Liberating Science Through Community

#mozsprint 2017 Interview Series

Chris (@chartgerink) is a PhD candidate in Statistics at Tilburg University and open science champion. With a background in open research practices, Chris was selected to join our current round of Mozilla Open Leaders with his impressive personal side-project, Liberate Science.

I interviewed Chris to learn more about Liberate Science and how you can help June 1–2 at #mozsprint.

What is Liberate Science?

Liberate Science is a fledgling community aiming to free both the researcher and the research itself. The freedom to consume and do research is vital for researchers everywhere to do what they do best: find out things about the world. In this community, we initiate projects that facilitate such freedom, starting with: providing public access to the public domain.

Why did you start Liberate Science?

I started Liberate Science because I feel obstructed by the academic system I operate in, which unnecessarily complicates doing research, detracting from effective research time. For example, whenever I need to access copyrighted papers my university has no subscription to, it can take me several hours to find a way to access it; hours I could have spent doing my actual research. Other examples, that I hope Liberate Science can tackle in the future, are bureaucratic measures surrounding funding, breaking free from the purely paper based article, and many more barriers that holds back researchers. Removing barriers such as these will empower researchers to get back to creating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge.

Why is access important in research?

Knowledge doesn’t come into existence in a vacuum, it is created based on what we already know. In order to build new knowledge, that old knowledge needs to be accessible in order to actually move forward. If access is absent, people might not find a necessary building block that can help answer their question, or they might never pose that question to begin with. Researchers are expected to write comprehensive reviews of the literature before they start their own research; without access this is unfeasible.

What problems have you run into while working on this project?

It is easy to be too ambitious; when I submitted this project for #mozsprint, I wanted to have the project ready for deployment by #mozsprint and use #mozsprint so that users could liberate public domain works. However, the technical aspect of the project took more time than expected, and I had to scale back my own expectations. In other words, it is easy to think of a project, but actually managing it successfully and completing it, takes much more effort than initially expected.

What kind of skills do I need to help you?

During #mozsprint, I am primarily looking for people with Django, PostgreSQL, communication, and front-end skills. However, if you want to participate and don’t find an issue to work on (see https://github.com/libscie/liberator/issues), please open an issue yourself and state what your skills are. There are many ways to contribute that aren’t explicitly in the issues yet.

How can others join your project at #mozsprint 2017?

During #mozsprint the project will be preparing for launch, which includes preparing the back-end database, scripts to check and upload the content users will upload, (social) media materials (e.g., Thunderclap, letters of support), and improving the accessibility of deposited materials. You can already participate by simply signing up for the community at http://libscie.org :-)

What meme or gif best represents your project?

Gif from giphy

Join us wherever you are June 1–2 at the Mozilla Global Sprint to work on Liberate Science and many other projects! Join a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to hack and build projects for a health Internet. Get your tickets now!