I will be delivering one of the presentation slots in the Open Research and Education session on Wednesday 19th September, so I’ve been putting some ideas together in advance of that (and don’t forget you can also catch Ross’ Panton update for July on his blog). Unfortunately though I didn’t make it to the OKFN Hackathon on July 7th, which was a real shame. I’d been hoping to join Laura and Jenny working on the Research Data Handbook – keeping fingers crossed that I’ll be able to drop in next time though.

And what of the month ahead? Well, I’m meeting again with directors of the Oxford Doctoral Training Centre this Wednesday to discuss developments in planning the training course for this Michaelmas Term. Then on Thursday, Jenny Molloy and I are meeting with Kirsty Grainger of the Natural Environment Research Council, to discuss shared interests and plans for developing open science training for new graduate students across the UK. I’ll also be getting to work on a Panton Principles promo video ahead of the OKFest. And let’s not forget the next meeting of Oxford Open Science on Wednesday 22nd August – put it in your diaries now!