Nuts and Bolts

In a couple of weeks, at SPSP in Atlanta, I will take part in a professional development session called Introduction to Open Science: The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Started. (8am, Saturday! Be there or be square.) Elizabeth Gilbert and Elizabeth Tenney put the session together, and Barbara Spellman, Calvin Lai, and Minah Jung are on the panel with me – I’m super excited about it, not least because most of these awesome people I have previously only interacted with online!

It seems fitting, then, that my focus on the panel will be on the relationship between open science, social media, and being an early career researcher. Specifically, the program says:

Watkins will discuss how to navigate open science discussions in the lab and on social media, even when one is new and junior.

So far, I have a rough framework for my 5-minute introductory spiel (see Figure 1); the three corners of the triangle being 1) pros and cons of making the leap from the lab to social media; 2) the balancing act of social media itself; and 3) closing the loop by bringing the knowledge back to your lab.

Figure 1. Appropriate also because I am mostly recycling ideas from (social media) discussions I’ve had in the past

1: A Table of the Pros and Cons of Social Media (in the Context of Open Science)

1 You’re not alone! Other people have faced similar challenges and survived. Social comparison: Other people have faced similar challenges and done better.
2 Oooooh, shiny! Finding out about cool opportunities. Oooooh, shiny… #FOMO
3 So cutting edge: Learning about new tools/techniques as they’re being proposed Feeling overwhelmed: Learning about new tools/techniques constantly
4* Participating in debates: This is a great way of learning interactively, very worthwhile Participating in debates: Can feel daunting as arguments get heated and people get mean
5 Sharing your work! More people read it, and you get more excellent feedback Sharing your work… more people criticise it, publicly; you get to be wrong sometimes, publicly
6 Feeling included in a cool community Feeling excluded (Us vs. Them language?)
7 Reaching a bigger audience Worrying about your reputation with a bigger audience

Numbers 1 and 2 in the table above are related to social media broadly speaking; they’re not necessarily about open science or “the movement” specifically. Numbers 3 and 4 I think are particular issues in the context of open science and various proposed reforms – norms are changing, and it can be hard to a) keep up, and b) evaluate all suggestions independently. Also, I put a * next to 4 because “participating” doesn’t have to mean commenting; it can mean “just” reading – see table below. Numbers 5 and 7 are definitely a big part of the Open in open science. Number 6 I’m not sure about, but I wanted to include it because I think the social in social media is really important. There’s occasional debates about whether Open Science is a “movement” or not, and to what extent there is an “ingroup” and an “outgroup” (and even if there is, is such a divide useful?), so I’m curious about people’s thoughts about that.

2: The Balancing Act of Social Media Itself

On the one hand… …on the other hand The Balance?
1 Reading Commenting I probably err on the side of reading (see this for one reason why). Both are worthwhile.
2 Raising Questions Giving Answers This feels like a “reciprocity” and “fairness” issue. I’m not about to prescribe a specific ratio.
3 The Person The Work Can be hard to separate; but please try!
4 Process Content This is related to the “tone” debate: You might sometimes have to think about responding to how someone presented their argument in addition to/instead of what their argument was.
5 Facebook Twitter (Here’s an Introduction by DeevyBee) Both? And blogging!
6 Malice Incompetence If you are going to make assumptions about the intentions behind questionable behaviour, maybe err on the side of assuming incompetence?
7 The True You Anonymous I only know of a few anonymous people; I’m curious what they feel the benefits are.
8 Gifs Gifs No point arguing; we all know the right pronunciation is gifs
9 Institutional change Individual incentives Both!
10 Senior Junior This is not a clean dichotomy by any means, but it may nonetheless be useful to talk about a generational divide
11 Incremental change Revolution I probably fall on the side of incremental change here
12 All Nothing Neither. (And I think this is important!)

Most of the links in the above table are to posts I’ve previously written – not because I’m such a fan of self-promotion (though there is that too), but because these are perennial debates. I’m not sure it makes sense to put “common debates” (numbers 9-12) in the same table as “choices each researcher makes in each situation” (numbers 1-7), but since the debates are sometimes about those choices… curious to hear your thoughts on how best to organize this list/prepare someone to dive into this! I also haven’t included in this list the rather obvious “how much time to spend on social media”, because I have no answer at all.

3: Bringing the Knowledge Back to Your Lab

Congratulations! You’ve conquered social media, you’re talking the talk; and equipped with new tools and ideas you return to your PI (who, let’s say, is not on social media) to start walking the walk as well.

I would suggest the following…. based almost purely on experience/anecdata, so please pitch in, dear reader. Some of this might be controversial, and I’m not at all sure I’m right!

Align your activities. I stole this phrase from Cathy Mazak; in this context I take it to mean that you need to find out what your PIs goals are, what your goals are, and then introduce whatever open science practice you’re currently burning for in a way that aligns with those activities. (Even better, if you can figure out the underlying values.) For example, don’t “just” do a replication for the sake of doing a replication; do one that you can link to your substantive area of research. If your PI wants citations above all else, talk about how open access papers get more citations. If your PI is focused on big name journals, talk about Registered Reports at  Nature. Etc. (I think we can have a broader debate here about which means justify which ends, too.)

Be prepared to explain. This is pretty self-explanatory (hah). You might need to explain the very basics of everything; e.g., from what a pre-print is, to how a pre-registration is achieved; as well as what the pros and cons of these new approaches are. Be prepared, also, to admit that you don’t know everything, and go and find out more information.

Baby Steps. Introducing new methods, tools, and practices takes time. You and your PI might both need to learn new skills, new ways of doing things. If you can learn something first, and thus make things easier for your PI, that’s probably a good things.

So, these are the basic ideas I’m planning to talk about at SPSP in a couple of weeks. If you are planning to attend (or even if you aren’t!), which of the three points above would you like the most focus on? Or, maybe you think there’s something I’ve missed? Let me know!




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