Yuliya Lanina works in the Foundry.

Lanina Uses Foundry Time to Tell Herstory

Early in November, the Foundry makerspace at the Fine Arts Library welcomed its second artist-in-residence, Russian-born American multimedia artist Yuliya Lanina.

Lanina’s deeply personal work spans the universe of media — painting, sculpture, video, animatronics, performance — and resides in a space where whimsical imagery dances in a veil of melancholic undercurrents like children’s tales if viewed a lens of Heironymous Bosch.

Components of Lanina's "Herstory".
Components of Lanina’s “Herstory”.

Lanina spent the better part of her time at the Foundry working on a collection of animatronic projects, from doll to human-size in stature, that are intended to interact with the viewer, with sensors that activate motion and audio when a viewer is in proximity.

Lanina focused most of her time in the Foundry on one project — “Herstory” — a human-sized animatronic doll with a face cast (3D printed) from the artist’s own, which intends to explore gender and cultural identity through the sharing of awkward anecdotes and stories that challenge the way that gender is perceived. Lanina presented a public talk focused on the project, but covering her other works, as well, as part of the residency.

Yuliya Lanina presents a public talk at the Fine Arts Library.
Yuliya Lanina presents a public talk at the Fine Arts Library.

Lanina’s art has been exhibited in such museums and institutions as the Seoul Art Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Galapagos Art Center in Brooklyn. She’s received honors that include fellowships and scholarships from Headlands Art Center (California), Yadoo (New York), CORE Cultural Funding Program (Austin, TX), BluePrint/COJECO (New York City), TEMPO (TX) and an honorable citation from New York State Assembly.

She holds MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College, CUNY, New York and a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Purchase College, SUNY.

Another of Lanina's animatronic projects in the Foundry.
Another of Lanina’s animatronic projects in the Foundry.

Funded by donor Kirby Attwell and COFA, the artist-in-resident series brings notable multi-media artists to Austin for a week at a time for workshops with students, lectures for the public and a chance to pursue their own art on the advanced equipment in the Foundry. The previous artist-in-residence at the Foundry was Israeli American contemporary media artist Yael Kanarek.

Read more about Yuliya Lanina at the fantastic new Austin arts magazine Sightlines recently launched by veteran area arts writer Jeanne Claire van Ryzin.

Presenters and listeners packed the aisles in the PCL Scholars Commons

Social Sciences Team Brings Graduate Research to PCL

On November 3rd, the Libraries’ Social Sciences Team conducted its first Graduate Research Showcase, which featured twenty posters with a wide array of topics ranging from the economic impacts of state immigration reform to the role of paternal warmth and maternal stress in child-rearing to sport as part of Great Britain’s colonial enterprise in India. In total, the twenty graduate students came from fifteen different departments across campus, sparking interdisciplinary dialogue, collaboration, and scholarly engagement.

Janice Hernandez from the School of Nursing demonstrates the effects that caregiving for loved ones has on employees at their work.
Janice Hernandez from the School of Nursing demonstrates the effects that caregiving for loved ones has on employees at their work.

The showcase elevated the library as a platform. It provided an opportunity for the students to explain their research in a low-stress environment replete with refreshments as they received constructive criticism on their work. Students welcomed the idea to practice talking about their research. Katie Bradford, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies noted that “the event was a great opportunity to receive feedback. I was able to take notes and came away with ways to further develop my project.” Similarly, Department of Curriculum & Instruction doctoral student Hye Ryung Won appreciated the cross-department possibilities:  “I got a lot of feedback from people and could make some connections with peers from other departments.” The enthusiasm found in these statements resonated throughout the day.

STEM Education student Nathan Cho considers cultural influences on American and Korean college students.
STEM Education student Nathan Cho considers cultural influences on American and Korean college students.

Moreover, one lucky student won the vote for best poster: Briana Barber, a doctoral student in the Department of Radio-Television-Film put forth stimulating research on African American voices in podcasts. Titled, “‘The Conversations that Black People Have When White People Aren’t in the Room’: The Podcast as Public Sphere,” the presentation focused on how African Americans continue to carve out spaces in a medium previously dominated by white voices. The best poster contest may have been just for fun, but it had a real impact on Barber, who remarked that “winning the poster competition was just the motivation I needed to know that the work I’m doing is interesting, important and necessary.”

Contest winner Briana Weber presents her research to a group of intrigued listeners.
Contest winner Briana Weber presents her research to a group of intrigued listeners.

The Social Sciences Team organized the event at the Perry-Castañeda Library’s Scholars Commons, a newly designed space for UTL to foster research initiatives and exhibit space. By all accounts, the Showcase represented a successful shift in the Library’s involvement with research: it attracted over 100 students, staff, and community members while students have called for another poster session to be held the following semester. Indeed, Assistant Director of Digital Scholarship Jenifer Flaxbart commented that “the Scholars Commons has never buzzed and hummed with the cadence of so many voices discussing interesting, broad-ranging research as it did today.” Stay tuned for future events!

 

 

 

 

Three stories you made happen at UT Libraries

The following post is part of UT Thanks Day. UT Thanks Day is an extraordinary time every year when our UT community comes together as one to thank donors. We are inspired and better-off through your generosity. Here are three stories you made happen.

You helped offset Sana’s tuition.

Nilsson Scholarship recipient Sana Saboowala in the PCL Maps collection
Nilsson Scholarship recipient Sana Saboowala in the PCL Maps collection

Sana Saboowala is pursuing a B.S.A. in Biology and a B.A. in Anthropology and is in the Polymathic Scholars and Liberal Arts Honors Program. She is also our student government documents and maps assistant in the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) and the recipient of the Nilsson scholarship for library student workers.

Thank you for helping offset tuition for Sana while we helped train her for the workforce. In her role, Sana safeguards and preserves official publications and information products of the U.S. Government in all formats. She protects materials vulnerable to decay, technical obsolescence, malicious cyber-attacks, and neglect.

Sana was overwhelmed by the daunting projects we put in front of her as a freshman four years ago but she overcame. Now a senior, we trust Sana to determine what is valuable to keep and what can be discarded before the digitization process.

Sana speaks in front of representatives from the Government Printing Office during audits—essentially officials evaluating the libraries and her work. A skill she was grateful to learn now having to present her own work at academic conferences. Sana stuck it out, excelled, and is now grateful for the lessons in leadership, self-initiative, self-confidence, and diverse array of skills she accumulated.

Her work experience at PCL helped her conduct independent research as a Mellon Mays Fellow, winning a highly competitive internship at the Harry Ransom Center, and writing an honors thesis.

You supported Sean and his 3D printed violin.

Foundry
Sean Riley with his 3D printed violin

Doctoral candidate Sean Riley needed a six-string electric violin to play American composer John Adams’s “The Dharma at Big Sur.” Six string violins are uncommon, so he went to The Foundry in the Fine Arts Library to make one. To complete the violin, Riley needed to collaborate. He enlisted Rebecca Milton, an undergraduate student in studio art, and Daniel Goodwin, a recent graduate in mechanical engineering, and they began working in The Foundry.

The story of Sean creating his six string violin in The Foundry will be highlighted in January on UT’s homepage. Be on the lookout to learn how he landed on his final violin design, to include designing it to not melt in the car.

You helped jump-start opening the Genaro García collection to the world.

UTLEmail-3
Christina Bleyer, Head of Special Collections and Senior Archivist at the Benson Latin American Collection

The Benson Latin American collection is arguably the best library devoted to the region of Latin America in the world. The Genaro García collection within the Benson was our first major purchase of treasures from Mexico. It has been attracting world-renowned faculty and recruiting the brightest students to UT since 1921—for almost 100 years. Researchers from every corner of the world come to sift through documents to shed light on Mexico’s history, it’s evolution from a colonial territory of Spain to a modern independent nation.

You helped purchase supplies and employ the student labor needed to digitize this collection. This material has been accessible only in person since 1921—until now. Thanks to you, the Genaro García collection can be viewed by everyone, from the casual observer emerging themselves in Mexican history to the distinguished researcher on the opposite side of the world. Thank you for allowing us to share this rare collection with the world.

New UTL website

A New Arrival (It’s a Website!)

The Libraries have just released a new website, marking the first significant upgrade of the web portal in well over a decade.

The redesign is long overdue and represents a first attempt to comprehensively evaluate the site’s historical content, some of which is residual from early adoption of the internet by the General Libraries in the mid-late 1990s.

The website refresh has been under consideration for some time, but was urged along when the Senate of Student Councils made a detailed formal request for site improvements in January, 2016. Production of the new site began in February of this year, and was managed through an iterative, evolutionary project development process called Agile.

What’s new and improved:

  • Responsive design – the new site adjusts to the screen size of the user’s device.
  • Efficient browsing and search – clearer language for navigation, and a house-cleaning that cuts down on the bloat of a 6,000+ page site will make use of the site more efficient.
  • Homepage refresh – aligns with campus-wide standards to create consistency of user experience across the university web platform.
  • Updated location pages – consistency across the dedicated pages for branch locations will increase the ease of use while also allowing for customization of services and resources.
  • Expanded equipment pages – more information about creativity and productivity tools on hand for checkout or use onsite, with specs, access and availability information.
  • New “space” pages — specialized study, creativity and productivity spaces throughout the Libraries are now discoverable and browseable with information on capacity and availability.
  • Improved “Hours” interface – up-to-date information on location and service hours available in multiple locations to make planning a visit easier.
  • Sustainability – streamlined production process will result in constant improvements to the website based on user behavior and feedback.
  • Task-orientation – the new architecture focuses on helping users get work done more efficiently by increasing the integration of services, resources, spaces and expertise.

The new website will be available in parallel to the legacy site through the remainder of the fall semester, accessible via a pop-up at lib.utexas.edu, followed by a full launch with expanded features — including “unified search” — in early January.

Explore the new site and send us your feedback.

NOTE: On January 4th, 2018, the URL for the Libraries new website will change to www.lib.utexas.edu and contents of the existing site will be moved to legacy.lib.utexas.edu. Users will be able to reach pages from the old site with outdated links by changing “www” in the target URL “legacy.” This change will likely have some effects for online users and there are plans to frequently communicate about any changes that may impact user experience.

 

Brittany Deputy at Research+Pizza.

Meet the Talents: Brittany Rhea Deputy

Brittany Rhea Deputy is the Librarian to the Moody College of Communication and the College of Liberal Arts Department of Linguistics. A native Floridian and Texas transplant, Brittany holds an MLIS in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida and a BS in Public Relations from the University of Florida. She offers a wide variety of teaching and consultation services with specializations in finding data and statistics, analyzing current and historical print and broadcast news coverage, and utilizing research resources and specialized tools. Her previous employers include The University of Alabama, The University of South Florida – Health, and The University of Florida.

So, how did you come to the University of Texas Libraries?

Brittany Rhea Deputy.
Brittany Rhea Deputy.

Brittany Deputy: I came to UT Libraries in 2013 after working as a human environmental sciences librarian for the University of Alabama Libraries. Before I became a librarian I worked in public relations and communications for the University of Florida’s Graduate School, so when I saw the opportunity to get back into that discipline but in a new role, I jumped into action. I really loved the job I was in, but I couldn’t pass on the perfect mashup of communications and librarianship that I have in my job here at UTL.

It’s great that you were able to find something that married your interests like that. What’s an average day (if there’s such a thing) for the communications liaison/librarian at UT?

BD: Honestly every day is different. My days really depend on what semester we’re in and what’s happening at that time in that semester. For example, up until last week you probably wouldn’t have seen me much in the PCL because I was teaching over in the Belo or CMA buildings at the Moody College.

Now, the classes are tapering off, but I’m seeing more and more one on one research consultations. These are mostly with graduate students or faculty members, and sometimes with research institutes on campus, who need really specific, in-depth research help and expertise. Then as the month wears on and we get closer to the end of the semester, I’ll switch over to my special projects. Things like the Graduate Research Showcase the Social Science Librarians Team is hosting or a special lecture I’m giving on the history of fake news.

Of course during all of this I’m doing day to day things like answering reference questions, purchasing items for the library collections, and serving on committees and groups as well. I’m never bored that’s for sure!

Tell me a little about teaching at the college. A lot of people mistakenly assume that librarians stay cooped up with the books, but that’s not really the case at all, is it?

BD: Haha, no, that’s not the case at all. I probably couldn’t tell you the last time I handled a physical book. Our jobs are very much online and on the go.

How things go when I’m teaching at the college depends on the class, the department, and the students. The needs of undergraduate students versus graduate students and students in advertising versus those in communication sciences and disorders are extremely different. It’s not unheard of for my first class of the day to focus entirely on how to search databases to find peer reviewed research articles about using computer assisted technology to help stroke victims struggling with aphasia and my second class of the day to center on finding and utilizing data from the census, local maps, and NAICS codes to help students figure out the best advertising strategy for the luxury handbag company they were assigned as a “client.”  It’s all so different every time I walk into a classroom, but that’s what makes it the most fun.

Communications studies are sort of all-encompassing in a way that lots of people probably don’t consider. Does it get overwhelming trying to keep up with trends and innovations, especially given the increasingly connected nature of the world?

BD: From the outside it probably seems rather hectic, it can be a lot of work to keep informed of new trends and innovations in any discipline, but if you can discern between what’s hype and what’s helpful, it definitely makes the job easier.

I think this is where my background and expertise really come in handy. I’ve worked in similar jobs, attended the same conferences, and am a member of the same professional associations as the students and the faculty members I work with, so I’ve been where they are and can see where things are going, professionally speaking.

I’m also not alone in my role. I regularly work with librarians at other universities who are in positions like mine, working with students and faculty in communication related fields. We discuss trends, troubleshoot questions, and crowd source ideas almost weekly. A few weeks ago we had a pretty lively discussion about using R or Python to analyze Facebook comments on online news stories. It was pretty cool.

You mentioned a special project, a lecture on fake news, which is a topic of much discussion in the wake of the recent presidential election, but has probably existed for a much longer period of time. What role do you think libraries in general — and the UT Libraries more specifically — play in combating bad information in a world where traditional filters no longer exist?

BD: Fake news has been around for a long time. Historical figures like Marie Antoinette and Mark Antony might have lived a bit longer if it weren’t for fake news in fact. The difference today is our access to it. Instead of graffiti on Roman walls or printed pamphlets in the streets of Paris, fake news stares us in the face from every screen. I mean, there’s probably about five screen devices in my office right now, so that’s a lot of access points!

Fake news, circa Feb. 17, 1898.

Thankfully though, the libraries, especially UTL, can help people sort through it all and stay informed of what’s really going on in the world and the communities around them. Librarians are experts at research and evaluation and can teach people how to look at news holistically. It’s tempting to take a news story at face value or maybe even just use a small checklist approach to evaluating it, but in today’s world, with news breaking 24 hours a day, it’s not enough. You really have to be curious and dig deep and that’s were librarians like myself and my colleagues at UTL come in to help. We can walk you through the process and show you some tips and tricks to help along the way.

Now obviously not every person could, or would want to, take a deep dive into every news story they encountered, but even if you do it just once or twice, it can really help you separate the facts from fiction. But if you do fall victim to a fake news story don’t feel too bad. Bad information happens to good people sometimes. I’ve even been tricked a few times!

Given that you help people to navigate sometimes complex or obscure information, you probably learn quite a bit that you aren’t expecting. What’s a discovery you’ve made through your work that you’ve kept with you?

BD: I’m always stumbling on to the new and unexpected when I’m working with researchers. It’s really satisfying to find those hidden gems and watch the research story unfold or even completely change because of it. It’s an exciting thing to witness and be a part of. I don’t think I have one specific discovery that means more than any other one, but I will say the first time I was mentioned and thanked in the acknowledgements section of an award-winning book was pretty special. To see my contributions to a researcher’s work in print was an amazing experience.

Validation is always a nice thing, because so much of life is just doing a good job because it’s what you do. What about the future? Where are you in ten years, and what is the job of the future communications librarian?

BD: I wish I could know what the job would look like in ten years! Things move so fast and change so readily it’s impossible to forecast exact trends that far in advance. I think a lot of people might have the assumption that libraries and librarians have served their purpose and are on their way out due to the internet and online access or that it’s just a building that holds a lot of stuff. But that isn’t really true at all. It is true a lot of things are online and it is true the library has a lot of “stuff”, but without librarians to help people find it, sort it, and make sense of it all, it’s just a book on a shelf. Data is just data. Information is just information. People, librarians and researchers working together, are what turn those things into knowledge. And that will always be the biggest and best part of this job. So hopefully that’s what I’ll still be doing in ten years too.

 

Opening of the FAL 4th Floor

New Design Program Space Opens at FAL

On Thursday, October 12, representatives of the Libraries joined College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster and Provost Maurie McInnis to fete the opening of space on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Library redeveloped to serve as a home for the newly announced School of Design and Creative Technologies.

Provost Maurie McInnis with Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe.
Provost Maurie McInnis with Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe.

The renovation project, which took place over the summer, resulted in the creation of state-of-the-art classrooms with adaptable technologies, a high-tech teaching lab, dedicated design studios, an audio studio, seminar rooms and faculty offices to serve a program geared to preparing students for careers in professions that require working knowledge of design technologies.

The new school will be led by design industry thought leader Doreen Lorenzo, who is the founding and current director of the Center for Integrated Design, and will focus on educating students for creative professions in heavy demand across a wide range of industries. Students will study designing for health, designing for artificial intelligence, creative technologies in theater and music, entrepreneurial ventures and cross-disciplinary design thinking methodologies.

New space for the School of Design and Creative Technologies

The space is complementary to the Foundry — the maker space launched on the entry level of the library in 2016 — creating a new opportunity for libraries to serve as a multipurpose platform for the interaction of information resources, classroom learning and creative realization.

“Co-locating a vibrant teaching space in the library with the tools for creativity mere footsteps away collapses the distance between resources and classroom and provides the opportunity for the library to be an even more active partner in the learning ecosystem,” says Vice Provost and Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe.

Open Access Month – OA Creates Momentum for Discovery

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Rayna Harris (ORCID ID:0000-0002-7943-5650), PhD Candidate, Cell and Molecular Biology.

Open access publishing is critical for ‘daisy chain’ reading of scientific papers

Rayna Harris.
Rayna Harris.

Whenever I read a scientific paper, there is almost always a citation that grabs my attention and begs to be read. I love it when I can click on a citation and then read the full text. This ‘daisy chain’ process of citation searching (where the second paper leads me to a third paper, which leads me to a forth, and so on) gives me a great appreciation for all the previous research that contributes to current knowledge.

Figure 1. An example of citation searching or ‘daisy chain’ reading of scientific papers. In this example, McKiernan et al. 2016, cite Brenner 1995, who refers to Watson & Crick 1995. All these papers are open access and can be read by all.
Figure 1. An example of citation searching or ‘daisy chain’ reading of scientific papers. In this example, McKiernan et al. 2016, cite Brenner 1995, who refers to Watson & Crick 1995. All these papers are open access and can be read by all.

When my citation search leads me to a paper that is not open access, I get frustrated because its halts the excellent momentum I had going for gaining new new knowledge. There is a saying in my lab that “if the research isn’t published it doesn’t exist” because it has not been disseminated to broader audiences. I would like to modify this quote to say “if the research is not published and open access then it doesn’t exist” because pay-walled papers are not freely discoverable.

Open access publishing is necessary for dissemination of ideas because it gives readers the ability to read any paper anytime anywhere. My hope is that one day I will publish a scientific paper that 1) is open access, 2) cites only open access papers, 3) which in turn cite only open science papers, and so on. This way, future readers can daisy-chain their way through the history of research that lead to current understanding.

 

OA Week 2017

Open Access in 2017

As we prepared for Open Access (OA) Week 2017, it’s been exciting to think back about how far we’ve come in the last several years. For those who aren’t familiar, OA Week is a celebration of efforts to make research publications and data more accessible and usable. Just ten short years ago we lacked much of the infrastructure and support for open access that exist today.

Open@TexasBy 2007 we had implemented one of the core pieces of our OA infrastructure by joining Texas Digital Library (TDL). TDL is a consortium of higher education institutions in the state of Texas. TDL was formed to help build institutions’ capacity for providing access to their unique digital collections. That membership continues to grow and TDL now hosts our institutional repository, Texas ScholarWorks, our data repository, Texas Data Repository, our electronic thesis and dissertation submission system, Vireo, and is involved in our digital object identifier (DOI) minting service that makes citing articles and data easier and more reliable. These services form the backbone of our open access publishing offerings.

Our institutional repository, Texas ScholarWorks (TSW), went live in 2008. TSW is an online archive that allows us to share some of the exciting research being created at the university. We showcase electronic theses and dissertations, journal articles, conference papers, technical reports and white papers, undergraduate honors theses, class and event lectures, and many other types of UT Austin authored content.

TSW has over 53,000 items that have been downloaded over 19 million times in the past nine years.

In spring of 2017 we launched the Texas Data Repository (TDR) as a resource for those who are required to share their research data. TDR was intended to serve as the data repository of choice for those researchers who lack a discipline-specific repository or who would prefer to use an institutionally supported repository. TDR serves as a complementary repository to Texas ScholarWorks. Researchers who use both repositories will be able to share both their data and associated publications and can provide links between the two research outputs.

For several years the library has been supporting alternative forms of publishing like open access publishers and community supported publishing and sharing. Examples of this support include arXiv, Luminos, PeerJ, Open Library of the Humanities, Knowledge Unlatched, and Reveal Digital. These memberships are important because it’s a way for us to financially support publishing options that are more financially sustainable than the traditional toll access journals. Many of these memberships also provide a direct financial benefit to our university community, like the 15% discount on article processing charges from our BioMed Central membership.

In an effort to lead by example, the UT Libraries passed an open access policy for library staff in 2016. This is an opt-out policy that applies to journal articles and conference papers authored by UT Libraries employees. With this policy the library joins dozens of other institutions across the U.S. that have department level open access policies.

This past year we started a very popular drop-in workshop series called Data & Donuts. Data & Donuts happens at the same time every week, with a different data-related topic highlighted each week. All the sessions have a shared goal of improving the reproducibility of science.

Data & Donuts has attracted over 340 people in the past nine months which makes it one of our most successful outreach activities.

We have another reason to be optimistic this year. The Texas state legislature passed a bill this summer that should expand the awareness of and use of open educational resources (OER). SB810 directs colleges to make information about course materials available to students via the course catalog. If there is an online search feature for the catalog, the college has to make it possible for people to sort their search by courses that incorporate OER. The catalog functionality is set to go into effect this spring, so we’ll be keeping an eye on how things develop over this academic year.

We will continue the momentum we have generated from the launch of TDR, our Data & Donuts series, and our support of open publishers. We are putting together topics for Data & Donuts this spring, planning events associated with open access and author rights, and continuing to improve our online self-help resources. We are committed to offer assistance to any faculty, staff, or student at the university who has a question about open access.

We encourage department chairs and tenure and promotion committees to talk with their colleagues and/or engage with us in discussions about what open access means for their discipline.

UT Libraries will continue to explore new publishing models and initiatives to share UT’s rich scholarship and discoveries, to find ways to increase access to open educational resources, and to support future faculty and scholars in accessing, using and curating the growing body of data that is central to the research enterprise.

 

Open Access Month – OA to Spur Innovation

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk,Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Anthropology.

A need for open access to research materials to spur new discoveries in biological anthropology

Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk.
Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk.

A major aim of research in biological anthropology is to understand how humans have ended up looking and behaving the way that they do. To understand the evolution of our body form, anthropologists look at fossils. Behavior, however, does not fossilize, and so we turn to studying our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates, preferably in their natural habitats where they have to deal with selective pressures such as avoiding predators and finding enough food to eat. Primate behavior field data are hard-won, involving substantial investments of time and resources. Apart from jumping through logistical hoops such as obtaining permits and building relationships with local stakeholders in far-flung locales, establishing a new field site for behavioral fieldwork involves months if not years of patiently following wild primates around to habituate them to researchers’ presence. Once habituated, data collection begins, with blood, sweat, and tears invariably spilt as one accumulates precious hours of detailed behavioral observations on this group of primates at this place and particular time.

These investments are one reason given by field primatologists as justification for closely guarding their data. Another is the unique insights they have into the lives of their study animals, having spent hours upon hours of observation time with them. Some primatologists argue that researchers not familiar with their study site and animals may misuse the data if they were to make it widely available, subjecting it to improper analyses or not accounting for information about the study site/animals that is known only to researchers who have worked there. Researchers also generally have many ideas for secondary analyses of their data that they plan to get to in the future.

Each of these arguments is by no means specific to primate behavioral ecology, with very similar arguments having been made, for example, by medical researchers working with clinical trial data. Of course, clinical trial data has a substantially higher status (given its applications for human health and welfare) than primate behavior data, and arguments about the costs and benefits of trial data sharing have been ongoing in high profile forums for several years. Data sharing advocates point to benefits such as new discoveries, better metanalyses, and correction or confirmation of findings in the scientific record, which they argue far outweigh potential risks such as incorrect analyses or data misuse. We all know researchers who have been sitting on data for years (even decades) with plans for secondary analyses, many of which they will never find the time to conduct and publish. In the case of primate field data collected on a specific population at a specific place and point in time – and frequently on endangered primates living in rapidly changing habitats – these data cannot be reproduced, so it is a double shame that they may never make it into the scientific record.

Primate behavioral ecologists are included in Anthropology departments because comparative studies on primate behavior illuminate the ways in which humans differ from and are similar to our closest kin, allowing us to better understand the evolutionary ecology of our lineage.  However, many comparative studies are hampered by poor descriptions of how data in primate field studies were collected and processed, and many large-scale comparative studies cannot be undertaken unless raw data itself is made available. Behavioral ecologists should take a page out of their molecular primatology colleagues’ playbooks, where publication of genetic data alongside scientific articles is the rule. This type of data sharing has enabled large-scale comparative phylogenetic studies that have given us a rich understanding of primate evolution. It is time for primate behavioral ecologists to catch up and to make sharing of data as well as associated behavioral and ecological data collection protocols the norm. Who knows what insights await us.

Open Access Month – Open the Data

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Spencer J. Fox (ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1969-3778), PhD candidate focusing on computational epidemiology.

Spencer J. Fox.
Spencer J. Fox.

Three years ago, I was choosing the next research direction for my PhD. I was interested in two subjects and had found a journal article in each to build upon. I thought to follow the computational biologist’s path of least resistance: pursue the paper whose results I could reproduce first, as that represents an important first step. One of the papers had published a repository with all of their data alongside working code for analyzing it, while the other had simply stated: “Data available upon request” with no reference to code used for the analyses.

Being a naive graduate student, I politely reached out to the authors of the second study to obtain their data and inquire about their code. In return, I received a scathing email filled with broken links to old websites, excuses about proprietary data, and admonishment for having asked for “their” code: “any competent researcher in the field could replicate our analysis from the information within the manuscript.” I was stunned.

While expressing my frustration to my peers, I found that their requests had also been met with equal hostility and degradation from scientists in their respective fields. When data or code had been provided – usually after months of negotiations – cooperation came with heavy stipulations in article authorship, time-stamped embargos, or permissible analyses. Clearly, it’s not enough to rely on researchers to act in good faith.

The unfortunate truth is that the onus falls on journals to enact real change. Many major journals now require that raw data be deposited in permanent online repositories like Dryad1. This has improved data sharing, but is only half the battle and simply provides the likeness of reproducible research. I have spent weeks reproducing someone’s analysis using their provided data and code. It would have been impossible without both. Simply put, freely available code – even if messy and difficult to follow – provides an invaluable foundation for future researchers to build upon, and all journals should require that both analysis code and data accompany a manuscript.

Too many conscious and subconscious coding decisions are made over the course of a project that even minor decisions early on present serious stumbling blocks for researchers trying to reproduce results. Differences in mundane behaviors between programming languages, versions, library functions, and self-written pipelines can have drastic implications on end results. A great example of this is the inadvertent errors in one fifth of genomics papers attributed to Microsoft Excel use2.

Finally, while ultimately it is the researcher’s responsibility to provide code alongside a manuscript, there are tangible incentives for doing so: citations. Open access manuscripts and those that provide their data receive more citations3,4, and the same likely applies to providing analysis code. After debating between those articles three years ago, I alone have cited the reproducible paper in two separate publications. How many other potential citations are lost “upon request”?


Citations

  1. http://datadryad.org/
  2. https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-1044-7
  3. https://elifesciences.org/articles/16800
  4. https://peerj.com/articles/175/