The Method: an open-source podcast

#mozsprint 2017 Interview Series

April (@april_cs) is an epidemiologist and methodologist, currently focused on open research training and advocacy. I met April in Montreal at our Working Open Workshop where I was blown away by her vision and drive to further open communication in research. She’s been using her passion and skills to produce The Method.

I interviewed April to learn more about The Method and how you can help June 1–2 at #mozsprint.

What is The Method?

The Method is an open source, peer-reviewed podcast about the state of science. Inspired by how open source has enabled better code, I believe that open communication can make our conversations about science more inclusive, more productive, and better quality. As far as I know, it is the first open source podcast around!

As an open source podcast, our listeners are also our content contributors and producers. All materials, including the releases, raw and edited content, and reviews, are licensed CC-BY or CC0. Processes of contribution, review, and moderation are all open to encourage more diverse engagement. Episodes will be updated with new contributions and re-released to enable continuous, living conversations that can build in specificity and quality over time. Everything we build will be openly documented and evaluated, and reuse will be encouraged and supported. Openness is at the core of how The Method has been developed, how it is being produced, how it will be shared, and how it will allow us to imagine better science.

Why did you start The Method?

I believe that science is the best way for us to solve our biggest challenges. I spend much of my time, both personally and professionally, talking about issues in science with scientists, librarians, funders, and other stakeholders. Over time, I started to feel like these conversations were stunted; they remained vague, disconnected, and unproductive.

These conversations are often an echo-chamber of well-meaning scientists with similar worldviews. Problems and solutions presented by the scientific community remain vague. The weeds of our problems — the specific barriers for individual researchers — remain unexplored.

I want us to be having more inclusive and productive conversations. The same points are raised at every meeting by the same people. New perspectives are not added and our assumptions are not challenged. If anything, we are solidifying our opinions before even including everyone in the conversation. This is not good for science, but it is doesn’t have to be this way. Better conversations are possible!

How have podcasts influenced you?

I am a complete podcast nut. Podcasts are the main way I consume stories today. It is an exciting time to be making podcasts as the number of podcasts and podcast listeners has exploded in the past few years. It is a medium that is accessible, adaptable, and ripe for innovation. It is also an intimate way of telling stories. I think podcasts have been able to use this intimacy to connect listeners with challenging, complex, and personal stories to which they might otherwise have been less open. Without seeing a face with the voice, we focus more on what they are saying and feel as though they are speaking directly to us.

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

I work full-time, and The Method is something I do in my spare time. I have a long list of ideas and interviews I want to complete, but time is always an obstacle. I have learned to break my ideas into small tasks so I am able to stay on track, but it means slower progress than I would like. Similarly, supporting a community of active contributors requires regular communication, and that also means time. So I need to balance time producing with time reaching out and supporting our contributors.

What have you learned about producing an open-source podcast?

The potential of bringing openness into new areas, such as podcasting, is really exciting. But just building the process openly is not enough. Contributors need a reason to spend their time on this project — some fun, or some reward. The fact that is new or interesting is not enough. I have needed to start thinking very specifically about what benefit contribution should offer to contributors, and what benefit The Method should offer to the community. For an open source podcast like The Method to be successful I need to build mutually beneficial relationships within the community of contributors.

What kind of skills do I need to help you?

You don’t need any special skills to help!

How can others join your project at #mozsprint 2017?

We would love to have you join our sprint!

We currently have 2 calls for contribution: Hello World and Your Number Ones, and I am trying to get as many contributions as possible!

For Hello World, we ask contributors to:

  • Say “Hello World”!
  • Introduce yourself to The Method listeners
  • Tell us why science matters to you

For Your Number Ones, we ask contributors:

  • What do you think is number one issue in science today?
  • What do you think is number one exciting innovation in science today?

Here’s how! To add your audio contribution:

  • Join The Method WhatsApp Group and leave a voice note OR
  • Leave a voicemail with your contribution at (929) 367–7330 OR
  • Email a voice memo to contact.the.method@gmail.com

You can also help with transcription, recommend topics, reviewers, interviewees. Just dive into our issues!

Keep in touch:

What meme or gif best represents your project?

Baby sloths in a bucket! Because they are adorable. And because we scientists are siloed and slow moving, like these sweet little sloth babies. Also, baby sloths only care about sloth things and probably only talk about sloth things with their baby sloth friends, just as we talk about the things we care about with people who are like us. Although these sloth conversations are likely adorable, science’s problems are more complicated than sloth problems, so diversity and inclusion are important.


Join us wherever you are June 1–2 at the Mozilla Global Sprint to work on The Method 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!

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