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Project TIER Training - Oxford - Trip Report

Earlier this week I was delighted to participate in the Project TIER workshop hosted by Project TIER in conjunction with the UK Reproducibility Network.I made my way to St. Anne’s College in Oxford for 2 days of training in Teaching Integrity (so, transparency...) in Empirical Research. I had first seen Project TIER on twitter about 18 months before, and noticed they were hosting a workshop in the U.S. So, when it popped up again, this time for Oxford, I was keen to apply and participate if possible.

Who took part?

Participants included early-career researchers, librarians, and academics of various sorts based in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the U.S. The workshop was organised by Richard Ball and Norm Medeiros, who started Project TIER out of the natural frustration we can have trying to make sense of someone else’s workflow, particularly in relation to students starting out on their research projects. I’m sure many of us can identify with the challenges of tracking the calculations and statistics others have generated to arrive at the results they are reporting.

What did we learn?

Well, one big step for me was getting to grips (a little) with R Markdown. Of course, I'd heard of the benefits of R and even had a brief intro, but besides the graphics, there wasn't enough going for it to switch me from simply using syntax within the packages my collaborators use. R Markdown is a fantastic way of using R that can generate pretty much anything you want (presentations, blogposts, journal submissions). Ulrik Lyngs lead a workshop each day on this. I don’t use R (yet), but I’m committed to it now, as the idea of generating a full paper including tables and figures, within one package, seems too good to miss out on. I was at the lower end of the R experience in the group, but got so much from it, and look forward to focusing some time on getting familiar with R and with R Markdown.

Nicole Janz also gave a talk on ex post replication. I had heard Nicole speak on replication at the BITSS first European RT2 Training back in September 2017. It was really interesting to hear how Nicole’s ideas have evolved further since then, in relation to choosing which studies to replicate. It’s easier to choose the ones for which data are available (for teaching purposes), but then, we end up selecting only the most transparent studies. So, we had lots of discussion about how and which studies make the most sense to choose, for teaching, and for research. I also got to quiz the group about a replication I’m planning, and got some amazingly useful tips, which are MUCH appreciated!

Richard Ball introducing the rationale for Project TIER at St. Anne's College, Oxford

We also had sessions on the Project TIER Protocol – a simple way of teaching students data management from the get go. Follow the protocol to ensure your data are tidy and stored in a way that makes them easy to share with supervisors or others. The website contains sample guidelines for students and exercises too, so you can download and edit to suit whichever one of your particular modules involves working with data. It couldn’t be easier!

On Tuesday evening, Dr. Kate Button arrived to deliver her excellent talk on building reproducibility from the grassroots. It was great to hear the different questions people had for Kate following her National Forum Seminar on this topic at UL, 3 weeks previously.

There were too many sessions to mention, including contributions by some of us participants, including my talk on challenges and strategies to building an open science culture. I have to give a shout out here to Flavio Azevado and Sam Parsons who are working on making it even EASIER for people to embed transparency into their curricula. Along with collaborators, Sam and Flavio are designing FORRT – a Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Trainng - among other functions, this serves as a repository for resources you can use for your own curricula. There are so many open science resources out there – you don’t need to generate your own from scratch, but it can be hard to know where to find what. FORTT makes this super easy – check it out here!

Big thanks to Project TIER and @UKRepro for running this training and for including me among the participants. I really enjoyed meeting and learning from the other participants also. It was an extremely worthwhile couple of days and I’m looking forward to building on what I learned with RMarkdown, on replication, and embedding transparency in teaching. As I challenge, I’m going to try to replicate (duplicate?) this blogpost using R Markdown. Wish me luck!

You can follow @Project_TIER on twitter and keep an eye out for the next training!

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