Announcing Openscapes: Open Science is Better Science

Mozilla Fellow Julia Lowndes has launched a mentorship program to help environmental scientists work more openly

Mozilla
Mozilla
Jan 29, 2019 · 3 min read
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When open-source principles are applied to science, important things happen: accelerated research, unexpected findings, critical breakthroughs.

But open science can only thrive when a critical mass of scientists are aware of it, practice it, and embrace it. Scientific culture must value it.

That’s why Mozilla Fellow and environmental scientist Julia Lowndes has launched Openscapes — a mentorship program that teaches scientists how to practice open culture in their labs by working efficiently with data and code, leveraging open-source software, and building connections with like-minded researchers and institutions.

“Formal computing and data training are often not part of science education,” explains Lowndes, who has a pedigree at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and Stanford University. “So it is vital that emerging scientific leaders have the opportunity to understand and engage with existing tools, practices, and communities that can accelerate their research. Openscapes welcomes more scientists to practice openness through engaging with data science tools that are game-changing for science. We mentor emerging scientific leaders to champion open practices in their own labs, departments, and beyond.”

Openscapes is built specifically for early-career environmental scientists in leadership roles, like faculty, lecturers, and program managers. Participants — or, “Champions” — meet regularly during a five-month span for both individual mentorship and group lessons with all Champions and their lab members. The structure is inspired by Mozilla’s own Open Leaders Program. Openscapes is led remotely by Lowndes as part of NCEAS’ learning hub.

All Openscapes lessons and resources are available for anyone to discover, use, and remix. Find more information — and opportunities to get involved — at openscapes.org.

Lowndes created Openscapes after her own experience being reluctant to engage, and then being blown away by, the power of open science. In 2012, Lowndes’ colleagues at NCEAS launched the Ocean Health Index (OHI), an initiative measuring clean water, coastal protections, biodiversity, and other benefits the ocean provides to people. The idea: build an ongoing, data-driven, and actionable assessment of ocean health.

The first OHI assessment of global ocean health took 30 people three years to complete. But when Lowndes and her team adopted open approaches, their research became more efficient and coordinated; indeed, the 2017 OHI took one person just three months to compile. Open approaches also opened new worlds for streamlining communication and teaching, so Lowndes and her team developed several training programs to enable government and academic scientists to use their code and workflows for ocean management around the world. Now, the annual global assessment that used to take years to complete is led by graduate students, who Lowndes and her team train through the OHI Fellows program.

With Openscapes, Lowndes is building off of six years of experiences with OHI and engagement with the open community. “Welcoming scientists to see and feel the power and impact of open data science is at the core of Openscapes,” Lowndes explained. “It’s about doing better science, in less time, together.”

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