Being more transparent in one's research and engaging with the principles and practices of Open Science can also bring with it career benefits – especially for those in the early stages of their careers.
Some of these benefits include
Where fewer barriers to access means more ready access - for example, publishing open can increase the impact and uptake of one's research.
Where chances to make connections, exchange, and collaborate, create opportunities for advancement.
As both universities and institutions outside of the academic world - such as in industry and government - have begun to integrate the tools and philosophies of open science into their hiring expectations.
Funding and publishing opportunities
Where many funders and journals now require that researchers make their data public and participate in other Open practices. In fact, the Canadian Tri-Agencies - the major federal research funding bodies - require manuscripts resulting from funded research to be published Open Access and have recently released a road map for similar requirements for data.
Mandeep Mann, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto has been working since 2017 with the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC). The SGC, a public-private partnership, focuses on discovering and producing new medications for diseases and conditions that are hard to treat. It is also a groundbreaker in Open Science practices.
We interviewed Mandeep about her use of an Open Science practice called Open Notebooks, which involves
- Publishing or linking to data on an online platform before results are published in a peer-reviewed journal
- Making information about the methodology and equipment used in a study publicly available
- Openly discussing both positive and negative results in real time, as they are obtained.
What are you studying?
My research focuses on developing drug-like molecules to use as tools to study targets implicated in disease, such as cancer. Disease targets for drugs are usually proteins.
How did you get started using open notebooks?
The laboratory where I chose to do my research is at the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), which is a firm believer in open science - sharing data, and tools openly with the world to accelerate research. The idea of open science was new to me at the time, but nonetheless intriguing. I started off using an electronic notebook through the SGC, where we record all our experiments/research and findings in an electronic notebook, which gets uploaded to an in-house database. My mentor in the lab, Dr. Rachel Harding, showed me the ropes when I first started graduate school—how to navigate things in the lab and with graduate research in general. Rachel had been sharing her research through a blog for years. The SGC decided to adopt Rachel's ideas and further our open science principles by starting open lab notebooks. I volunteered to be one of the first users of the open notebook, as I had seen what a positive experience it had been for Rachel.
What platform are you using?
We use a blog (https://openlabnotebooks.org/) operated through Wordpress to express our research in terms that can be understood by the general public and scientific audiences that are not experts in the field. We link our blog posts to a data repository called Zenodo, where we upload the raw data, analyses, and findings in much more detail.
How do you use Zenodo and social media to amplify the power of open notebooks?
Any time someone posts on our open notebook platform, a regulator of the site will share the post through twitter.
How did you feel initially about using open notebooks? Did you have any reservations?
Even though I was one of the first users of the open notebook, at first, I was nervous. As a graduate student, you often hear, "publish or perish", where the success of your research relies on how many publications you get. What if I get "scooped'? What if someone sees my research in the open notebook and then uses it to get further than me in my research - what does that mean for my research? What if they don't credit me with my ideas? I had all these thoughts. Over time, some of these worries were alleviated. A time stamp and doi are assigned to a post on Zenodo - so people can cite your work. About a year and a half after I started the open notebook, I published my work in a respectable journal, even having shared all that data in my open notebook earlier. Luckily, I have never been scooped, but I'm more comfortable in the knowledge that if someone figures something out first, it could also benefit me.
What connections have you made through this open practice?
I've been invited to several events over the last couple of years to give talks on my experience with open science and the open notebook, which has led me to meeting with scientists in other disciplines and improving my network.
What sort of feedback have you had on your work?
In the blog portion of the open notebook, there is a comments section. The public can ask questions or raise concerns that they might have; they can also do this through twitter. For example, my work has been acknowledged through twitter by associates at pharma companies. In addition, you can see the statistics of how many times your work has been viewed or downloaded. One of my posts has 1289 views and 608 downloads!
What other open practices, if any, have you been involved in?
Other than the open notebook, I follow SGC's lead in open science practices - sharing my data, tools with those that are interested. For example, we share our inhibitors with other research labs that would like to test them.
How do you feel about Open Science?
I think open science will be adopted much more widely in the future. As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing data and making data more accessible accelerates research.
How would you respond to someone who felt concerned that using an open notebook might expose mistakes made in research?
The point of research is to learn - learn what works and doesn't work. If someone exposes a mistake made in your research, especially in the open notebook I would consider that a plus. You have a chance to go back and address that mistake - make changes to your protocol or analyses and consider the data from another angle. I think that will make you a better researcher.
Do you have any advice for scientists at earlier stages of their careers?
Don't be afraid to fail. It happens, especially in the early stages of research for scientists. If you're not afraid to ask for help and keep trying, you'll make an excellent scientist!
(Personal communication with Sharon Hanna, March 14, 2021).