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OpenCon 2017 University of Manchester Library Sponsored Place Application

I include below my application for the University of Manchester Library's Sponsored Place at OpenCon 2017 which was successful! 🎉

There were thousands of applicants for only a couple hundred places at OpenCon 2017, and my main application (which you can read here) was waitlisted. The University of Manchester Library however, held a competition for a sponsored place at OpenCon. I applied with a remixed version of my main application, which you can read below.

Why are you interested in OpenCon?

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Open Science Champion at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) within the University of Manchester (UoM). I am working to advocate, promote and organise events relating to open science in astronomy in addition to conducting my own research. Although the field of astronomy has been very successful in sharing publications on the open arXiv, data are less often shared and methods obscured, making it nearly impossible to reproduce results and frustrating to build/iterate on the research of others. The reasons for this are diverse, but one prominent issue is a lack of understanding in the community about HOW to work in an open way.

I am interested in OpenCon because open and reproducible research is fundamental to the scientific method. Furthermore, open research practices reap benefits such as increases in citations, media attention, potential collaborators, job and funding opportunities ( However, many researchers do not know how to harness these tools which results in academia being a closed and stressful environment.

Topics and training from past OpenCon events that I am particularly interested in, include: how to communicate Openness effectively to academics; how to ensure your projects and organizations are diverse and inclusive; how to harness Open to advance your career; and how to do an Open Research Training. Best practices in Open Data and Open Source are also relevant to my work as astronomy is increasingly dealing with Big Data and software development. OpenCon will make me a more confident advocate and allow me to disseminate these tools more effectively within my department and throughout the UoM in order to empower other researchers with the skills to work openly.

What are your ideas for advancing Open Research?

I am currently working to install an open science agenda within the JBCA, which is the perfect springboard to advance Openness in astronomy as it reaches more people than most other astronomy institutes - it hosts conferences, workshops, training courses, summer schools, seminars/colloquia and conducts public outreach through the Jodcast (podcast), the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre and the Bluedot festival. My ideas to advance Openness include infusing open science into the already established forums at JBCA listed above as well as through new projects.

I am currently collaborating with Research Data Services at the UoM Library to conduct Research Data Management training as part of the JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS) in October 2017, to train postgraduate students on best open data practices. UoM offers a variety of such training sessions, workshops and online resources for researchers and I am working to promote them within my department and to tailor them for astronomy.

I am passionate about promoting inclusivity and diversity in STEM, so I set up and organise the Manchester chapter of XX+Data – a networking community for women who work with or love data. XX+Data MCR brings together women in data fields in Greater Manchester to support one another, share experiences and talk about all aspects of data such as analytics, research, visualisation, journalism and art. Our kickoff event is on September 28 at Manchester Science Park.

I have recently been selected as a Mozilla Open Leader to receive mentorship and training through the Mozilla Network on a project to advance open research: Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA). My project ROSA aims to collaboratively compile and tailor open science best practices from around the web into a kit for astronomers to work openly from proposal to publication. ROSA will be written for use by all research levels but its mission is to supply a single resource to senior researchers to best equip them to encourage early career scientists to practice open access/data/source – in order to successfully mentor the next generation of open science practitioners we also need to target those who advise them. The project will also result in a general open science resource toolkit to encourage adaptation and reuse for any field of research, which can benefit all departments of the UoM.

I have also been invited to speak at the UoM Library Open Research Forum as part of Open Access Week 2017 to talk about how working open has made an impact on my career. I am also working with Rosie Higman in Research Data Services to facilitate an interactive introduction to GitHub during the Open Research Forum.

How will attending OpenCon help you advance Open Research at the University of Manchester?

OpenCon has the network, expertise and resources to empower me to be the best Open Science Champion I can be. Attending will introduce me to the tools and training to hone my own skills, develop, refine and install an open science agenda at the JBCA within UoM, and enable me to effectively teach these skills to others. So far, everything I have learned about open research has been self-taught and therefore more structured presentations and workshops through OpenCon would allow me to grow as an open leader and strengthen my own open research skillset – from data collection/management, to publication and public engagement. I want to cultivate change in the culture of the astronomy (and wider research) community to be more collaborative, iterative and open which is vital in order to pursue answers to fundamental questions about our Universe and inspire the next generation of researchers in STEM.