Open Science: Providing Skills and Inspiring Change

Blog post by Gustav Nilsonne, Stockholm University.

Lack of knowledge is an oft-cited impediment to open science. In this context, knowledge may be important both as a motivator for change, and as a means to achieve change. To break down this impediment, we have started a postgraduate course in Open Science, Reproducible Research, and Research Ethics at Stockholm University, and a similar course in Open Science and Reproducible Research at Karolinska Institutet. In this post I will reflect on what we do and how it has turned out so far.

Change through evidence

We start by taking a good look at the state of scientific practice. There is considerable evidence about transparency and reproducibility, not least from the field of clinical trials. On other topics, such as the impact of statistical power for inference, evidence is more theoretical. The work is structured around papers from the international scientific literature, which the students read and then we discuss them together in the classroom. This approach allows a conversation about the possible scope for increased openness and reproducibility, and how that may be achieved.

Skills for change

Students are meant to be able, having taken either course, to incorporate open science practices in their own work: preregistration, open data, open materials, open code, and open access publication. To that end, we have included workshops with skills training in practical things such as how to find, select, and use data repositories. For examination, students were asked to write an essay on the course topics. Many chose to apply an open practice to their own work, for instance by preparing a dataset for publication or by writing a preregistration for a planned experiment.

Reflections

The course has been given once at Stockholm University and once at Karolinska Institutet, and has received excellent evaluations from the students. Course materials are openly available here for any curious readers. I am indebted to collaborating partners, not least the Stockholm University Library and the Karolinska Institutet Library.

Talking to students about open science makes me optimistic about the future. Although academic culture is conservative (often a desirable and good thing), the movement towards more open practices is picking up speed. In my impression, the impetus comes not only from funders and institutions, but also to no small extent from young researchers who wish to do their best from the outset of their scientific careers.


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