Research Round-up: Learning through Making, Let’s Close the Gap!

joey_leeThis week, we’re continuing a series (started Tuesday) of guest blogs from our Mozilla Fellows for Science, with Joey K. Lee, you can read more about Joey here on the 2015 fellows’ page, and read on to learn about his thoughts on open science, and best practice for building great community. Reach out to him on twitter @leejoeyk, or read his blog here.

Science might be best described as the process of “learning through making“; it’s about the collective experiences of doing research that makes scientific inquiry so rigorous and scientific discoveries so valuable. Science is therefore just as much about how research is done as it is about what the research says; atleast this is how we’d like science to operate.

The reality in science is that we are meant to “publish or perish“. Our research methods, tools, and data become our competitive advantange over our peers; with the manuscripts serving as testament to our accomplishments. Our value as leaders in our respective fields, the funding we can secure for our research, and ultimately our success in science are evaluated in large part by the quantity and impact factor of these publications.

Aside from the sad fact that most of the scientific knowledge that ends up behind the paywalls of the big academic publishing companies is publicly funded by taxpayers, the knowledge that is embedded in journal articles only show the tip of the scientific iceberg. Publications only describe the materials, methods, and results about research rather than providing access to the tools and analyses that enable the research to happen in the first place. What this means is that the dominant cultural structures around science make it difficult to build on existing knowledge and thus force us to double the effort to recreate and reinvent what has already been done. While there are huge disconnects between what science is and what it should be, open science offers solutions which are helping to address these challenges.

Open science is ultimately about increasing inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity in science. By developing contributions around open source/open access, we can create new opportunities to do and share knowledge and resources within and across different domains and with the public. Open science is aimed at creating transparency about how science is being done and how it can be improved and focuses fundamentally on community development as the way to achieve this.

Open science however is a vast and overwhelming landscape of resources, technologies, and communities – knowing where to start, what is relevant, who is participating, and how to contribute (and also that “open” options exist in the first place) can be a challenge. Essentially, what we lack as a community are the maps – the documentation and examples – that help us, beginners and veterans alike, to navigate the possibilities for open practices to help make our research and our ideas tangible. For me, building these maps means developing new ways of teaching and learning through examples that not only instruct, but also inspire. By leveraging the visual, interactive, and communal nature of the web, I believe open science offers new ways of nurturing technological literacy, especially among researchers or within domains that have typically shied away from those methods.

Closing the gap between how we want to pursue, share, and discuss our research and how we actually achieve these goals will depend on our ability to approach learning scientifically, or rather, through the process of ideation and iteration. What open science offers us is the space to do science as it was intended to be done – in the open and for the public good.