Sparking a new open science direction for Phytolith Research

Lay summary written by Emma Karoune. Read the full paper here: http://doi.org/10.5334/oq.88

The movement to open science is currently happening in all academic disciplines. Open science aims to transform research by making it more reproducible, transparent, reusable, collaborative, accountable, and accessible to society. My paper about assessing open science practices in phytolith research was initiated after I read Lisa Lodwick’s paper ‘Sowing the Seeds of Future Research: data sharing, citation and reuse in archaeobotany’, also published in Open Quaternary. I had been thinking much the same things about my discipline, phytolith research – a sub-discipline of archaeobotany, and especially about the need to make research accessible and reproducible so that data, and research in general, is much more sustainable. So, I decided to undertake a similar study, as a comparison to Lisa’s work, and to start a conversation about open science in my community. 

Phytolith image (Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phytolithes_observ%C3%A9s_au_Microscope_Electronique_%C3%A0_Balayage_06.jpg)

The research for this article started as a solo effort that I undertook during the first covid pandemic lockdown in 2020. My planned fieldwork and lab work was on hold and so this seemed like a good use of my time while not able to do other research activities. But during the data collection phase I needed help from my colleagues to gain access to their articles and the associated data. This started to create awareness of the work I was undertaking.  Many colleagues replied to my article requests with great enthusiasm at what I was trying to achieve and wanted to get more involved. This led to the formation of a working group on phytolith open science with colleagues from Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Spanish National Research Council. We decided to initiate a project to investigate data sharing and the potential implementation of the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data principles for phytolith data. This FAIR project is now underway – The FAIR Phytoliths project funded by EOSC-Life. We have conducted a community survey on data sharing and we are currently completing a FAIR assessment of phytolith data. We then intend to go on to draw up FAIR data guidelines with input from the wider community. 

FAIR principles. (Image created by Scriberia for The Turing Way community and is used under a CC-BY licence.  DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3332807)

We have also been keen to continue community building to further this direction of interest in open science. We sought to engage with the International Phytolith Society to form a new committee and we were successful in our efforts in September 2021. The work of the new International Committee on Open Phytolith Science has now begun with regular committee meetings, establishing more awareness of open science through social media, organisation of training events and discussions about open publishing guidelines. We hope that with the FAIR Phytoliths project and the work of the new committee, we can really move phytolith research into a new era of open science.

Read the full paper here: Karoune, E., 2022. Assessing Open Science Practices in Phytolith Research. Open Quaternary, 8(1), p.3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/oq.88

Acknowledgements: Thank you to the members of the FAIR Phytolith Project – Carla Lancelotti, Javier Ruiz-Pérez, Juan José García-Granero, Marco Madella and Celine Kerfant for their great efforts in driving this work forward. And also thanks to the other members that make up the International Committee on Open Phytolith Science – Doris Barboni, Jennifer Bates, Abraham Dabengwa, Zach Dunseth and Maria Gabriela Musaubach. 

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