3 minute read

Welcome to my open research site!

My name is Gemma Danks and I have a background in academic research (13 yrs) and tech consulting (5 yrs and counting).

This is the place where I organise, document and share my open research projects, how I work on them and what I learn in the process. It combines an open science lab book with a knowledge base of tutorials, tips and advice that I hope will be useful to others.

You can expect posts involving Python, PySpark, machine learning, data science, astronomy and biology as well as research methodologies, software engineering and project management.

Why open research?

The main value of research comes from sharing it with others.

In academic research, this is usually limited to key results and experiments that worked, shared with the scientific community months to years after you did the work. Publishing papers can be a long process. This limits opportunities for feedback and for others to quickly build on what you have done.

Fully open research means sharing all your work, as it is produced, with anyone that has internet access. This has several advantages:

  • Because everything you tried is visible and in chronological order, others can learn not only from what did work but also what didn’t work, as well as what path you actually took.
  • The availability of code and data makes it much easier for someone to pick up your work and build on it. This works very well for open software development.
  • If others engage with your work, their feedback may spur new questions, identify problems at an early stage, validate the value of your work, or trigger a course correction. This is an agile approach to science.

I also hope it will be fun!

Open research using software development methodologies

Software development in general has methodologies that are invaluable for boosting productivity and are rarely part of the research process. I intend to use as many as possible in my research going forward.

Less meandering through the research landscape, enjoying the view and getting lost and more marching along bee-lines to well-defined goals, enjoying the process and hitting milestones along the way!

Open astrobiology and cloud computing

My first open research project will be in the field of astrobiology and since choosing what to work on is part of the process, I will be documenting that too - in one of my next few posts.

I will be selecting only questions that can be answered computationally with publicly available data. At least for now. Many important questions can be adressed this way. Thanks to cloud computing, you don’t even need a powerful computer (more on cloud computing later).

Research transparency

I will be sharing all my research output as I go along, including:

  • Source code
  • Jupyter notebooks
  • Methods
  • Data
  • Results
  • Plans
  • Ideas
  • Manuscripts
  • Literature reviews

Research under version control

A full history of changes will be visible since I will place everything under version control (I will dedicate a whole other post to why version control is so important). You’ll see mistakes and bug-fixes as well as improvements and revisions as time goes by and it will all be traceable.

Follow me

For now I am still setting up this site and my next post will document how I did that. If you’d like to follow my journey you can find me on Twitter where I will post links to new content. If you want to read more about me, my background and my previous research you can check out my personal website.

Share your thoughts

Thank you for taking an interest in my site! If you have any thoughts on open research, or any other feedback you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.