TSPN 101 Workshop on Open Science

In late February, TSPN hosted Dr. Monica Granados for a workshop on Open Science. Dr. Granados walked the audience through what open science is, why it’s useful and how we can apply it in our own work.

Open science is the belief that science should be accessible to everyone — regardless of a person’s occupation, race, nationality, or economic status. To make science more accessible you can either make it easier to access and use (e.g. removing financial barriers) or easier to understand (e.g improve science communication). Dr. Granados presented a few steps to help put your science within reach.

The first step relates to data collection — make your methodologies and techniques openly available. In many cases what we publish in the methods section of a paper doesn’t make the experiment easy to replicate. Tools such as protocols.io, Open Lab Notebooks, and LabScribbles make it easy to share your experimental notes in real time.

The next two steps to open science also involve making your science accessible by storing and sharing your data and making your analysis reproducible. There are free repositories for storing your data and any code you use to analyse it. Excel may be a great place to start to take a quick look at the data but large Excel workbooks with multiple abbreviations and esoteric terms make it difficult for others to follow. Using free programs like R to code your data analysis makes it easier to follow along, especially when you can utilize tools like R Markdown which allow you to add comments and explain the reasoning behind using particular analysis techniques.

Of course learning to use R has a bit of a learning curve and researchers may still choose to publish their data using Excel. In that case, Frictionless Data is building some tools that can help make tables more accessible, by checking for missing data, table formatting and adding in descriptions. Dr. Granados provides some additional resources on platforms that you can use to store and share your data and code on her Github page.

The final step to open science is publishing. The current approach to publishing in scientific papers is not exactly accessible due to pay-walls. Some authors cannot even read their own work if they are not subscribed to the publishing journal! Publishing your work and analysis using R Markdown can show people how you came to your research conclusions. Preprint servers like bioRxiv, are quick ways to share your work and these servers provide a DOI so your work can be cited. Many journals are also working with preprint servers like Research Square.

Preprints and open review processes are becoming increasingly popular, especially during COVID-19, allowing for rapid reviews of new research using platforms like PREReview. These are also a great place for students and early career researchers to learn more about the review process and get experience with writing reviews.

It is common that once research has been published in an academic journal it can become inaccessible to the author and to the wider public. Dr. Granados shared some useful tools for identifying and locating open access articles and citation data for published work.

For more information about Open Science you can review a recording of the workshop on our YouTube channel.

TSPN would like to thank all Dr. Granados for sharing her expertise with the University of Toronto community and the general public. We would also like to thank University of Toronto’s School of Graduate Studies Event Fund for generously sponsoring our event. Finally, we would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in this event.

— The TSPN Team

The Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) aims to provide a platform for students (graduate and undergraduate), as well as post-doctoral researchers, to learn more about and engage in science policy. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in the loop about TSPN’s upcoming events. Read about our previous events on our Medium page here.

TSPN is a student science policy group at the University of Toronto, where students & researchers can learn more about and engage in science policy.