Muddy Boots is our internal blog where our staff members share experiences getting their boots muddy with on-the-ground conservation research! You can find our contributions to external blogs and Op Eds here.
By Monica Granados
Open science is the belief that access to scientific results and data should not be limited by your race, nationality or economic status. Practicing open science involves breaking down paywalls and making scientific results and data openly accessible to anyone, anywhere.
But wait, isn’t sharing data and results one of the cornerstones of science? On the surface, yes. But today many scientific findings are still locked away in tightly controlled academic journals. Accessing the information published in these journals can be pricey, even when the underlying research has been conducted by public institutions or paid for by public research funds. This has the effect of restricting access to the few, locking out the rest behind a paywall. Unless you are associated with an institution that can leverage its size to pay subscription fees, many academic journals are inaccessible. Subscription and pay-per-use fees also dis-proportionally affect scientists and practitioners in developing countries where fees, often in U.S. currency, are unaffordable.
Making science accessible can break down many of the systemic barriers that prevent inclusivity, including moving information outside a narrow band of scientific insiders and into the public realm. As a postdoctoral fellow with WCS Canada, I am using open science to increase the accessibility of the work we do and the diversity of scientists with whom we collaborate.
As a food web ecologist, I study who eats what in an ecosystem. The connection that is formed when one organism consumes another is very important in determining whether an ecosystem can persist. Ecosystems that have species which rely on many different resources (e.g., species that feed on a variety of plants and animals), decrease the chances any one species will draw down the resource they need to survive.
Monica Granados holding a long nose gar(Lepisosteus osseus)
However, climate warming threatens to change these important feeding interactions. My research is looking at how temperature changes as you move from south to north across Ontario and how the feeding relationships change along with it. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry maintains a large fish database that includes lakes all the way from Southern Ontario to Ontario’s Far North. I am using this database to see whether large fish predators such as lake trout can move between cool and warm environments and therefore whether they will be able to adapt to a changing climate.
Committing to making my findings open means making my methodology publicly available and publishing my results in open forums or formats. For example, by making the computer code I use available on the open access platform GitHub, I allow anyone anywhere in the world to replicate my findings or to build upon the code. Making the results freely accessible through a pre-print or in an open access paper ensures that anyone, anywhere in the world can read about WCS Canada’s research. This includes managers, governments and, especially, First Nations communities that have the most to lose or gain from warming in the Far North. Sharing data and methods also facilitates contributions and collaborations from diverse scientists from around the world. As an advocate of open science, I take pride in helping open WCS Canada’s science to the world.
Photo credits: Banner | Lila Tauzer © WCS Canada