Character  &  Context

The Center for Open Science at SPSP

Illustration of science-related materials

By Dave Nussbaum

The Center for Open Science came to Austin to talk about open science and how it can simplify researchers’ lives. COS Project Coordinator Johanna Cohoon, reports…

The Center for Open Science (COS) returned home after SPSP with considerably lighter luggage. We spent our time in Austin spreading the message of open science, both vocally and sartorially, diminishing our t-shirt stock and building enthusiasm for practical ways to adopt transparent practices.

The Center is a non-profit technology startup in Charlottesville, Virginia. We seek to improve the openness, integrity, and reproducibility of science by creating tools for scientists so they can improve the quality and efficiency of their research. Our SPSP preconference and booth were designed to orient the SPSP membership regarding the COS (Get it? “Cause?”) and open science.

Like the rainbow array of our t-shirt selection, scientific workflows don’t all look alike. Not every research project follows the same format, but there are some common goals: to learn something and to share what was learned with others. Open practices can accelerate progress toward those goals. That is what we showed visitors to our booth at SPSP.

 In recognizing that not all workflows look alike, the tools the Center supports are customizable. Our flagship project, the Open Science Framework (OSF), enables researchers to organize projects and collaborate with others, but doesn’t require any specific format and doesn’t require making anything publicly viewable unless you want to.  The OSF supports private workflows by helping researchers share among collaborators, archive, and manage their research materials and project history.  If you make your research available to the public, that’s great!  Now other scientists can find and cite your datasets, materials, or whatever you choose to make available.

What we have found is that when discussion is fostered and resources are shared, amazing things can happen. Sharing ideas, materials, and data openly is a great way to draw on the expertise of others, form unexpected collaborations, and move research in directions that you hadn’t anticipated yourself.

For instance, with some feedback and discussion over dinner Thursday evening at SPSP, our team came up with the idea to enable posters and talks from the conference to be uploaded to the OSF with a simple email and shared with the whole community. We went from a question (“What can we do better?”) to an idea (“What if everyone could just email us their files?”) to prototyping and testing (“Whoops! Gotta fix that!”) to a product (“Ta-da!”) before SPSP was over. So far, more than 100 posters and talks from SPSP have been uploaded already, and they collectively have been downloaded nearly 800 times, preserving and disseminating the research presented at SPSPThat’sopen science!

ManyLabs

Click the image to see a larger version on the OSF website

Besides building software to support scientific research, COS supports metascience projects – research about research practices. At SPSP, we shared a number of our crowdsourcing science projects that are actively recruiting collaborators.  For example, The Reproducibility Project: Psychology is recruiting volunteers to join our large scale replication effort.  So far, it involves more than 170 researchers, and grants are available for new teams! Other actively recruiting projects include Many Labs 2 and Many Labs 3: Participant Pool Edition, which follow up on the initial successful Many Labs project.  Finally, the Archival Project and CREP are projects that can involve undergraduate contributors and can be easily integrated into course instruction.  Like the OSF, the metascience projects demonstrate methodologies and investigate research questions that we hope will ultimately improve the openness, integrity, and reproducibility of scientific research.

For more information, to sign up for a metascience project, for answers to questions, or to see if you can get your hands on one of our famous t-shirts, drop us a line at contact@cos.io.  Also, follow us on Twitter at @OSFramework or on Facebook.


Johanna Cohoon (@jlcohoon) recently graduated from the University of Virginia. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science she joined COS where she coordinates the Reproducibility Project: Psychology and the Archival Project.

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