A fund to support open science
It would be impossible to list all the EPFL researchers with a track record of practicing open science. In an effort to support existing bottom-up initiatives and promote new ones, EPFL’s presidency has dedicated a total of three million francs over the 2019–2021 period in the form of an Open Science Fund. Here’s a description of three of the eight projects funded so far. A new call for projects has been launched, with a closing date of 6 December.
Open software services for classrooms and research
For research and education purposes, the OSSCAR project aims at creating an open science collaborative online hub to host simulation and data-analysis tools.
At EPFL, several courses focus on simulations. However, significant efforts are required to set up computers with all software needed for each class. Moreover, it is still technically challenging to create and publish online interactive tools based on this software. Furthermore, if similar components are employed across courses, there is still limited reuse of content and technologies. The result is a burden for instructors and a barrier for students. This urgent need for open easy-to-use services is what motivated Giovanni Pizzi (THEOS and NCCR MARVEL), Sara Bonella (CECAM) and Ignacio Pagonabarraga (CECAM) to apply for the EPFL Open Science Fund. Under the acronym of OSSCAR (Open Software Services for Classrooms and Research), the project awarded aims at creating an open source collaborative online hub to host simulation and data-analysis tools.
“Our experience shows that no tool alone is able to cover all OSSCAR use cases. We thus propose an approach to combine the strengths of different open software tools that have recently emerged and become de-facto standards in science (like git and Jupyter) and benefit from their combination,” says Giovanni Pizzi, research scientist at the Laboratory of Theory and Simulation of Materials, and project leader of the Open Science Platform of the NCCR MARVEL. “We have been already implementing some of these tools mostly for researchers and in the context of the NCCR MARVEL and of the H2020 E-CAM Center of Excellence for Computing Applications, and we thought they would be useful also for education and teaching, and that many teachers and instructors could benefit from them, both at EPFL and beyond in the vast European CECAM network.”
Practically, the result will look like a plug-in that goes on top of Jupyter to provide very interactive visualizations, so that users (students, but also researchers) can run simulations in a few clicks and inspect the results interactively and in real time. One of the design goals is to make it very easy for teachers to prepare these notebooks. Different widgets will be developed to offer common functionalities like 3D visualization of a molecular structure or atom picking from a periodic table, for example. “It will only be two lines of code for the researchers, and we will take care of maintaining all these tools and adapting them to the need of researchers and instructors.” This is the first part of the project, that will start this month following the hiring of a postdoc.
The second part will consist on helping directly a number of professors already interested in including this technology in their computational classes. OSSCAR will support them by fulfilling their specific needs, for a widget for example, or collaborate with them to set up their course in an interactive way. All the services will be developed on open platforms, including Jupyter but also GitHub for hosting or Binder for deployment, to ensure that any outcome is immediately available for the whole community, and to encourage contributions and collaborative improvements.
Open science at EPFL: information and tools
— You have already heard about open science: the movement that aims at removing the barriers for sharing research outputs. But have you ever wondered what open science means in your daily work as a researcher at EPFL? Do you know what is available to support you in making your research practices more open? The EPFL Library has launched a 3-minute video that provides an overview of the tools and services that you, as EPFL researchers, can use at each step of the research process.
> WATCH THE VIDEO: