Better science in less time:

Lessons from


All artwork by @allison_horst

Julia Stewart Lowndes, PhD

Mozilla Fellow & Marine Data Scientist

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)

University of California at Santa Barbara; @juliesquid


and open data science has been game-changing for my science and my life

Hi, I’m a marine ecologist


Humboldt squid! Photo by Greg Auger

Optional - Speaker to add their slides here (2 max)

Data analysis is inefficient and demoralizing when you don’t have the right skills and you feel alone.

This was me. It was the worst.

This is the experience most environmental scientists have. We’re never formally taught, our labs don’t act like a team when it comes to data because we focus on what makes our science unique, not what makes our data challenges similar.

But better practices exist that can not only tackle the challenges before you, but open your mind to the scale of challenges you can take on

Luke was able to learn from Yoda and not only solve this challenge but it broadened his mind to the scope of things he could do.

This was me too. I was an early beneficiary of open data science communities and an early adopter of their tools.

But a really critical part of this is that it is not done in isolation. It is part of a bigger movement, with participants of all different backgrounds and skillsets coming together. It’s a team effort, and there are many ways to participate and contribute to and support the open data science movement without being a jedi yourself.

This is what science feels like to me now, both within my lab, and as part of something bigger. My team and I have been focusing on helping more people to think this way.

But it’s not just about Star Wars Analogies: we also published a paper about how game-changing these approaches were for our science. We now do better in less time, and how we incrementally improved our practices over 4 years.

We developed a scientific framework to measure how healthy our oceans are. Then we develop models with a hundred publicly available datasets to channel the best available data into marine policy. We do this each year for all countries with a coastline and used by the United Nations, and also enable other groups to do the same for their government policy.

ODS helps us work as a team. We have streamlined workflows and skillshared together to develop a shared workflow that is easier to onboard other people. It has let us repeat the same global study every year, giving us more time to focus on training students and enabling others.

Open data science tools

connection to broader communities

  • listen
  • learn
  • contribute

open coding language

  • shared practices
  • streamlined tools

collaboration platform

  • bookkeeping
  • display, publication, & distribution

docs, slides, sheets

  • coordinate
  • co-develop
  • share

Open data science communities

Shared tools & practices

efficiency & reproducibility: coding and version control are the keystone

Shared tools & practices

but also for


collaboration & communication

efficiency & reproducibility: coding and version control are the keystone

ODS helps us work as a team. We have streamlined workflows and skillshared together to develop a shared workflow that is easier to onboard other people. It has let us repeat the same global study every year, giving us more time to focus on training students and enabling others.

open data science tools & practices

teamwork & collaboration

Beautiful feedback loop:

Learning and using similar software promotes and streamlines teammwork.

And also working as a team better equips you to learn open practices data science.

How do we welcome & empower more (environmental) scientists with open data science?

How can we help research groups work like teams?

Work more like teams: help each other, institutional memory, onboarding. Digital equivalent of getting and returning a set of keys


  • Complement existing efforts by welcoming & empowering scientists as research groups

  • Increase visibility & value by amplifying research groups


  • Mentorship program for early career scientists & their labs
  • Normalize open data science in the lab & seed change beyond

Really want to focus on my generation of ecrs: we all felt stranded like Luke but not all of us are aware of the ods communities. we are new faculty and tenured faculty, but we will be doomed to perpetuate closed practices unless we have help.

And here is nearly the whole group! It's difficult to teach PIS and labs together, but I did it for a reason. I know PIs don’t have time to learn this on their own, and they shouldn’t have to to enable their labs. I did it this way so: 1) all see and value 2) PIs can champion for this in their channels, and enable the lab. 3) labs have PI-buyin, agency, Pathways, and community to learn and incorp into their science


Achievements & momentum in 5 months:

  • Mindset shifts in individuals
  • Increase in skills & practice

  • Culture shifts in labs
  • Leadership & championing

I am so proud of these amazing champions. Trying to measure all their progress. Here are some ways:

Normalizing talking about open data science

Their homework each week is to have chats about data with their lab groups. Not for the PI, they don't need more meetings, but for the team. This is what we did with our OHI team. Creates community. Normalizes talking about this stuff. Creates leaders.

Lab GitHub organizations, CoCs, & protocols

Team GH organizations. Also team Google drive. And COC, onboarding protocol, data protocol.

New scientific collaborations

This is a super exciting outcome too: scientific collaborations are coming out of this. And a desire to continue quarterly calls with the Pi's to continue momentum

So many other wins to measure & share

I am championing open data science in faculty meetings • I said we’re doing our students a disservice • I’m asking to hire lecturer positions • I enabled labs to have seaside chats • we are developing onboarding plans • I support my students starting hacky hours • we now take lab meeting notes in google docs, openscapes style! • our lab tech will teach a new data science course • we have a code of conduct! • us too! • all this is something I’ve worried about a lot and feeling better about it • all our lab protocols are now on GitHub • I reorganized my teaching materials so it’s better next year • all my capstone students are using GitHub for their analyses • I'm now pushing GitHub on all my collaborators • we have a more open culture • I organized and put all my teaching materials online • I didn’t realize there would be so much to talk about • we have a shared lab Google Drive • we developed a way to offboard our undergrads • my lab has put all our scripts online • we are going to have a lab hackathon • thank you for saying the code of conduct on each call • I didn’t know about #rstats twitter • these efficiency tips save me so much time • I taught a course from R4DS, learning the night before • I want to do everything a bit better • I reran my collaborator’s code! • we improved our documentation • we improved our metadata • this saved me so much time • everyone in our lab now has a GitHub account • I led a discussion on data sharing practices for our lab • we are now officially an open science lab • I’m going to put all my teaching materials online • I am starting an RLadies chapter • I organized our lab’s code on GitHub • I feel a part of something bigger • I will start teaching R in my classes • I thought I was utterly incapable of learning GitHub • this happened just at the right time • this isn’t just about coding & GitHub, it’s about changing the way we do science

So many smaller wins though. They are more efficient and confident day-to-day. Makes me so happy and proud.


  • Annual online cohorts
  • In person workshops
  • Series & resources


Julia Stewart Lowndes, PhD


@openscapes @ohi-science


Thank You

Openscapes_TBEP_2019_09_05 - Google Slides