How to embody #openscience in your teaching


Recently, I have come to realize that there is a real disconnect in how many professors teach biology and how they do their science. There are numerous open science approaches associated with conducting research including but not limited to the following activities: publishing data, open peer review on peerj, online commentaries on blogs or facebook, using social media such as twitter to keep up to date on research, reviewing meta-data, online notebooks, sharing and downloading code, working on GitHub, and publishing/sharing decks for conference presentations online. However in teaching science, we encourage a closed system of testing, research, and sharing. Tests or essays are generally written and shared only to the teaching assistant or professor, no other products are generated, and we use only the library system or Web of Science to secure and search for the research and ideas we need. I feel that this is too limited. That is not to say that we do not also need those skills, but both some familiarity with the importance of communicating science, funding science, reviewing science, or becoming more web-centric in science is also critical and important as evidence-based and information-science literate citizens.

Take any of the above activities that you, your students, your collaborators, or those that you admire in science use to promote open, collaborative, & reproducible science and include in your courses. Use a mix of traditional testing approaches such as a short to long answer test sparingly (but at least once to assure the university you are still doing your job and providing students with those skills the opportunity to test well) with several rigorous outward facing products that students produce (but provide the option to share less widely to respect student choice). This teaches both practical science communication skills and embodies open science in what you teach.

Practice what you preach in what & how you teach. #opensci & #scicomm right in the classroom by pushing work to the web. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ are both important with the ‘what’ elements as student products that are evaluated and the ‘how’ elements as your approach to sharing course materials (data, readings, decks, course information via public web-centric tools) and assigning value and merit to skills in addition to thematic content.


Testable products I have used in teaching in 2014 that were graded & positively received
1. Generate an infographic that summarizes the quantitative & qualitative findings from deep research on a select student topic.
2. Publish term paper as a Peerj pre-print. Teaching assistant or marker provides feedback using peerj annotation tool. Grades are provided via email individually to each student. Links to all papers provided to other students to review after evaluation. Capitalize on audience effect (i.e. quality of student papers dramatically and non-linearly increases when more than one other person will see the paper and the student is aware of this). Consider providing opportunity to revise to explore versioning & annotation/peer-review.
3. Set up a shared google drive folder for students and teaching assistants to share materials. This is a simple way to avoid email and promote sharing in real time.
4. Use a blog to move discussion in class online and to enable those that prefer to post/ask questions with less risk anonymously. Set open commenting but review before allowing public sharing.
5. Collect data in groups, publish datasets on figshare with meta-data and appropriate  a priori defined tags. Teaching assistants mark datasets weekly on fighshare using a standard rubric.
6. Visit a data repository such as KNB and download a dataset. Read the meta-data and do some basic statistics with the data.  Surprising hard to do and an awesome lesson in discovering the importance of meta-data.
7. Identify an important ecological/enviro issue online, not from Web of Science, and link to human well-being.

These are the ones I have tried to date but slideshare decks, figshare experimental design outlines, and many others are likely viable too. I have also been considering Github, youtube videos by students, and iNaturalist contributions.