Levelling Up: Reproducibility for Everyone

A project supported by eLife Ambassadors and a Mozilla Mini Grant is increasing its capacity to train researchers in reproducible research practices.

By Benjamin Schwessinger (Australian National University, Australia), Sonali Roy (Noble Research Institute, USA) , and Diep Ganguly (Australian National University, Australia)

Rigour and reproducibility are at the core of modern science and set apart scientific inquiry from pseudoscience. There are many new tools available to improve documentation, sharing, data management and analyses – and hence the reproducibility of researchers’ workflows. However we observed that most scientists still lack both a detailed conceptual framework that shows how reproducibility relates to their own daily work, and the knowledge about how to integrate specific tools and practices into their ongoing research. This leads to a slow uptake and high hurdles to integrating best practices into an investigator’s daily work.

To address this gap, a small team (consisting of members of the eLife Early-Career Advisory Group (ECAG), Protocols.io, Addgene and Code Ocean) came together in late 2017 to develop and deliver 1–2 hour long workshops at conferences and universities to reach out to our target audience of life science students, postdocs, PIs, and other interested researchers. Our aim was to train researchers in rigour and reproducibility best practices, and to make them aware of the tools that they can use to improve the reproducibility of their work. In January 2018, coinciding with the launch of the eLife Ambassadors programme, the team grew, increasing its reach and potential.

In 2018 we held six workshops, with eLife Ambassadors being involved in 4 of them, in Australia, Canada and the United States, reaching over 200 people in person and inspiring thousands online. Our first workshop held at an international conference – the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biology in Montreal last July – was one of the highlights of the year. We are thankful to the Society, with special thanks to Mary Williams (ASPB), for providing key facilities as well as logistical support.

@Schwessinger | July 14, 2018

Regardless of a busy conference schedule, the event was oversubscribed, and over 80 participants took part in the training session led by Lenny Teytelman (Protocols.io), Sonali Roy (Noble Research Institute, USA), and Benjamin Schwessinger (Australian National University, Australia). This popularity clearly highlighted a desire for training in reproducible research practice. The freely available workshop material also attracted much attention (over 4,000 unique visitors in two months) when we shared it on the online plant science community service, Plantae, here.

All of our workshops are accompanied by pre- and post-workshop surveys to capture people’s expectations and perceived learning outcomes. More than 80% of all respondents in our post-workshop surveys indicated that they will incorporate at least some of the tools and material into their own workflows. One of our participants captured our workshop goals fittingly: “Everyone says we are in a reproducibility crisis but not how you can tackle it personally […] I liked the workshop because it provided specific ways to deal with the problem.”

As we continue into 2019, the group now has 30 active members. We’ve increased not only in numbers, but crucially also in diversity (gender, seniority, subject area, geographic distribution) – and as a consequence, in new ideas and directions. We decided to extend our material and to modularise our workshops for easier reuse. We are covering new topics such as data management, data sharing, theory building, image handling, and data visualization. Because we realised not everyone is able to host workshops we have adapted our material to create posters on each specific module such as data management and data visualization. Most of our materials can be found on our website, designed by Bradly Alicea (OpenWorm). At the same time we are developing training material, starting with a “How to guide” by Tyler Ford (formerly of Addgene, now freelance writer) and April Clyburne-Sherin (Code Ocean) to scale our workshops globally (inspired by the Carpentries).

We’re also excited about the recent award of a Mozilla Mini Grant that will allow us to expand our efforts in 2019. Thanks to the fundraising led by Magdalena Julkowska (KAUST) and April Clyburne-Sherin (Code Ocean), we will be able to take the “Reproducibility for Everyone” project into a new phase.

Our major goals for 2019 are to:

  • Grow our overall group, including workshop facilitators, along our principles of diversity and inclusion.
  • Increase the quality, quantity and subject areas of our material including presentation modules, posters, webinars, recordings, university teaching tools, and our website.
  • Generate extensive training material and opportunities for group members who wish to participate in workshops and poster events.
  • Continue to teach workshops in our local institutions and at conferences. Among many other locations, we will be at ASM Microbe 2019 and IS-MPMI 2019.
  • Build collaborations to help disseminate information, tools, and materials on reproducibility created by ourselves and others.
  • Attract additional funding to enable a sustainable framework for achieving our mission of extending training in best practices of reproducible science for everyone.

We welcome enquiries from institutions interested in growing our vision to partner with our project. Individuals passionate about reproducibility will soon be able to join us through the next edition of the eLife Community Ambassadors.

More information

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