Apr 23, 2014

Memo From the Office of Open Science


Dear Professor Lucky,

Congratulations on your new position as assistant professor at Utopia University. We look forward to your joining our community and are eager to aid you in your transition from Antiquated Academy. It’s our understanding that Antiquated Academy does not have an Office of Open Science, so you may be unfamiliar with who we are and what we do.

The Office of Open Science was created to provide faculty, staff and students with the technical, educational, social and logistical support they need to do their research openly. We recognize that the fast pace of research and the demands placed on scientists to be productive make it difficult to prioritize open science. We collaborate with researchers at all levels to make it easier to do this work.

Listed below are some of the services we offer.

Data Management

Our office partners with the Open Science Framework to help our community members conduct secure, accessible, version controlled research. A member of our team runs a training every other Monday covering the basics of this technology. It’s important that anyone in your lab interacting with this system, including yourself, attend a training before starting to use it. The team also runs a mailing list where you can ask technical questions and receive answers from the general community.

If you work with human subjects data, patentable data, or other kinds of sensitive data, we will arrange a meeting with you, one of our team members, and a representative of the Internal Review Board and/or university legal team to discuss the appropriate access level for your data. If you work with large data sets (more than a half-terabyte of data generated per month) please inform us in advance.

Note: University policy is that all data referenced in publications be hosted on the school’s OSF instance, and most departments require that all non-exploratory hypotheses be registered there as well.


Utopia University strongly supports open access. We require that copies of all articles and supplemental materials published during your time at Utopia be made available on the school’s website within six months of publication. We strongly encourage you to add previous research as well. A small team of professors and students from the law school run a monthly clinic through our office. If you have questions about your legal options, or would like help opening up previous research, please do contact them to schedule an appointment.

We believe that all materials, not just papers, should be openly accessible both within our school community and outside of it. We promote the use of figshare as a tool for making such resources public and citable. To encourage use of this tool, our office automatically tracks citations and gives a monthly Impact Award for the resource with the most citations. The process of uploading materials to figshare is one of several that our Open Science undergraduate interns are trained in; please contact us to request their help.

A small group of researchers practicing Open Notebook Science have created a working group which meets regularly to share advice and resources. You are not required to adopt open notebook methodologies, but we recommend you check them out.

Career and Educational Advancement

We recognize the unfortunate fact that pursuing open science can sometimes be at odds with career and educational advancement. To mitigate these cultural tendencies, a member of the office of open science takes part in all hiring and tenure discussions in science departments at Utopia University. Their role is to advocate for the consideration of openness of a candidate’s work over more traditional factors. If they feel that a candidate has been penalized for prioritizing openness, they are encouraged to file formal complaints.

The office also provides travel grants for conferences and workshops related to open science. We also work with a number of outside groups, such as Software Carpentry, to provide additional methodological, technical and statistical training. To see our current schedule of workshops, you can visit the calendar on our website. If you are interested in hosting or running a new workshop, please contact us.

Community Engagement

We have recently partnered with the journalism school to bring students majoring in science communications into our labs. This typically takes the form of an “embedded reporter” attending lab meetings and interviewing lab members over the course of a semester or half-semester. If you’re interested in participating in this program, please contact us no later than two weeks before the start of the semester.

At the end of each semester, the Office of Open science hosts a day-long science fair for principal investigators, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff members, and members of the public. Entries are judged on their educational content and ability to engage as well as their scientific content. The top three winners receive a cash prize and, if they are members of the public, institutional affiliation with Utopia University.

For two years the Astronomy Department, with the help of organizations such as NASA and Zooniverse, has run a regular event called “Citizen Science Saturdays”. This event teaches local community members how to do astronomy research with low-cost, low-expertise tools and has been wildly successful, attracting an average of 50 community members per event and generating 6 publications to date. Departments across the university are in the process of starting similar event series in collaboration with projects such as the Public Lab (environmental science), DIYbio (biology), Backyard Brains (neuroscience), Sage Bionetworks (medicine), iNaturalist (biodiversity), OpenROV (oceanography) and more.


Part of our office’s mandate is to identify and address potentially problematic patterns within the University. To this end, our office keeps track of:

Replications: University policy mandates a ratio of no less than one published replication per novel experiment, at both the university and the department level. Most departments require this ratio at the laboratory level as well. The Office of Open Science monitors replication rates to ensure adherence. Many departments now run courses on replication for undergraduates, for which members of the Office are often mentors and guest lecturers.

Results: We monitor publication statistics across the university for unlikely distributions, for instance unusually high ratios of positive to null results. We publish these results to the community and, if they persist for a period of greater than six months, convene meetings to discuss their potential impact.

Retractions: We monitor retractions and corrections across the scientific literature, with the help of groups such as Retraction Watch. We coordinate with department administrators to make sure that individuals are aware of retractions and corrections which may impact their research.

Community members may propose additional metrics to be tracked.


Open Science, like all science, is a constant process of improvement. We welcome feedback about our existing services as well as suggestions for more we can do to support you.

Congratulations again, and welcome to Utopia University!

Professor Non Pareil
Director, Office of Open Science

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