What are the frontiers in Open Science?

Many seem to misconstrue what ‘the frontier’ means in science, imagining a hard intellectual boundary, everything past which is unknown. I want to use a geographic frontier analogy that distinguishes the very limit (boundary) of human exploration (knowledge) from the area approaching that boundary. Frontier can mean both, but here I’m going to use it in the second sense.

A frontier is the political and geographical area near or beyond a boundary. The term came from French in the 15th century, with the meaning “borderland”—the region of a country that fronts on another country – Wikipedia

Of course many of us, thanks to Hollywood, are thinking of ‘the frontier’ as the American Western frontier, white settlers moving in their wagons through the prairies. Likewise in open science the frontier is not one line, not the limit of our exploration, it is a big area being colonized. A small number of true explorers are prepared to ride their horses past all previous (colonist) knowledge. OK this analogy isn’t going very well, frankly I’m regretting it.

There are many exciting and challenging developments present at the reproducible science boundary, but the real RS-frontier is a place all of us could actually get to with a bit of effort, and the rewards are enormous. Moving more people towards the frontier is at least as valuable as exploring the horizon, and I find that exciting and challenging too. There are many excellent Open Reproducible Science advocates who focus on the distant horizon. Thats great, we can have both, we need to have both. At the moment though I want to build foundations, and concentrate on helping 10% of people to be 50% more open and reproducible in their science. Small wins with a very very large multiplier. With that context you may be asking…

What is really worth your time in Open Science?

Two things are now definitely mature enough for you to put aside a small amount of time to become an expert and to bring them into your workflow and your lab. Firstly protocols.io, it will take <15 mins to know what its all about and 1-2 hours to become an expert. Secondly osf.io, it will take <30 mins to know what its all about and 3-4 hours to be an expert. Both are worth the investment, and will be a short-term net gain, no matter how busy you are. Clicking and playing around are your best ways to learn and achieve expertise.

What is this and why is it worth my time? What’s in it for me?

protocols.io are version-controlled citable community driven protocols. They will keep your lab organized and make writing your thesis or manuscript Methods section very quick and easy. It will save you time and effort while you implement high standards of reproducibility. @ProtocolsIO

osf.io is an environment that helps you to organize your normal work, e.g. files, notes, scripts, data, without being annoying. Its useful and normal. At the end of a project it REALLY helps when you want to make a reproducible output. It will save you time and effort to help you maintain high standards of reproducibility, without getting in the way, or forcing you to learn lots of new ways of working. @OSFramework

I really like both these as they are quite ‘frictionless’ allowing normal scientists to get on with stuff without going on a training course. Try them, you’ll be at the frontier.

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