Open Science: Grassroots Initiative from Students for Students at the University of Amsterdam

The Student Initiative for Open Science (SIOS) at the University of Amsterdam was initiated and is still run by students. The grassroots movement wants to introduce students as early as possible, voluntarily and sometimes playfully, to the sometimes quite abstract subject area of open practices and thus make university life easier for students. Good academic practice should be learned and internalised as early as possible, is the motto.

Marla Dressel and Franziska Nippold from SIOS presented the project at the Open Science Conference this year. Now we have spoken with them and asked them about their motivation, because there are no credit points for the commitment. In the interview, they also tell us how their university environment reacted to the grassroots initiative and how academic libraries can support them. At the end, there are starting points and links for anyone who would like to establish a similar movement at her/his university.

An Interview with Marla Dressel and Franziska Nippold

Your grassroots initiative is very interesting as it targets Open Science education for students at the University of Amsterdam. What was your motivation?

A course called “Good research practices” at our Psychology master’s programme was an important motivating factor. The course teaches students how to conduct reliable science and discusses current research practices. Fellow students of ours found it quite disappointing that they learned Open Science only during their master’s degree and many programmes do not offer such courses at all. Besides, most Open Science initiatives mainly target PhDs, post-docs, and professors while not adapting resources and materials to students’ needs.

They felt that students were being overlooked in the Open Science movement.

We think that this could be fatal because students are the researchers of tomorrow.
This is why SIOS ( Student Initiative for Open Science) was born. We wanted to involve students in the movement and to provide them with open education on Open Science. 

We are Data Sharing. We are Open Access.
We are Reproducibility.
We are Open Science, from students for students.

What are your activities?

Our event team organises a broad range of activities. We host lectures on Open Science topics (e.g., the difference between exploratory vs confirmatory research, Bayesian statistics, pre-registered reports), workshops to provide students with practical tools (e.g., how to pre-register your thesis, version control with GitHub, power analysis, JASP), and more fun activities to get students together, such as Open Science movie nights, pub quizzes, or discussion panels. We also have a communication team at SIOS that is pretty active on social media, especially on Twitter, but also on Instagram and on Facebook. Here, we spread our events and resources with other students, scholars, universities and everyone else, who is interested. At the same time, we attend conferences and write grant applications. We also provide materials and resources to students on our website and our Slack Channel. Here, students can also ask questions and debate current issues. Besides the purely educational part, we are currently running a study on research practices among students.

How did your environment (e.g. profs, lecturers …) react to it?

We have received immense support from our study coordinators, profs and lecturers. Many of them have offered to give lectures themselves and help us share our endeavours. For us, it is extremely rewarding to see the resonance in the community but at the same time we also know that we are lucky that our university is very method-conscious and that it may be different at universities outside the Netherlands. More importantly, students find our events helpful, and we receive a lot of positive feedback from them. 

Are any of your activities part of the university curriculum, so that students get credits for them? Would that even be a goal for you?

Besides the course we talked about before (Good research practices), students can get credit points for visiting our lectures. That is at least a start and so our goals are more focused on spreading our message and helping to set up other SIOS’s at different universities. However, we just heard from a newly founded SIOS that they will definitely focus on integrating Open Science in their curriculum because they do not even have a course on good research practices there. We hope that someday every research student can have access to Open Science materials if he:she wish to. 

How do you ensure that your efforts and projects are sustainable and long-lasting?

An easy answer would be that we currently digitise all our projects (thanks, COVID!). That means, we record all our lectures and we provide our whole range of resources for free on our website and social media. We also created a step-by-step guide to create an own initiative for Open Science and we pitch this guide at other universities. At the same time, we really think about what students need. That is why, most of our lectures are very introductory.

We think that this is a general problem in the Open Science movement – that everyone who does not know so much about it yet will have problems organising all the information and debates that are currently going on.

That is why often PhD students and other-level researchers are visiting our lectures – we offer comprehensive bunches of information. 

We also believe that it is best to start as early as possible to teach students Open Science practices. Take pre-registrations, for example: If you already do this for your very first research project, the bachelor thesis in most cases, it will become normal for students to follow these practices. In this way, you are teaching students and building awareness as early as possible to integrate Open Science practices in the long run. 

How can academic libraries support initiatives like yours?

We think that there is a lot that can be done. The most important step is to help us share our endeavours. That can be on social media and on your website. Libraries could also always ask us for collaboration and especially now it is easier to just organise workshops together online. Libraries can also ask their students to create their own SIOS. And more generally, they can provide all kinds of resources themselves and participate in our Slack Channel.

Do you have any tips for other students who want to start such an initiative? (How) Can they get any support from you?

We have actually created a step-by-step guide to create your own SIOS. These are just guidelines of course, not necessarily a rulebook. We think that creating a SIOS is not super easy but that you can get a lot of support if you ask for it. That can be asking us at SIOS Amsterdam (we will always find time for you to have a meeting with us and give you some recommendations) but also lecturers and other people from university. Also, creating such an initiative has many incentives. From learning a lot about Open Science and current debates, over networking, to doing something worthwhile next to your study – creating such an initiative is inherently very rewarding.

We were talking to Franziska Nippold and Marla Dressel

SIOS link list

Links to the course “Good Research Practices”

Further readings

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Horizon Report 2021: Focus on Hybrid Learning, Microcredentialing and Quality Online Learning

by Claudia Sittner

The 2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report Teaching and Learning Edition was published at the end of April 2021 and looks at what trends, technologies and practices are currently driving teaching and learning and how they will significantly shape its future.

The report runs through four different scenarios of what the future of higher education might look like: growth, constraint, collapse or transformation. Only time will tell which scenario prevails. With this in mind, we looked at the Horizon Report 2021 to see what trends it suggests for academic libraries and information infrastructure institutions.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has progressed so rapidly since the last Horizon Report 2020 that people cannot catch up fast enough to test the technical advances of machines in natural language proceedings. Deep learning has evolved into self-supervised learning, where AI learns from raw or unlabelled data.

Artificial intelligence has a potential role to play in all areas of higher education where learning, teaching and success are concerned: support for accessible apps, student information and learning management systems, examination systems and library services, to name but a few. AI can also help analyse learning experiences and identify when students seem to be floundering academically. The much greater analytics opportunities that have emerged as the vast majority of learning events take place online, leaving a wide trail of analysable data, can help to better understand students and adapt learning experiences to their needs more quickly.

But AI also remains controversial: for all its benefits, questions about privacy, data protection and ethical aspects often remain unsatisfactorily answered. For example, there are AI-supported programmes that paraphrase texts so that other AI-supported programmes do not detect plagiarism.

Open Educational Resources

For Open Educational Resources (OER), the pandemic has not changed much, many of the OER offerings are “born digital” anyway. However, advantages of OER such as cost savings (students have to buy less literature), social equality (free and from everywhere) and the fact that materials are updated faster are gaining importance. Despite these obvious advantages and the constraints that corona brought with it, however, only a few teachers have switched to OER so far as the report „Digital Texts in Times of COVID” (PDF) shows. 87% of teachers still recommend the same paid textbooks.

OER continue to offer many possibilities, such as teachers embedding self-assessment questions directly into pages alongside text, audio and video content, and students receiving instant feedback. In some projects, libraries and students are also involved in the development of materials as OER specialists, alongside other groups from the academic ecosystem, helping to break down barriers within the discipline and redesign materials from their particular perspective.

In Europe, for example, the ENCORE+ – European Network for Catalyzing Open Resources in Education is working to build an extensive OER ecosystem. Also interesting: the „Code of Best Practices in Fair Use für Open Educational Resources”. It can be a tool for librarians when they want to create OER and use other data, including copyrighted data.

Learning Analytics

Online courses generate lots of data: How many learners have participated? When did they arrive? When did they leave? How did they interact? What works and what doesn’t? In higher education, learning data analysis should help make better, evidence-based decisions to best support the increasingly diverse group of learners. Academic libraries also often use such data to better understand and interpret learner needs, respond promptly and readjust.

The Syracuse University Libraries (USA), for example, have transmitted its user data via an interface to the university’s own learning analysis programme (CLLASS). A library profile was developed for this purpose, which was consistent with the library’s values, ethics, standards, policies and practices. This enabled responsible and controlled transmission of relevant data, and a learner profile could be created from different campus sources.

Just as with the use of artificial intelligence, there are many objections in this area regarding moral aspects and data protection. In any case, the handling of such learning data requires sensitisation and special training so that teachers, advisors and students can use data sensibly and draw the right conclusions. In the end, students could also receive tailored virtual support throughout the entire process from enrolment to graduation. Infrastructures for data collection, analysis and implementation are essential for this.

Microcredentials

Microcredentials are new forms of certification or proof of specific skills. They are also better suited to the increasingly diverse population of learners than traditional degrees and certificates. Unlike these, they are more flexible, designed for a shorter period of time and often more thematically focused. The spectrum of microcredentials spans six areas from short courses and badges, to bootcamps and the classic degree or accredited programmes.

Microcredentials are becoming increasingly popular and can also be combined with classic certifications. The Horizon Report 2021 sees particular potential for workers who can use them to retrain and further their education. It is therefore hardly surprising that companies like Google are also appearing on the scene with Google Career Certificates. For many scientific institutes, this means that they will have to further develop and rethink the architecture, infrastructure and work processes of their traditional certification systems.

Blended and Hybrid Course Models

Due to the corona pandemic, diverse blended and hybrid course models mushroomed, especially in the summer of 2020. “It is clear that higher education has diversified quickly and that these models are here to stay”, the report says. Hybrid courses allow more flexibility in course design; institutions can ramp up capacity as needed and cater even more to the diverse needs of students. However, most students still prefer face-to-face teaching.

Newly learned technical skills and technical support have played a predominant role. In some places, new course models have been developed together with the learners. On the other hand, classic practices (such as frequent assessments, breakout groups during live course meetings, and check-in messages to individual students) remain high on the agenda. However, corona has brought mental and social health of all participants into sharper focus; it should also receive even more attention according to the Horizon Report.

Quality Online Learning

The coronavirus came along and everything suddenly had to take place online. So it is little wonder that the need to design, meaningfully evaluate and adapt high-quality online learning opportunities has increased enormously. Some were surprised to find that teaching online involved more effort than simply offering the on-site event via Zoom. In order to achieve learning success, online quality assurance became an issue of utmost relevance.

Early in the pandemic, therefore, institutes began to develop online portals or hubs that included materials and teaching strategies adapted to the situation: for content delivery, to encourage student participation and to rethink assessment mechanisms.

A positive example is the twelve-module course “Quickstarter Online-Lehre” (Quickstarter Online Teaching, German) by the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung – German Forum for Higher Education in a digital age and the Gesellschaft für Medien in der Wissenschaft (Society for media in science) from Germany. This course aims to support teachers with no or little online experience.

This text has been translated from German.

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Research Data Management Project bw2FDM: Best Practice for Consultations and Training Seminars

We were talking to Elisabeth Böker and Peter Brettschneider

Research data management (RDM, known as FDM in German) is an essential topic regarding Open Science. Baden-Württemberg’s support and development project for research data management (German, bw2FDM) is dedicated to this issue. One of the aims of the bw2FDM project is to create a multifaceted educational programme to drive forward sustainability and networking within the entire research data management community. bw2FDM also operates the information platform forschungsdaten.info (Forschungsdaten means research data), which offers a wide-ranging collection of articles on RDM topics. None of these programmes is limited to a specific institution; rather they are aimed at the entire German-speaking community. Elisabeth Böker and Peter Brettschneider, who are involved in the project, explain how it works in detail, which topics are particularly popular within the RDM community, and what role libraries and information infrastructure institutions can play.

Please introduce the project in three sentences: What is the mission / aim / vision of bw2FDM?

Elisabeth Böker: bw2FDM is an initiative for research data management, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art. We follow four primary aims:

  • The coordination of the interdisciplinary issues of the four Science Data centres (German) in Baden-Württemberg.
  • We want to develop the information platform forschungsdaten.info further to become the central RDM platform for the German-speaking countries.
  • We offer consultations and training seminars on the topic of research data management, primarily for researchers from Baden-Württemberg.
  • bw2FDM is responsible for the planning and implementation of the E-Science-Tage conference .

Fig. 1: Diagram showing overview of bw2FDM project areas / Axtmann and
Reifschneider / CC BY 4.0

We are particularly interested in the bw2FDM consultations and training seminars on research data management, which you also presented at the Open Science Conference 2021. What was your approach? What is your target group? What you do offer, specifically? And who can participate in the training seminars and consultations?

Elisabeth Böker: That differs slightly, depending on the format: We focus our training seminars primarily on researchers from Baden-Württemberg. The students of the University of Konstanz are the target audience for our Open Science course. We want to introduce them to the topic of Open Science during their studies and are delighted at the considerable interest it has already drawn. The course “Open Science: From Data to Publications ” is subject to a CC BY licence – reuse is most welcome! Following the principle of openness, we have also published the videos as Open Educational Resources (OER) on Zenodo (German) and the central OER repository of the Institutions of Higher Education in Baden-Württemberg (ZOERR, German) as well as the material collection of the sub-working group training seminars / continuing education of the DINI/nestor AG research data (German) and also on the website of the Konstanz Open Science team.
By way of contrast, forschungsdaten.info live (German) focuses on all interested persons – both researchers as well as RDM officers – throughout the entire German-speaking countries.

Peter Brettschneider: : We try to consider research data management in a holistic sense. This also means that we focus on different target groups, and it also ensures that our training activities never become boring.

To what extent do you specifically address Open Science topics, for example in the field of Open Data?

Elisabeth Böker: Research data management is our central focus point. The guiding principle of the EU data strategy “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” is extremely important to us, which is why we emphasise it continually.

Libraries fit wonderfully into a data-based academic world.
– Peter Brettschneider

(How) Are academic libraries and other digital infrastructure institutions integrated into the field of training seminars and consultations?

Peter Brettschneider: Libraries fit wonderfully into a data-based academic world. Their core business is collecting information and making it available to the users. Research data have been part of the digital inventory of libraries for a considerable time. For example, that is the reason why universities will usually task their library or IT department with the implementation and operation of a research data repository. However, this kind of services should be accompanied by consultation and training programmes. Once again, our aim is to approach research data management holistically: It is not sufficient to provide just the hardware. There is also a need for people who explain and promote these services and are ready to assist researchers that may require help.

The project runs from 2019 to 2023. This means that you are just about half way through. Could you draw some interim conclusions? What are the most important lessons that you have learned over the past two years?

Elisabeth Böker: RDM is a team sport” – this is what we wrote in a publication (German) about our project. In this spirit, I would say it is crucial to approach issues collaboratively, use synergies and then progress towards the target. That works wonderfully. It is particularly gratifying to see this happening with the forschungsdaten.info platform. Even before “half-time”, we have been able to bring colleagues from Austria and Switzerland into the team – and we intend to continue building on this even more intensively in the second phase.There is an enormous demand for legal topics, and we are very lucky to have with Peter Brettschneider a legal specialist in the team.

FDM is a Teamsport.
– Elisabeth Böker

Peter Brettschneider: Indeed, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding legal issues. In our training seminars, we like to combine legal topics with fundamental RDM know-how. This is important to us, because we can’t emphasise enough the central messages on research data and its management – such as FAIR data. But on the other hand, research data management is not an end in itself. It’s not our task to proselytise. Rather, it is our intention to support researchers and to make their research visible and reusable.

What has the feedback to your RDM consultation and training seminar programmes been like so far?

Elisabeth Böker: We are extremely satisfied. With forschungsdaten.info live in particular, we were able to average over a hundred participants. The demand is definitively there!

Which of your programme’s RDM topics or formats are particularly popular?

Elisabeth Böker: The forschungsdaten.info live format has been very popular – in part due to its focus on the entire German-speaking RDM community. Moreover, events that explore legal topics are always sure-fire successes.

The bw2FDM project can definitely be called a success so far in the area of training and consulting. Are there plans to expand your project throughout Germany?

Elisabeth Böker: : We are already active throughout the German-speaking countries with forschungsdaten.info live. However, we intend to advertise our other training seminars primarily for researchers in Baden-Württemberg – at both, universities as well as other higher education institutions. The reason for this is that our funding comes from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art. Moreover, other federal states have their own RDM initiatives that offer great training opportunities.

Are there already similar projects in other federal states? To what extent do you collaborate with them?

Elisabeth Böker: Yes, many other federal states have comparable RDM projects or dedicated initiatives. They introduce themselves on the platform forschungsdaten.info (German). We have close and very fruitful collaboration with our colleagues, both, within a joint discussion forum as well as via the editorial network of forschungsdaten.info.

From a legal point of view, we ensure sustainability by systematically releasing the project results under free licences in order to promote reuse.
– Peter Brettschneider

Sustainability plays an important role in your project. How do you ensure it?

Peter Brettschneider: Sustainability has several dimensions: Structurally, we try to safeguard our programmes in the long-term through partnerships with other institutions. For example, our project team does not run forschungsdaten.info on its own, but rather relies on an editorial network of approximately 20 institutions.
From a legal point of view, we ensure sustainability by systematically releasing the project results under free licences in order to promote reuse. This means that all training materials are licenced under Creative Commons BY 4.0. The contents of the forschungsdaten.info page can be reused completely without any restrictions, as we waive our rights by using CC 0 1.0.. Perhaps the most difficult thing is securing sustainability in terms of personnel. Currently, research data infrastructures are primarily sustained by project employees – the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) provides a good example. That is a real issue since RDM is a long-term task.

This text has been translated from German.

Weblinks to the bw2FDM project and to forschungsdaten.info:

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