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My journey towards Open Science

How CODATA-RDA Summer Schools changed my career.

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When I read about the CODATA-RDA Summer School in Trieste on Twitter, I was about to defend my doctoral dissertation. I applied, thinking that I might not get accepted since I was a statistician and the class was about data science. I sent my application in anyway as I thought it was a good opportunity to learn about Open Science. I was familiar with Open Access and Open Source, but the concept of Open Science was new to me. While travelling to and attending the school, I was also in the process of formatting my dissertation as a paper so I could submit it for publication in a journal. It was incredibly hard to reconstruct the materials of my dissertation for the article. I did not work on reproducible formats during my PhD; I was not familiar with version control software and my data were not formatted to be open afterwards. As a result of these difficulties, the concept of Open Science immediately made a lot of sense to me.

When I returned to Costa Rica to start my job as a Professor at the Statistics Department in the University of Costa Rica, what I had learned at the CODATA-RDA school impacted on all areas of my new job: I was thinking about how to make my publications and my data open when I submitted my first research proposal; I was teaching my students using R and R Markdown, so they could learn how to prepare reproducible reports early in their career; and I was spreading the word about Open Science to my students and my peers. Perhaps the most tangible impact was that I started a practice that I keep to this day: each of my papers in progress have a github repository, which includes reproducible code, text and data, ready to be released when the paper gets accepted.

I was pretty surprised to find out that most of my peers back home also did not know much about Open Science. Once we started connecting the need for more resources to practice Open Science, i.e. institutional data repositories and open data policies, funding to pay for publication in open journals, support for learning about reproducible tools, etc., with the need for the skills of Data Science in other departments (since we have students from other departments constantly consulting our department about data analysis), we felt that something like the CODATA-RDA school was needed in Costa Rica. Hence, when I was asked to be a helper in São Paulo, I thought it was a great first step to getting involved in the organization of CODATA-RDA schools. I hope that by helping at the São Paulo school, I also further my goal of bringing the Summer School to Central America in the future. My ability to join the São Paulo and to continue my involvement with the summer school, would not have been possible without Springer Nature’s sponsorship covering my travel expenses.

Once in São Paulo, I asked the chairs of CODATA-RDA about the possibility of having a School in Costa Rica, and although the CODATA-RDA school in Costa Rica might not be a reality in the short term, they loved the idea of replicating the schools in areas such as Central America, with local instructors using the CODATA-RDA materials. Besides that, being a helper in São Paulo gave me the chance to have long and fruitful conversations about the need of institutional policies for Open Science in Latin American universities, and to exchange teaching techniques, materials and contents about Open Science with the amazing group of students. At the end of the São Paulo meeting I was invited to be a co-chair for the Schools, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity.

CODATA-RDA schools changed my career, making me a more responsible researcher but also an Open Science ambassador for the Central American area. I now aspire to be a young researcher that can teach Open and Data Science principles through my job at the University of Costa Rica and through the CODATA-RDA Schools, as well as also serve as a mentor for other people that want to learn how to practice Open Science.

Go to the profile of Marcela Alfaro Córdoba

Marcela Alfaro Córdoba

Assistant Professor of Statistics, Universidad de Costa Rica

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