Graduate Training in Open Science
OSTI Content and Materials
So, what is the Open Science Training Initiative? How does it work? How can I obtain copies of the teaching materials? Hopefully the information below will answer your queries: if not, please get in touch with us via the details on our "Contact Us" page and we'll do our best to help you.

What's the Open Science Training Initiative?

The Open Science Training Initiative provides a series of lectures in open science, data management, licensing and reproducibility, for use with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution licence, the lectures can be used individually as one-off information lectures in aspects of open science, or can be integrated into existing course provision at your institution as a lecture series, forming part of a hands-on exercise in producing a coherent research story.

Our notes and reports also provide advice and insight into the use of Rotation Based Learning (RBL), an educational pattern which can be applied to any existing taught course in the sciences. RBL is designed to increase participants' awareness of the future uses of their research outputs and aims to foster increased reproducibility in scientific research. Rotation Based Learning is explained at length in the OSTI Post-Pilot Report and our 2013 paper for Open Education 2030.

What is Rotation Based Learning?

A rotation-based teaching structure provides the best opportunity to encourage your graduates to see themselves as research users as well as research producers. During the OSTI pilot, the test cohort was split into groups of 5-6 students. One of the major rules of the OSTI is that communication between groups is not allowed at any stage!

In Phase 1, the "Initiator Phase", each group selects a paper from the literature as a starting point and attempts to reproduce its findings over the course of three to four working days. The end goal of Phase 1 is to produce a report, code, and data management plan, all fully and appropriately licensed, and which may not only reproduce but also extend the findings of the originating study. Experienced demonstrators are on hand to assist the students with their work at all times; in addition to this, daily supervision sessions occur, in which the course leader meets with each group to answer their questions and shape their research. And throughout all this, daily OSTI lectures support the research process with information and advice on licensing, data management and publication.

Phase 2 is the "Successor Phase", in which the Phase 1 outputs are put to the test. Groups are rotated to work on a new problem, thereby inheriting their peers' research outputs: code, data and writing. Supervision and advice is delivered in the same format as before. Herein lies the twist: communication between the groups is still not allowed and successor groups must verify the inherited work before extending it to examine a research problem of their choosing. This provides students with an opportunity to critique the work of their peers and to learn about the challenges and pitfalls of modern research through first-hand experience. Your own work may not prove as reproducible as you might think!

Has the course been trialled anywhere?

The initial pilot of the OSTI scheme was run at the University of Oxford's Doctoral Training Centre in January 2013. OSTI lectures were integrated into an existing course on computational biology, in which students were required to develop mathematical and computational models of cancer and/or infectious disease dynamics. A cohort of 43 pre-doctoral students took the course, learned about reproducibility and open science and really got to grips with licensing their research outputs. On conclusion of the pilot, they took time to share their thoughts with us on what they'd enjoyed and how future versions of the course might be modified and improved (details available here).

Where can I download OSTI course materials?

All course materials are being released on the code-sharing website GitHub, in our Open Science Training repository (click here to reach the repository). Materials are all provided free of charge, under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, CC-BY 3.0. From time to time we also provide downloads of reports, papers and other publications relating to the Open Science Training Initiative via our "News" page, so it's worth taking a look there as well as at our GitHub repository.

The repository includes slide decks in both .ODP and .PPTX formats, along with advice notes in .ODT and .DOC formats. Curated, "official release" versions of files for each of our six lectures and mini-workshops are being added to the repository as and when they're ready. So if you can't see find what you're looking for right now, please get in touch with us and we may be able to provide you with the pre-release versions you're after.

Which materials and lectures are available?

Following the feedback from the OSTI pilot scheme, we are currently in the process of curating and editing our course materials into a final version. Many of these have already been released online in our GitHub repository, so you may like to start following this now - you'll be able to take a look at the materials already availalbe, as well as keep an eye on the project as new resources appear. The full version of the course will include slide decks and instructional notes for each lecture, along with some general suggestions and advice for how to structure your course; how to adapt these materials to the setting you're working in; and additional suggestions for debates, enhancement activities and group exercises in open science and reproducibility. We thank you for your patience whilst these materials are developed further - if you can't see the materials you're after in our repository, please feel free to drop us an email via the "Contact Us" page. Descriptions of the course lectures can be found below.

Lecture 1: Open Science and Reproducibility

Lecture 1 introduces the OSTI scheme, commencing with a discussion of reproducibility issues in modern science and asking how we might remedy such problems. The lecture also explains what it means for research to be "open" and examines how Open approaches might be used to support improved reproducibility within scientific research. As with all OSTI content, the slides for this lecture can be modified and adapted to your own requirements. In light of this, the slide deck includes ready-made listing slides where you can detail groupings and explain the rotation structure of the course (conversely, these can also be removed if the lecture is being delivered on a stand-alone basis).

Lecture 2: Version Control

If you're running a computational or programming course, you may want to consider introducing the students to version control. Lecture 2 provides a basic introduction to the concept, and demonstrates the use of the version control system, Git.

Lecture 3: Code, Content and Data Licensing

Lecture 3 is one of the most vital lectures within the OSTI. Much of the power of open science lies in its provision for legal openness as well as the removal of access fees or other charges, yet many young academics feel daunted at the prospect of navigating the plethora of different licences in different settings. The OSTI lecture on "Content, Code and Data Licensing" addresses the three main areas of licensing, providing an accessible and useful introduction to the subject and drawing on a variety of useful resources that will support the students as they attempt to gain hands-on experience of licensing their research outputs.

Lecture 4: Data Management Plans

Lecture 4 covers the subject of Data Management Plans. Computational approaches and high-throughput techniques in modern science are generating vast amounts of data; our newest graduates will be entering a research environment where curation and management of large amounts of data is the norm; they need to be prepared for this. The lecture on Data Management Plans examines the origins of this "rising tide of data" and introduces students to techniques and approaches for managing their data, ranging from short-term backups to long-term curation and storage.

Lecture 5: The Changing Face of Publication

Lecture 5 addresses current changes in academic publication and discusses the origins of the "Academic Spring" movement. The majority of pre-doctoral graduate students have no experience of publishing their own work and welcome the introduction to this important aspect of academic life. The lecture outlines the traditional mode of publication and goes on to explain the notion of "Green" and "Gold" open access. UK audiences may also welcome the content on the Finch report and the ongoing changes to Open Access policy currently filtering down from the research councils. This lecture was very well received by the pilot cohort, who indicated a strong desire to learn more about the publication process, and even to debate how this is evolving at the moment.

Lecture 6: The Work of the Open Knowledge Foundation

Lecture 6 is an enhancement lecture, designed to provide a broad perspective on the wide variety of projects being undertaken in the Open community. Although not essential for the students' work over the course of the OSTI, this lecture aims to raise awareness of the resources, organisations and individuals available as a means of support or advice in their future Open endeavours.

All images within the "OSTI Bubbles" design are released under licence by the original artists. Image credits for page banner: Earth, Sun by Nasa Goddard, CC-BY-2.0; Crystal by National Museum of Wales, CC-BY-NC-2.0; Silicon Chip by Jannes Pockele, CC-BY-2.0; Bacteria by AJ Cann, CC-BY-NC-2.0; Neurons by Patrick Hoesly, CC-BY-2.0. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all site content (including downloadable course materials) is authored by Sophie Kay and is released subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence, CC-BY-4.0. Licence details may be viewed at This permits distribution, reuse and remixing of the work subject to author attribution.