OLS-2 speed blog: Creating community awareness of open science in phytolith research

- EKaroune

Image of a mixed phytolith assemblage under a light microscope. ()

This post is guest authored by Emma Karoune, a recent graduate of OLS-2.

Project background

Frustration was my main motivator to initiate this project. I wanted to be able to do reproducible phytolith research but I was being held back by a lack of engagement with open science practices.

I started by conducting a review of published articles at the beginning of 2020 to find out the extent of open science practices in phytolith research in terms of open access, data sharing and metadata inclusion. Unfortunately, I found that only one in 341 articles in my area of research shared raw data in an open repository and the majority of the articles were not open access. This meant that the data within these articles are not accessible to all researchers. The inclusion of comprehensive metadata was also an issue with some articles not providing clear protocols, many articles lacked complete photographic records of identifications made in their studies and only about half of the articles were using the standardised nomenclature for naming phytoliths.

The outcome of this review confirmed my initial observations that a large cultural shift was needed in my discipline and it left me with the feeling that I had a long way to go to tackle this!

Expectations from this program

OLS-2 came at exactly the right time for me. I was feeling isolated in my open science approach and so I was looking forward to meeting like-minded people. I also wanted to equip myself with all of the skills I needed to really drive my project forward such as using Github for collaborative working and also learn about community building approaches.

Goals set at the beginning of the program

I wanted to use this time in OLS-2 to start to put the word out about what issues needed to be tackled and start to gather some troops to help me tackle these issues.

I focused on:

  1. raising awareness of open science through talks and blogs,
  2. starting to develop a workshop to fill the open science skill gap,
  3. establishing a working group for open science in phytolith research.

Key understanding and accomplishments

I have learnt and accomplished quite a lot through my participation in OLS-2. A few highlights are following:

1. Upskilling in Github: I know it does seem scary at first but gives it a go! I found that with a few hours of teaching I really got to grips with it and I can use it competently now.

2. Community building: This has come through the approaches that we have been taught in OLS2 but also the fantastic role models such as the OLS Founders and Mentors that I have had the privileged to work with.

This image was created by Scriberia for The Turing Way community and is used under a CC-BY licence. Available on Zenodo: https://zenodo.org/record/4323154.

The main goals achieved in this project

I am getting the word out effectively about the need for change and have started to gain confidence in my open approach. I have spoken at two online webinar series; the Association of Environmental Archaeology (AEA) Autumn webinar series and Palaeopercs, which is an early career researcher webinar series. Both talks were well received and I have had a number of enquiries about my project as a result of giving these talks.

I have also started a new blog series called ‘The Open Archaeobotanist’. I’m aiming to write one post a month about my open archaeobotanical work, others open work and open science things I’ve been doing. I am also hoping to encourage other open archaeologists to write guest blogs to share their open practice.

I wanted to address the issue of upskilling researchers in open science skills and therefore have started to take steps towards developing a training workshop for archaeologists and palaeoecologists. To this end, I attended the November edition of The Turing Way Bookdash in which I wrote a new chapter about ‘Getting started with Github’ in collaboration with Malvika Sharan, Paul Owoicho and other members of The Turing Way community. I will continue working with The Turing Way community in the future to help to build more resources into the book to aid accessibility for different types of researchers coming into open science.

I have reached my goal of forming a working group for phytolith open science, which now has 6 early adopters actively engaging in it and this group has the support of the International Phytolith Society. We have had our first meeting and we are working on a funding application for a FAIRification project. If this is successful, then we will be able to start working more intensively on the shift towards open science within our discipline.

The initial steps

I kind of just dove headfirst into this project! I took all the opportunities that came my way and I think this helped me to really push on with my goals.

What elements helped you get there?

The support of the OLS community, both the OLS Founders, my mentors and other OLS Project Leads has driven me forward with my project. Being able to have 1 to 1 conversation about my ideas and get help with certain issues when they arise has been so valuable for my own development as an Open Leader and also the development of my project.

Next steps

My immediate next step is to…

I am currently finishing off the funding application for the phytolith FAIRification project that I am hoping to initiate with my working group. I am also planning to apply for the Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship in the new year as I want to continue to develop my interest in improving accessibility to open science software skills.

Longer term tasks

My main task for the next year is to start to grow the community that I have started in this project. I want to move from a small group of early adopters to my target audience of the whole phytolith community and beyond!

I will be speaking at more conferences such as the AEA Spring Conference on Open Science and I have also recently become a committee member of AEA so I hope to work actively to promote open science in this role. I am also planning to present my current work concerning FAIRification at the 12th International Meeting on Phytolith Research in September 2021.

Staying connected

Special mentions and acknowledgements