Open Access interview with SIOS

This blog post was first published on 12 July 2021 on the Hardiblog of NUI Galway Library.

In our Open Voices series Wei and Hardy from the Open Scholarship Community Galway (OSCG) speak to Marie and Marla about the Student Initiative for Open Science (SIOS):

Wei: Marla and Marie, it is nice to meet you! To start our conversation, I am wondering if you could share a little bit more about yourself and your academic background?

Marie: I am currently doing a Research Master in Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, where I am majoring in social psychology and minoring in psychological methods and statistics. Broadly my research interests lie in emotions.

Marla: I did a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Groningen, which is also in the Netherlands. Like Marie, I am currently doing the Research Master’s in Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. I am majoring in brain & cognition and minoring in psychological methods. My main interest is social and antisocial neuroscience.

Wei: You are both interested in Open Science while doing your Masters, and I am wondering how and where that interest comes from?

Marla: In my Bachelor’s, I had some courses about research methods as most students probably have. I had three classes on science issues, and they slightly touched upon some bad research practices. I didn’t feel adequately informed about the topic though. That is basically where my interest in Open Science was formed.

Marie: For me, it was kind of a similar story that it was mentioned during my Bachelor’s. I remember something about the publication crisis,  researchers degrees of freedom and the file drawer effect. I was definitely surprised because I had so much faith in psychology, and now it was kind of ruined [laughs].

Therefore, in the last year of my bachelor’s, when SIOS (Students Initiative for Open Science) was starting and we weren’t part of it yet, I had attended one or two SIOS lectures to be able to learn the basics. And from there, I just continued staying engaged in it.

Wei: This sounds like your interest in Open Science started very early on – when you were doing your Bachelor’s. I am wondering how Open Science has taken you in a direction that you did not expect when you started your undergraduate degree?

Marie: We recognize that we are very much in a big Open Science bubble. In Amsterdam, in particular and the Netherlands in general, researchers and universities are very forward with implementing Open Science. I think we are quite lucky to have learned about it so early on.

Also, in terms of the direction that we are going in, I think it has largely affected us! I personally became interested in using the right methods, thinking about what tools I am going to use to analyse, making sure that I justify my choices before collecting data or seeing the data. I started critically thinking about these choices and reflecting on them afterwards.

Marla: I think almost every student who first learns about Open Science, probably has a little crisis when they hear about some issues in psychology. And Open Science is a way to re-establish the values that have been lost through these issues and that one may want to ensure for oneself when doing research. Most of the people who go into science do so because of a passion and not because they want to earn money. They actually have a passion for science and they see meaning and purpose in what they are doing and, thus, having the right values is crucial. Values are important, at least for me, and Open Science is the way do achieve all that.

Wei: Just taking a little bit of a step back. Both of you, Marie and Marla, mentioned that you try to incorporate Open Science because you were introduced to this concept at the beginning of your studies. How difficult was it to choose an Open method of analysis, for example? Do you get support from your supervisors? Traditionally, if supervisors used a method in the past, was there resistance to Open practices?

Marie: I had some mixed experiences. I think, in general, we are super lucky that a lot of the professors at our department are very open and willing to incorporate Open Science into their research. So, in that way it has not been difficult.

Of course, the motivation must come from yourself. Supervisors are not going to teach you how to do a pre-registration, at least in my experience. Some easy things that I did was always publishing my code or making a confirmatory versus an exploratory analysis section. Or whenever my supervisor would suggest something that I did not think was according to Open Science standards then I would talk to them about it – usually they were open to at least a compromise.

Marla: I do have to add that we both also had some experiences with our past supervisors that were a bit questionable where we later found out that we were not completely adhering to Open Science standards. For instance, my old supervisor at some point said: “Oh, we don’t need multiple corrections, you can just leave the p-values like this because now they are significant” So, things like that also influenced me. On the other hand, I don’t want to blame anyone here, probably my supervisors have not been part of SIOS when they were young, so how should they know [laughs]?

Wei: It sounds like it’s a combination of both personal belief and the environment that needs to be supportive, thanks a lot for sharing.

Hardy: How come you organised fellow students around you in Students In Open Science and what is the story behind SIOS?

Marla: We have a course at the University of Amsterdam, called Good Research Practices. Some colleagues of ours (the founders) had attended this course and wondered why they had not heard about Open Science before. They realised that there is just not enough education for students available. This is where they said: let’s create this initiative. They started with only four people and from there SIOS started growing because apparently other people also thought that it was a good idea.

Marie: We cannot take too much credit for the early developments because we were not there yet, we joined a little bit later. I think, we started developing the idea around two and a half years ago.

Hardy: So, you are the second generation of SIOS already?

Marie: Exactly, we are. [laughs]

Wei: You mentioned that there was not much that targeted students in terms of Open Science so what kind of activities does SIOS organise?

Marie: We have two teams at SIOS: We have the Communications Team, and we have the Events Team. It is not that we do something very differently from other Open Science initiatives, but instead we primarily target students. The Communications Team manages the social media platforms where we share events that might be relevant to students. We also write blog posts and newsletters where we keep students up-to-date on Open Science developments, and for example, publish guides on how students can implement Open Science into their own research. On the event side, we usually ask students what they would like to see from us and what they would find helpful. From that we pick the most popular suggestions, invite a speaker, and host an event.

 For example, we had one event on how to pre-register your thesis because almost every student at some point will have to do some research in the form of a thesis. So that’s an easy way to engage students specifically.

Wei: I do agree that the best way to attract students is to know what would be relevant to them. But how do you cater to students from different disciplines? For example, when you are from psychology your interest might be different from someone who is in computer science.

Marla: Yes, that is true. For instance, due to the focus of the replication crisis on social psychology, Open Science has targeted a lot on that specific field in the past! I guess, as a consequence of that, many students in psychology know more about research practices than students in other disciplines.

However, we always try to reach out to other disciplines as well. We explicitly say that we do not only want to invite psychology students but we also welcome students from other disciplines. For example, we  think that our events are relevant to other disciplines. We have, for example, events on Git and GitHub which relates more to computer science or any kind of data science. We also had a lecture on power analysis which you might need in other types of empirical research. And then, we also inform about data or code sharing which is relevant in almost every type of science.

Marie: When we ask people what their field of study is, it is mostly psychology. But I think in the past year we’ve seen a more diverse group of people from different countries and field of study. So, it’s been interesting to see what the different suggestions are and that is definitely something that we take into account when planning future events.

Marla: And also, I think we become more diverse in terms of career stages! We have not mentioned that yet but while we want to target students, we also have people from different levels, like PhD students or Early Career Researchers attending our events. I think the reason for why they join is that we try to keep our events and resources broad and introductory.

Wei: It has been about two and a half years and it sounds like SIOS is expanding and that is excellent. I am wondering if you think Open Science can be useful for students who do not have plans to stay in academia?

Marie: That is an excellent question! And it is something that we have thought about a lot. We came to the conclusion that it is useful because no matter what direction you go in, there are a lot of skills that will be transferable. One of the important things that you will learn from Open Science is to critically think about methodological issues, and that you are able to reflect on what you have done and how you can improve that in the future.

Also, some of the values that underpin Open Science, for example, is that you value transparency and openness These are definitely applicable to a lot of jobs outside of academia.

Marla: Evaluating research can be important for a lot of jobs, for instance, in business and in many other fields. Doing open research is also a way of thinking, a way of evaluating information. Even on social media you learn how to evaluate information in a different way (e.g. fake news).

Wei: That is true! Open Science is a philosophy and helps to develop critical thinking.

Hardy: You mentioned earlier that there are other Open Science initiatives. There are many in the Netherlands which is fantastic. Wei and myself, we are members of the Open Scholarship Community Galway. How does SIOS work with other groups? Is there even an element of competition because you might be targeting the same audiences?

 Marla: We do not want to compete with others. We always share our materials openly and we give everyone access. We see ourselves as collaborators. For our events, we also invite people from different organisations or different universities to give lectures.

Marie: That is also my experience with the Open Science community in general, especially on social media. It has been a very collaborative, a back and forth relationship. We just recently partnered with the Open Science Community Amsterdam, so we are helping each other out with organising events and other projects.

The main difference is that SIOS is exclusively targeting students, while, from what I understand, Open Science Communities are not as specific in their audience. But we always support what they are doing, and they have been really supportive of what we are doing.

Marla: We want to promote other people as well because we have a common goal! So why would we ever want to compete with each other?

Hardy: You started small and local in Amsterdam, but what is next for SIOS?

Marie: So, just yesterday it was announced that there is now a new SIOS in another Dutch University in a city called Twente. We just attended their launch event where they explained their future goals. That was really exciting.  also have two other Dutch cities that want to start a SIOS. And that is the goal at the end of the day: we want to spread SIOS to other cities, universities, and countries so that they can achieve what they need. For example, there was one group of students whose goal was to get Open Science implemented into their curriculum, which is different from our goals, because we already have that at the University of Amsterdam.

We have made a step-by-step guide that guides students on how they can start their own SIOS, including what kind of things are important to establish at different stages. That is the direction we are going in at the moment and it is nice to see that there is some progress being made!  

Marla: And maybe if you at Galway want to start a SIOS we would be very glad to help with that!

Hardy: Can I ask what it means to be a SIOS member? How do you sign up? And what are the benefits I would get from being a member?

Marie: We are very happy that you asked this question because we are actively seeking new members! Marla and quite a few other SIOS members are going to be graduating this summer, and we will be leaving SIOS. That means we need more students to join so maybe you can also share the link to sign up.

The idea is that it’s just a group of students that are at least somewhat interested in Open Science. We really don’t demand that you know a lot. I personally didn’t know that much about Open Science when I joined. What we expect is that you are willing to a spend a few hours a week on whatever your task may be.

And I think there are a lot of benefits! We have learned a lot about Open Science after joining SIOS. We have even been able to present at conferences. There is the added benefit of networking with other people and learning about these other cool initiatives, where you might even want to work one day. And of course, it’s always cool to be part of a grassroots initiative. It feels like you are making a difference and that’s exciting.

Marla: I agree with this. We don’t expect a lot from members because we know that we are all quite busy. It is still an extracurricular activity, and we don’t have a very hierarchical structure where upper levels tell lower levels what to do. We want to collaborate and work in a team and build something together – otherwise it would not be fun. [laughs]

Hardy: You will be both finishing your degree this summer. What is next for you, and will you be able to stay connected with Open Science after you graduate?

Marie: That’s the million-dollar question! [laughs] I am a little conflicted about what I want to do next. I can imagine myself going on in a lot of different directions and it’s a bit of a struggle for me to see right now and how I will stay connected with Open Science. I will give you an answer to that in a few months.

Marla: I would like to do a PhD, but I also haven’t found the perfect position yet, I definitely thought about staying in touch with Open Science because it is a big part of our lives at the moment. I would like to stay involved wherever I go and whichever lab I will be joining. You know, the future is Open and bright!

Hardy: That is a great note to end our interview. Many thanks!

Wei: All the best to you both, Marla and Marie. It was very exciting to meet both of you!

Marla and Marie were interviewed by Wei Qi Koh, PhD Student and Marie Sklodowska Curie Research Fellow and Hardy Schwamm, Open Scholarship Librarian. Wei and Hardy are members of the Open Scholarship Community Galway and both are affiliated with NUI Galway.

Our SIOS interview partners

·         Marla Dressel is completing her Research Master’s in Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, majoring in Brain & Cognition and minoring in Psychological Methods. At SIOS, she is responsible for external communications and managing the team.

·         Marie Agergaard received her BSc in Politics, Psychology, Law, and Economics from the University of Amsterdam. Now she is completing a Research Master’s in Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. At SIOS, she is responsible for managing external communications.

SIOS Resources