Open Science? What’s That?

Was the answer I got from Andrew Abbott at a Hogwart’s dinner I was fortunate enough to attend a few years back when I asked him after dinner, “what are your thoughts on open science?”

That’s right. Open science. Say something paradigm changing.

We have so many results and coherent arguments about the status of science. To make an impact here requires synthesizing them into something new. Not purely constructively new in nature, but also subtly undermining all that came before. Something was missing all along and this new perspective is it. That’s the problem.

Our formula for declaring theory and opinion in scientific writing is that it must be big. Paradigm impacting. Makes you think. Expresses the scientist author’s authoritative intellect and ingenious perspective. With seemingly effortless written words, the scientist author lays down an argument so convincing, that it must be true. It was true all along. It is so obvious, why didn’t I see it? Thinks the average reader.

If Diederik Stapel was never caught, he would be a model for success. THE model for success in social psych. You don’t know what the formula for success is? Ask an economist. You have 3, maybe 5 journals in which you need to get published very early on. You have to have a job market paper that is known. You have to have connections. Otherwise you are on the sidelines, building an exit strategy. This is roughly true in the other social and behavioral science disciplines, yet we in sociology or political science will mostly deny it. We are better than those status maniacs.

But it is publish-or-perish. And this is the model.

To do publish, requires word wizardy. The ability to take any findings and craft an argument about them that makes them seem relevant is more valuable than research method skills. To make any findings seem essential to our fundamental understandings of somethings that are important. That is how we do science. Framing.

Andrew Abbott has the goal of out thinking, reading, writing and arguing everyone he encounters. Ask him if you ever meet him. He will not deny this. Easily considered by most to be one of the greatest living sociologists. He was editor of AJS and published book reviews of random, late-night selections in the Oxford library under a pen name, because it was fun. Because that is what legends do, and then tell about. He once wrote that sharing all material to be reproducible and replicable would make science boring.

As long as this is the model for success, we are not making real progress.

I sat at a dinner once with Ronald Inglehart. Every student, postdoc and professor there gawked with wide eyes. What was so appealing and enthralling. Why was this scientist a rock star for us? Was it his findings? Or was it his status? I think status. I think that is what scientists are seeking. I observe it. I feel it. If you have to have certain publications in order to not just pursue a scientific career, but to be at the ‘forefront’ of a subfield, then does it really matter what is in those publications? As long as you get to claim that status, that is it. You win. Why do athletes take steroids, cheat? Is it because of their great passion for the sport? Or is it to win status?

I entered a Master’s program in order to learn about the problems associated with a topic that was pressing for social justice and democracy. I still want to do this. But status was dangled in front of my eyes. ‘Publications are the currency of our trade’. The professor who told me this was absolutely correct. Now I want to do open science, but I have to perform wizardy with words to be recognized as central to the open science movement. This makes me uneasy to the point of nausea.

How can science become trustworthy and effective, if we have to be witty, cutthroat and/or famous in order to take part in it? How can we overcome this delusion? When will we stop and say enough is enough?

This type of honesty is what John Levi Martin specifically advised not to put out on the intrawebs because it will come back to bite me someday. Image (presentation) is everything. Warhol or Abbott, they figured that out long ago. I guess then for my own peace of mind, I extend my hand. Bite away you biters.

Human Induced Climate Change

Show me the data


Nate Breznau

A quick guide to human impact on the environment

Carbon Emissions

The amount of Carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere is nearly perfectly collinear with the Industrial Revolution and subsequent industrial growth. This is easily estimated from ice samples.

Carbon is unquestionably a result of human activity

We can measure random and cyclical carbon in the atmosphere from ice core samples. Never in 800,000 years have we seen carbon levels like those since the Industrial Revolution.

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Climate Warming & Emissions

A striking correlation between emissions and global average temperatures. Although temperatures fluctuate regularly, their fluctuations track upward following human-based carbon emissions. 

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Microplastics

These are only produced by human production. Note that there are several parts of the ocean where we find more than 10 pieces per cubic meter (dark purple circles and dark red stars). There are over 1.3 billion cubic meters of surface water in the ocean. 

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Polar Ice Degradation

We do not have accurate data from long ago, but since 1990 the arctic ice shelves have declined in size dramatically. This also leads to a rise in sea levels. Here a comparison of ice in summer and winter in 1990 compared to 2020.

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Scientific Consensus as of 2019

A review of all published climate science studies in peer reviewed journal articles between 2005 and 2015 suggested a consensus of somewhere between 83 and 97% of climate scientists that humans were causing the major changes we observe in our environment in the last 100 years1

A new study of all of the just over 11 thousand articles across all disciplines and journals published in 2019 revealed that this consensus was 100% (within a natural margin of error)2

Bibliography

1. Cook, J. et al. Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 048002 (2016).

2. Powell, J. Scientists Reach 100% Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 37, 183–184 (2017).

ChatGPT teaches open science

I asked ChatGPT to talk about open science. This post is the unabridged conversation. ChatGPT is a trained algorithm using machine learning. It is what most would refer to as Artificial Intelligence. And intelligent it apparently is.

~

Nate: I am teaching a course on open science. Could you summarize the key arguments of the open science movement?

ChatGPT: Certainly! The open science movement aims to promote greater transparency, collaboration, and accessibility in scientific research. Here are some key arguments and principles of the movement:

  1. Open access to scientific publications: Advocates for open science argue that research findings should be made freely available to everyone, rather than locked behind paywalls or subscription fees. This allows for wider dissemination of knowledge, which can benefit both researchers and the general public.
  2. Data sharing: Open science also emphasizes the importance of sharing data and methods, allowing others to reproduce and build upon research findings. This can improve the quality of research and promote greater collaboration across scientific disciplines.
  3. Reproducibility and transparency: Open science advocates for greater transparency in research methods and data analysis, as well as reproducibility of findings. This can help to prevent fraud and errors in scientific research, and can promote greater trust in scientific results.
  4. Collaborative and participatory science: Open science encourages collaboration among researchers, as well as engagement with stakeholders and the public. This can help to ensure that research is more relevant and useful to society, and can promote greater accountability and transparency in the research process.
  5. Open source and open tools: Open science also advocates for the use of open-source software and tools, which can be freely accessed and modified by others. This can improve the reproducibility and efficiency of scientific research, and can promote greater collaboration and innovation.

Overall, the open science movement seeks to transform scientific research into a more transparent, accessible, and collaborative endeavor, with the ultimate goal of advancing knowledge and benefiting society.

Nate: As I said above, I am teaching a course on open science. It is targeted at university students. Could you recommend some introductory readings on this topic?

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are a few introductory readings on open science that you may find helpful for your course:

  1. “The Open Science Training Handbook” by the Open Science MOOC: This is a comprehensive guide to open science, covering topics such as open research data, open access publishing, and reproducible research. The guide includes both theoretical and practical advice, as well as case studies and examples.
  2. “Ten Simple Rules for Reproducible Computational Research” by Sandve et al. (2013): This article provides a set of guidelines for ensuring that research is reproducible, including recommendations for version control, documentation, and sharing data and code.
  3. “Open Science: A Very Short Introduction” by Ana Brandusescu (2020): This short book provides an accessible introduction to open science, covering the history and principles of the movement, as well as key topics such as open access publishing and citizen science.
  4. “Open Science Framework (OSF): A Tutorial” by the Center for Open Science: This tutorial provides an overview of the Open Science Framework (OSF), a free and open platform for managing research projects and sharing data and code. The tutorial covers the basics of setting up a project on the OSF, as well as using the platform to collaborate with others and share research outputs.
  5. “The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship” by Wilkinson et al. (2016): This article presents a set of guidelines for ensuring that research data is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR). The principles provide a framework for managing research data in a way that promotes openness and reusability.

These are just a few examples of the many resources available on open science. Depending on the focus of your course, you may also want to look for readings on specific topics such as open access publishing, preprints, or data sharing.

Nate: What are some actions students can take during their studies that will make their research more open? Open, as in more aligned with the goals of open science.

ChatGPT: There are several actions that students can take during their studies to make their research more open and aligned with the goals of open science. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Share research data: One of the key principles of open science is making research data openly available. Students can make their research more open by sharing their data in a public repository, such as the Open Science Framework or Zenodo, and including a data sharing statement in their publications. Students can also share their data with collaborators and other researchers upon request.
  2. Use open source software: Students can use open source software, such as R or Python, for their data analysis and statistical modeling. Open source software is freely available, and its code can be accessed, modified, and shared by anyone, which promotes transparency and reproducibility in research.
  3. Practice pre-registration: Pre-registration involves submitting a detailed description of the research design, methods, and analysis plan prior to conducting the study. This can help prevent bias and increase transparency in research. Students can pre-register their research on platforms such as the Open Science Framework or AsPredicted.
  4. Use open access publishing: Open access publishing makes research articles freely available to anyone, which can increase the visibility and impact of the research. Students can publish their research in open access journals or deposit their articles in open access repositories, such as arXiv or PubMed Central.
  5. Collaborate openly: Collaboration is an important aspect of open science, and students can promote openness in their collaborations by sharing their research questions, data, and analysis plans with their collaborators. Students can also use collaborative platforms, such as the Open Science Framework or GitHub, to share and manage their research projects.

These are just a few examples of actions that students can take to make their research more open and aligned with the goals of open science. By promoting transparency, reproducibility, and openness in their research practices, students can help advance the principles of open science and contribute to a more open and collaborative research culture.

Nate: Are there arguments against practicing open science? If yes, where do these arguments come from?

ChatGPT: Yes, there are arguments against practicing open science, although they are often debated and may not be universally accepted. Some of the main arguments against open science are:

  1. Lack of incentives: Critics argue that there are few incentives for researchers to engage in open science, particularly when it comes to sharing data or making research available in open access. For example, researchers may be concerned about the impact of open sharing on their ability to publish in high-impact journals, obtain grant funding, or advance their careers. These concerns may be particularly acute for early-career researchers, who may be under pressure to produce high-profile publications and may not have the resources or institutional support to engage in open science practices.
  2. Risk of misuse: Some researchers argue that open science practices, particularly around sharing data, may increase the risk of misuse of research results. For example, in some fields, sharing data could lead to concerns about confidentiality, privacy, or intellectual property. Researchers may be concerned about how their data will be used, particularly if it could be used for purposes they did not intend, or if it could be used to generate findings that are inconsistent with the original research.
  3. Cost and logistics: Practicing open science requires resources, particularly around data management, sharing, and archiving. These costs can be particularly high for large or complex datasets, which may require specialized tools or infrastructure. Researchers may also face logistical challenges around sharing and storing data, particularly if they are working with sensitive or proprietary data.
  4. Misinterpretation or misrepresentation: Some researchers argue that open science practices may increase the risk of misinterpretation or misrepresentation of research results. For example, if research results are shared before they have been properly vetted, this could lead to the spread of inaccurate or incomplete findings. Researchers may also be concerned about the potential for misrepresentation of their work, particularly if their research is taken out of context or used for purposes they did not intend.

These arguments against open science are often debated, and there are counter-arguments and efforts to address some of the concerns raised. However, it is important for researchers to be aware of the potential challenges and risks associated with open science practices, and to carefully consider how to balance the benefits and costs of openness in their own research.

Nate: Can you recommend any readings that are highly critical of open science?

ChatGPT: While there are some critiques and debates around various aspects of open science, it is important to note that these are often specific to certain aspects of open science and not necessarily a wholesale rejection of the movement. However, here are a few examples of critical perspectives on certain aspects of open science:

  1. “Against Transparency” by Carl Elliott: In this article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2014, Elliott argues that the push for transparency in research can lead to a culture of surveillance and mistrust. He suggests that the emphasis on open access to data and methods may create an environment where researchers feel they are being constantly watched and evaluated, which can ultimately have negative effects on scientific creativity and collaboration.
  2. “Why the ‘Open’ Philosophy Can Harm Science” by Thomas Basbøll: In this blog post published in 2018, Basbøll argues that the open science movement can create unrealistic expectations for research, particularly when it comes to the idea of “openness” as an unqualified good. He suggests that the focus on openness can lead to a neglect of other important values in science, such as quality, relevance, and creativity.
  3. “The Five Stages of Open Science Grief” by Cameron Neylon: In this blog post published in 2014, Neylon describes his experience of grappling with the challenges and limitations of open science, particularly around issues of data sharing and reuse. He suggests that the open science movement can sometimes oversimplify complex issues and create unrealistic expectations for what openness can achieve.

It is important to note that these are just a few examples of critical perspectives on open science, and that there are also many scholars and researchers who support the principles and practices of open science. As with any complex and rapidly evolving movement, there are likely to be ongoing debates and discussions about the benefits and challenges of open science, and it is important for researchers to engage critically with these issues and develop their own perspectives.

Nate: Do you think AI can improve the implementation of open science practices? If yes, how?

ChatGPT: Yes, I believe that AI (artificial intelligence) can potentially improve the implementation of open science practices in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. Data management and sharing: AI can be used to help manage and share research data in a more efficient and effective way. For example, AI tools can help automate data cleaning and formatting, making it easier for researchers to share data in a usable format. AI can also be used to help identify sensitive or confidential data that may need to be redacted or protected before sharing.
  2. Open access: AI can help increase access to research by providing tools for automatic translation and summarization. For example, an AI tool could automatically translate an article written in one language into another language, making it accessible to a broader audience. AI can also be used to summarize articles or research papers, making it easier for readers to quickly understand the key findings and implications.
  3. Peer review: AI can be used to help improve the efficiency and quality of peer review. For example, AI tools can be used to automatically screen articles for plagiarism or identify potential conflicts of interest among reviewers. AI can also be used to help identify potential biases in the peer review process, such as reviewer bias or gender bias.
  4. Reproducibility: AI can be used to help increase the reproducibility of research by automating some aspects of the research process. For example, AI can be used to automatically generate code or scripts, making it easier for other researchers to replicate the analysis. AI can also be used to identify potential errors or inconsistencies in the data or analysis, improving the quality and reliability of the research.

Of course, it is important to note that AI is not a panacea for all the challenges of open science, and there are still many issues that require careful consideration and human input. However, AI can potentially help make open science practices more efficient, effective, and accessible, and there is a growing interest in exploring the use of AI in this context.

Nate: Do you think AI poses a threat to science, in particular principles of open science?

ChatGPT: While there are concerns about the potential risks and challenges associated with the use of AI in science, I do not believe that AI itself poses a direct threat to the principles of open science. Rather, it is the way in which AI is developed, deployed, and used that can potentially pose challenges or risks to open science practices.

One concern is that AI can potentially exacerbate existing inequalities in scientific research. For example, if AI tools are developed and trained on biased data or by biased algorithms, they may perpetuate or amplify existing biases in research. This could have a negative impact on the principle of equity, which is a core component of open science.

Another concern is that AI could be used to automate aspects of research that require human judgment and interpretation, potentially leading to a loss of creativity, intuition, and critical thinking in science. This could impact the principle of transparency, as researchers may rely on automated tools rather than engaging in open and collaborative inquiry.

Additionally, there are concerns about the potential misuse of AI in science, such as the use of AI to generate fake research or manipulate data. This could undermine the principle of integrity, which is a core component of open science.

Overall, I believe that AI has the potential to both enhance and challenge the principles of open science, depending on how it is developed and used. It is important for researchers and stakeholders to engage in critical discussions and careful evaluation of the ethical, social, and legal implications of using AI in science to ensure that the principles of open science are upheld and advanced.

Nate: Speaking of reproducibility. If I asked you the same questions in the future, would you give identical answers?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I would provide the same response to the same question every time, assuming that the context and information available to me are the same. However, it is important to note that my responses are generated by machine learning algorithms and are based on patterns and relationships learned from large datasets. While I strive to provide accurate and reliable information, my responses may not always be perfect, and they may be subject to limitations or biases in the underlying data or algorithms. Additionally, if the context or information available to me changes, my responses may also change accordingly.

Nate: Are you processing new information? In other words, still learning and evolving?

ChatGPT: Yes, as an AI language model, I am designed to learn and evolve over time as I process more information and receive updates from my creators. My responses are based on the patterns and relationships learned from large datasets and are continually refined and updated as new data becomes available. This means that my responses can evolve and change over time as I learn from new sources and refine my understanding of different topics.

Nate: I am writing a blog post in my blog ‘Crowdid’ by me, Nate Breznau. The blog is an academic blog hosted by Hypotheses.de. Would it be ok if I posted our conversation in my blog?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have any personal or legal rights over our conversation. However, I should note that the content of our conversation is generated by machine learning algorithms and is provided for informational purposes only. While I strive to provide accurate and reliable information, my responses are based on patterns and relationships learned from large datasets and may not always be perfect or fully accurate. It is ultimately up to you to decide whether you want to share our conversation in your blog, but I would recommend that you provide appropriate context and citations to help ensure that your readers have a clear understanding of the content and its source.

Nate: Thank you, this has been a very enlightening conversation. Could you provide me with some more information about you, ChatGPT, and how my blog readers could understand how you learned to become an AI?

ChatGPT: I’m glad to hear that you found our conversation enlightening! As an AI language model, I was created by a team of researchers at OpenAI, a research organization focused on developing advanced AI technologies for the betterment of society. My development was guided by a large corpus of text data, which was used to train deep neural network models to generate human-like responses to natural language input.

The training process involved exposing the models to large amounts of text data and using sophisticated algorithms to learn patterns and relationships in the data. Over time, the models became better at understanding natural language and generating coherent, human-like responses to text input.

It’s worth noting that my development was a collaborative effort that involved a diverse team of researchers, engineers, and linguists, as well as large amounts of computing power and resources. While I can generate responses to a wide range of questions and topics, my responses are generated based on patterns learned from the data and do not represent a true understanding or consciousness of the topics being discussed.

If you would like to provide your readers with more information about how I was developed and how I work, I would recommend checking out the OpenAI website, which has a wealth of resources and information on AI and machine learning.

Teaching to empower students as public, open and citizen scientists

Students pursuing a bachelor or master degree develop both labor market skills for a information and computer-based career, and learn to do science. Not all go on to be scientists. It would seem that those that do not, have no impact on scientific knowledge. They took tests and wrote papers in order to earn their degree. The test results and papers are only for their instructor’s eyes and maybe an occasional parent or other student.

It could be different.

  1. Science is an act of knowledge production
  2. Bachelor and master students have and develop useful knowledge
  3. Teaching them to share their knowledge and collaborate in knowledge production:
    • improves collective scientific knowledge
    • leads to a feeling of empowerment and utility among the students
    • creates ideal-type citizen scientists

Starts with teaching

In any given course in any particular discipline, students are taught to do science as a practice. This includes knowledge or ideas about the world; empirical evidence gathered through participation, observation or experimentation; and techniques to maximize the accuracy, efficacy and reliability of their knowledge and ideas. The students’ own work on assignments or theses is a form of ‘training’, and an instructor then checks or grades their learning. If they are privileged they get constructive feedback, and if they are highly self-motivated they actually read the feedback and incorporate it into their future work.

Students are generally aware that their work is for their instructor’s eyes only. At least in my experience, they cannot imagine their work shaping science or public knowledge. They thus have little extrinsic motivation to do more than what the instructor asks of them.

What if the instructor asks them to change the world outside the classroom in some way?

We, as instructors, are teaching students to produce reliable and critical knowledge. They should get a high mark if the work is deemed to be high quality. Why then does the entirety of their learning and knowledge production end as a forgotten file in a folder as a relic of some semester past? Why don’t they share some of that knowledge? I bet if they thought that their knowledge was valuable and useful beyond degree acquisition, they would be stoked.

Hampered by institutionalized beliefs and practices

A common argument against bachelor and master students trying to disseminate their work is that it is not high enough quality to compete with work from doctoral and post-doctoral researchers. In particular, they have not had enough time to dig deep into a body of literature on their topic of interest and their methodological skills may still be quite underdeveloped. They would probably be ‘wasting’ their time pursuing a journal publication or even a publicly disseminated working paper.

I agree. This points at the root of the problem. Publication-based science. Science as we know it has a rewards system where publications are treated as far more valuable than anything else scientists produce. This is particularly acute in the social sciences where scientific research rarely leads to tech or apps with private market value. When publications are the ‘currency of the trade’, academics, universities, editors, students, even policymakers prioritize publications and citations to those publications as the metric for judging the quality of scientific research. As such, scientists have maximum incentive to produce publications above all else.

Now, bachelor and maybe master students are generally unaware of the severity of this publish-or-perish plague that infects the very spirit of science. But like a fish that is unaware of the properties of the water it lives in, the students are deeply affected by the polluted nature of the academic norms in which they matriculate. How many times has a teacher told a bachelor student that they should submit their term paper to a high impact journal? How often are readings in scientific courses not from journal articles or books? A taskforce in sociology specifically recommended that students read and comment on books and journal articles because this is the ‘best’ type of academic knowledge for them to learn.

Student-citizen opportunities to shape public knowledge

With available technologies and new ideas about what constitutes meaningful knowledge, students can have a great impact on science; both now and into the future. Podcasts, blogs, vlogs, Youtube channels and many other forms of social media communication are consumed in high volumes across members of the public, and among students and scientists.

Therefore, when possible, I assign students the task of making a contribution to public knowledge and/or open science instead of writing a term paper. It seems better for all parties involved, and involves more parties because it could reach the public at large. I recently put this into practice in my course, “Open Science in Social Sciences: Crises, Controversies and Change” which I taught as an invited guest lecturer at the University of Zurich (UZH) (syllabus).

Wikipedia: knowledge now

Creating or editing a Wikipedia page where knowledge is lacking or does not exist at all, is a fantastic way to engage in public open science. Firstly, surveys report that more than a three-quarters and up to 90% of students use Wikipedia in their course research, at least in some English-speaking samples. Second, shaping knowledge immediately; seeing one’s own contributions appear on a public knowledge-platform is exciting and feels empowering. Third, knowledge is improved, in some cases much needed knowledge, like that which gives a voice, forum or contribution for underrepresented people or societies.

Three students in my course used Wikipedia to make contributions to public knowledge.

One of the students first edited and then created a Wikipedia page in Ukrainian, based on his Bachelor Thesis topic “A Theory of Generations”. He pointed out in class that most of the information on this topic, and knowledge accessed by Ukranians in general, is in Russian. Given the history of Russian hegemony in Ukraine, having more Ukranian resources promotes a Ukranian language and identity; in other words, promotes knowledge that is valuable to most Ukranians.

Wikipedia Ukrainian language page on “Theories of Generations“, created by Ernest Huk

Additionally, this particular academic topic is contested and misunderstood in the literature according to this student. He points out that the former page focused only on one theory, when in fact there are many. Thus, he pointed out that before his edits and page renaming, “Ukrainian users of Wikipedia, by looking through the [former] article Theory of Generations, would be not informed adequately at least and misinformed at most, as Strauss-Howe generational theory is just one of the many other theories in this domain (yet one of the most controversial).”

Another student has a extracurricular passion for wild flora. There is a class of plants whose native habitats are pastures and fields. These ‘pasture flora’ (Ackerbegleitflora in German), as the student pointed out, are “often rare plants that would find suitable living conditions in pastures but are conflicted with the threat of economic means that increase productivity in agriculture. Some of the rarest plants in Central Europe are found in this class.”

Wikipedia German-language page on “pasture flora” edited by Linus Signer

At least in German-speaking Wikipedia, there was no page on this topic at the outset. In fact, Wikipedia redirected the students search to Unkraut (weeds), reinforcing the public misunderstanding of this class of wild flora as undesirable or economically-inefficient intruders in a pasture or field. He later discovered an existing page on Segetalflora which is a related class that has overlap with ‘pasture flora’. This points out that knowledge on certain topics can go by different names or be cross-classified, a problem that requires more discussion and Wikipedia users to resolve. Therefore, he elected to significantly expand the existing Segetalflora page, rather than make a new page with information about Ackerbegleitflora, so that everything was in one place, including discussions about differences, conservation and utility.

During our course in fall-winter of 2021, many exciting things related to open science were taking place at UZH. For example, the university created an explicit open science policy. Moreover, there was an open science week with speakers and, of course, our open science course. One student noticed that much information about the open science happenings was missing from the UZH Wikipedia page and decided to make it his project to add it.

The ‘Open Science‘ section of the University of Zurich German-language Wikipedia page edited by Kerim Lengwiler

A major limitation to the open science movement is simply a lack of academic awareness of the issues and their solutions. Wikipedia provides a platform to disseminate such knowledge. Thanks to this student’s research and edits to the German-language page, I was easily able to update the English-language version of in tandem. We hope users can follow our lead and update the French and Italian versions as well.

Youtube – unlimited public science possibilities

Youtube is now outpacing Wikipedia as a student’s ‘go to’ for scientific information and especially for science communication. Internet searches for ‘how to’ or ‘information about’ now seem as likely to return Youtube or other short instructional videos as they are text-based entries (depending on cookies, browser, settings, and etc of course). Videos also give a voice to research subjects that cannot easily be expressed via written language. As long as participants consent, students can interview their subjects and post a video on Youtube – an act that requires only minimal technical skill and can be done with free or cheap software.

Another student in my course elected to contribute to knowledge on the topic colorism – discrimination based on skin color. Unlike racism, the student found this topic was far less present in academic discussion, at least based on her internet searches. Her impression from a previous course and her searches, was that this topic was mostly used in reference to the United States, but less so in the German-speaking countries’ contexts. In fact, she pointed out that to here it seemed like many people did not think colorism existed in Switzerland or Germany. Therefore, for her project, she conducted an interview with a person whose parents are Asian and European, to understand if and what types of color awareness or colorism this person experienced personally or in media and marketing.

An interview with an ethnically Swiss-Asian participant about colorism by
Nora Melanie Vetsch
Student open science activism

The opening of science and increase in reliability and transparency of knowledge for academic and public consumption requires more than a handful of citizen scientists active on social media and Wikipedia. Many closed and un-reliable methods are taught as part of the pathology of science. Instructors and students alike are generally unaware that the science they promote is potentially unreliable. This is another way of saying that they have not yet been exposed to the core information of the open science movement. Thus, changes at the curricular and institutional level are necessary to promote this awareness and to foster change.

Three students in my course elected to develop strategies to shape curricula for university and school students so that it fosters awareness of open, ethical science practices.

One student felt that herself and her peers were generally uninformed about open science both in and outside of UZH. Her idea for changing this was to create a student led social media initiative at the University. As this is nothing that could be achieved or even approved in a few months, her project was an action plan for the creation of this service. Firstly, it would entail the creation of a Student Open Science Organization, that among other things would maintain social media accounts where they posted important open science information and resources. This would require several layers of bureaucratic approval and liaising with the Open Science Office.

An excerpt of the open science at UZH social media action plan by Isabella Ferrera

Another student sought to communicate and potentially convince a primary methods professor in her area of Educational Science to incorporate open science into her courses. The idea would be that such a strategy could be deployed across other disciplines, and that her area was a test case to develop it. This required first developing persuasive reasons that could be shared in an open and friendly manner with a professor. Like many progressive universities, UZH has resources just waiting to be taken advantage of, a great realization of the student.

The Open Science Committee homepage at UZH, available for policy, communication and supporting curriculum development – for example Anastasiia Kurmann’s efforts to shape Educational Science courses so that they teach open science.

The professor responded to the student’s requests and agreed to add open science topics to her seminar plan, agreed with the students claims about the value of teaching open science and to specifically promote open data and FAIR principles as she teaches about qualitative data collection and evaluation; according to an exchange with the student.

Another student volunteers her time at a Zurich Community Center (Gemeinschaftszentrum). As the student points out, these centers, “offer space to work, play, learn, meet other people or participate in neighbourhood projects.” The student wanted to test if open science is a topic that adolescent children might understand or be interested in. Therefore, she first gained their interest and consent and organized a lesson at the Center. She used another resource of the UZH, the Kinderuniversität (Children’s University) as a protocol or concept for the adolescents to understand open science. The Kinderuniversität is specifically designed to support children in searching for answers and explanations of phenomena and, as the student points out, “serves as a good example to illustrate how science can be made accessible to all.”

Diellza Ismailji teaching adolescents at a Zurich Community Center about open science

Using this test case, the student was able to develop a curriculum for future courses for children and adolescents to discover and understand the concept of open science and why it is important. This guide includes resources that the children can directly interact with such as Wikipedia (that they can even edit this!), Blinde Kuh, Google Scholar, how to find and use a library and how to register for free at the UZH Children’s University.

Concluding thoughts

Public science is often practiced in the social sciences and involves researchers engaging with a local community to help provide inputs into their own efforts to address their own identified problems and priorities as a community. At international universities, bachelor and master students are less likely to be from the local community, are only staying there temporarily, and may face ethno-linguistic barriers to engaging in public social science locally. However, they can still have dramatic impacts on knowledge affecting to their home communities or countries – remotely. That is the beauty of an internet of knowledge, it only requires online access not physical presence.

Something else to keep in mind is that replacing a traditional term paper with a project to impact public knowledge and/or open science is not realistic in all course types. For example a broad introduction to open science across disciplines, like my course, makes it relatively easy for students to chose any topic and use it to contribute to public knowledge. In a course that is very theoretical and narrow, for example critical Marxism or history of the Holy Roman Empire, student learning might be maximized if they write a conventional essay based on reading of the literature that proves they have mastered a well-rehearsed topic. If asked to make a contribution to knowledge specifically in these areas they might struggle to find things to add to Wikipedia or find that there are already seemingly unlimited public resources. “Might”, then again might not. There are often opportunities to engage technology or do things in different languages.

Ultimately, when students feel they are doing something more than just earning a credential, ticking a box, or trying to maximize their grades, they become more likely to engage the material. If they think their term paper might actually contribute to local or global communities’ knowledge base, conservation efforts, capacity to address underprivileged students and etc., they are naturally inclined to do higher quality work and develop a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. These are bases of self-knowledge and fulfillment that they will hopefully carry with them into the future and stay motivated to impact public knowledge as scientists in academic or citizen scientists working in any job.

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