A road to openness

I am passionate about Open Science and research reproducibility. Some months ago (back in August 2021) when I got to know the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research Fellows Programme, I was thrilled. So, I prepared my application and submitted it, with fingers crossed, wishing for my best luck. Then, waiting for the result was a suffering. One night, when I was talking with my friend over the phone, I was checking my email because the conversation was boring. When I saw the email from Lilly Winfree that I was offered a fellow position in the programme, I “screamed”. My friend asked me “Oh, is everything alright?”, sounded a bit worried. “Do you remember I applied for a programme last month? I was accepted!” I quickly responded. Then, my friend allowed me for a few other rounds of screaming until I finally calmed down.

Then, the programme started. In general, I feel very nervous to meet and talk with new people. I was thinking: Oh my god! I have to meet so many fellows who I don’t know. How many of them? Five? Do I need to introduce myself? How? Are we going to have a lot of discussion? Really? Would it be in English? But that is my second language... Also, I have to meet Lilly, again. I don’t think I did well during the interview. Would she still like to see me? Why did she offer me this position anyway? Carrying these doubts in my head, I jumped into our first group call. I introduced myself because I had to. I tried not to show I was super nervous, because I believed that I was supposed to relax and feel calm. That was what I was told before.

I remember during our first group call, to my surprise, the conversation environment was very comforting and encouraging. I started to feel relaxed. That’s nice, though a bit strange. Later during the one-on-one calls, I and Lilly talked a lot, from programme assignments to weekend plans, from my research projects to career plans. Throughout the programme, I noticed that I started to have more and more confidence in myself and wanted to talk more. After the last group call, we had the Frictionless Data Monthly Community Call – June 2022, where I met many other senior fellows in the Frictionless Data Community. Although I felt very nervous when meeting them, I was happy that I managed to express my thoughts more than I thought.

During the programme, we discussed a variety of topics, audience mapping, roadmapping, Open Science, research reproducibility, data sharing, etc. We had many hands-on trainings on Frictionless reproducibility tools. We also worked together and organized a virtual Frictionless Data Workshop to introduce the concept of Open Science and research reproducibility and to illustrate how to apply the Frictionless tools. Besides, I wrote my first blog in my life. It’s difficult, but very fun. The funniest part is when we did the role play on data sharing: First, Lindsay was playing as an experienced scientist who did not want to share her data (assumed to be non-confidential) with us, and planned to hold it along with her to the grave (maybe 100 years later?), while the rest of us (Kevin, Melvin, Victoria, and me) tried to convince her to be more open and share her data with us. Though after many attempts we failed, it’s really enlightening to see how “closed” one can be about data sharing. Later, I played as the scientist in a situation where I did not want my PhD student to present their novel findings in an international conference, because I wanted to hold the results until I published it in a scientific journal. I was satisfied about myself that the other fellows did not manage to convince me to let my PhD student to go, although I wish I could have acted more stubbornly so that I wasn’t convinced so quickly by Lilly.

I used to think that research reproducibility was very difficult and time-consuming. This impression came from my own research experience: in my first PhD project, in order to well illustrate the study process, I and my colleagues prepared around 90-page supplementary files, in addition to the datasets and statistical analysis codes; in the project I am currently working with, I have so far prepared about 80-page supplementary files, with more pages on the way. So, I think, probably, implementing research reproducibility is time-consuming, and sometimes can be very challenging. I feel grateful for support from my supervisors and colleagues in my PhD projects. I also feel lucky to have tremendous encouragement and support from Lilly during the programme. A few months ago, I came across my favorite (so far, to be accurate) Open Access book: Causal Inference: What If, by Dr Miguel A. Hernán and Dr James M. Robins. I was amazed by the contents of the book and their generous decision to make it Open Access. Meanwhile, I published my first preprint. To the end of the programme, I met the Frictionless Data Community where I came to know that many people have been working towards the same goal – Openness. These experiences are really unexpected, and unforgettable.

I am thankful for the support from the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research Fellows Programme, and the great mentorship from Lilly. I am very happy about myself that I have started to embrace openness, both in and outside my research work. It actually feels like another part of the world is opening its door for me, which has a very different scenery. In my daily work, I will certainly be an active advocator for Open Science and research reproducibility.

I love the old song “Open Up Your Heart” in 1954. Part of its lyrics goes as “Open up your heart and let the sunshine in”. If you feel like it, you can listen to the song here. Personally, I like it to be “Open up your heart and let the sunshine out”, because it reminds me that we all have sunshine somewhere in our heart to share.