Guest post: You should be doing “open science”–and we’ll help you!

Note from Jeremy: Here is our latest guest post, from evolutionary ecologist Ted Hart. Ted is a strong advocate of “open science”: making raw data easily and freely available to anyone, and building free, open source software tools to help people analyze shared data. But Ted’s not just an advocate: he and his collaborators at rOpenSci have come up with a creative way to incentivize the rest of us to start doing open science. Curious? Read what Ted has to say!



Open science and open data is in the process of revolutionizing how research is done in the 21st century. It allows researchers to access more data than they could ever collect as individuals. But unlike in the movies though, just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. That’s where rOpenSci comes in. We build packages for R, the most common scientific programming language among life scientists, to access the wealth of open data that’s out there. If you want to access the phylogenetic trees on Treebase, we have a package for you. If you want to map species distributions using the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (aka GBIF), we have a package for that too. You can see a full list of our packages on our webpage.

Field of Dreams

Our goal is to make using open data easier for biologists. But R still has a steep learning curve. So we want to help bring awareness and access to open data and make sure that everyone can leverage this tremendous resource. To that end let me introduce the rOpenSci Open Science Challenge. We’re encouraging anyone who’s doing an open science project and using one of our packages to enter our challenge. If you’re working on any project that could benefit from open data, here’s a chance to get our help in accessing whatever data you need. And hey, if you’re not working on any open science projects, why not dream one up? Winners will get super timely help from us with any and all technical hurdles, free promotion of your project, and some awesome open science swag from figshare. So head on over to our challenge page to see how you can enter. Remember, with open science, we’re all winners.

all winners

About Ted: I’m currently a post-doc at the University of British Columbia in the Zoology department where I study the evolution of sociality in spiders. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about me at:

About rOpenSci: rOpenSci is a collective of ecology post-docs who believe in open science, open data and love to code. Our core group consists of Carl Boettiger, Scott Chamberlain, Karthik Ram, and me (Ted).

3 thoughts on “Guest post: You should be doing “open science”–and we’ll help you!

  1. Very cool. These kinds of things are typically thankless tasks, but they help science enormously if people take advantage of them. I curse at R a lot, but it’s a powerful tool once you get the hang of it.
    Thanks for doing this Ted.

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