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 theΒ  “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 πŸ™‚ 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… πŸ™‚

Advertisements

Bringing Open Science Training to San Francisco

It’s been great visiting the States this week – and California, of all places. For starters, it made for a significant jump in the mercury on leaving the UK on Monday. What to Californians is a bit of an off week weatherwise is way, way better than what I could expect from the British summer!

Funny what travelling abroad does to you though. My friends know I’m a coffee drinker. I’ll take coffee over tea almost any day. Yet, set me down in a coffee house in SF and I find myself saying, “could I have an English Breakfast tea, please?” in what must sound like the most stereotypically English accent. Whether or not this is some subconscious response on my part to those wonderfully relaxed Californian requests for “caw-fee“, I’m not entirely certain. Seen objectively though, it feels a bit fraudulent on my part. Perhaps it’s indicative of some ingrained loyalty to the motherland.

From coffee to (scientific) culture…

National cultural differences and beverage selection aside, it’s time I mentioned what I’m actually doing in California. I’m talking now about scientific culture. Or, more to the point, how we can go about changing the prevailing culture for the better. Following on from the OSTI pilot, we’re now trying to establish the scheme at other institutions in the UK and beyond. Hence my visit to San Francisco this week – I’ve been visiting Puneet Kishor at Creative Commons, and together we’ve been on a promotional drive involving several institutions in the area. And as you know, SF isn’t short of world-class universities. One look at the parking lot in Berkeley campus tells you that much:

20130308-143937.jpg

Proof of concept for the OSTI approach to training may be complete, but adapting the initiative to diverse course structures in particular institutions is the next challenge. Discussions this week have really helped shape plans for how we can achieve this…Monday to Friday has seen a fair few open science conversations. Jet lag well and truly kicking in, I made it to dinner on the night of my arrival, meeting with Greg Wilson and several others involved with either Software Carpentry, Wikimedia Foundation or open data projects. A great start to my US visit – I can only hope that I wasn’t too incoherent from the 19 hours of travel that preceded it! :S

Tuesday was spent at Creative Commons HQ in Mountain View (plus a trip to a Big Data event at LinkedIn in the evening). The guys and gals at CC are a fantastic group of people and I enjoyed some great discussions with various members of the team over the course of the day. I had the opportunity to present their “Lunch & Learn” seminar to promote my OSTI and gain some feedback from them on how it might be applied elsewhere. If you’d like to read more about that, you might want to take a look at the Creative Commons blog post covering the event. And their generosity even extended to gifting me a Creative Commons T-shirt, which should be making some appearances at Open events in the future πŸ™‚

20130308-144142.jpg

Since Wednesday, I have become vastly more acquainted with the SF public transport system, as Puneet and I made our way around various institutions, talking to a number of academics who may be able to suggest potential openings for my open science training regime. These have included: Jonathan Eisen of UC-Davis; Roberta Katz, VP for Strategic Planning at Stanford; Sameer Verma of SF State U; Rich Schneider of UCSF; and Michael Eisen at Berkeley. Hopefully this will pave the way for a variety of OSTI applications in the US and indeed other countries too! There’s now massive incentive for me to get to work on curating the slide decks and other course materials into a ready-for-release version.

This week has felt really productive and incredibly exciting. I think we’re on the verge of a whole new era of science education (and in a way, professional development training for academics). The coming months and years will hopefully see this realised across the disciplines, delivering to its full potential the multitude of benefits it can provide. It only remains for me to thank the OKFN and Panton Fellowship funders, without whose financial support this trip would not have come about; and of course a huge debt of gratitude to Puneet for hosting me this week and arranging such a fantastic schedule. Thanks all πŸ™‚

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…

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 πŸ™‚

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!