Open Notebook Science Mini-Community Project

Steve usually teaches a junior level physics lab each year, and each year he introduces the students to open notebook science. Mostly it is just to get in the habit of taking good notes and to do it electronically. This way he is able to easily keep up with and grade the student’s performance.

Seldomly do the students take advantage of the fact there are prior classes that have online notebooks that they can use for leverage in their experiments, and also they don’t even check in with each other. But in class they freely communicate to each other.

This semester I’m TA for the class and all that is about to change. With this class I’ve realized that this is literally a miniature case study into the dynamics of how open notebook science may work. So not only are the students going to be required to take good notes and understand the principles of good, reliable, effective science, but they are also going to be required to communicate!

I hope that by “forcing” them to communicate (I say that in quotes because they would be allowed to do it anyway, but probably won’t) I will get to witness the power of open notebook science in real time and both behind the scenes (their interactions in lab) and as seen by the public (their online interactions).

I really don’t know what I expect from the experience but I hope to learn how effective ONS can be when the community of scientists who follow a notebook actively participate in the experiments and engage in the notebook. Hopefully the students will even teach me a thing or two about community engagement and ONS!

I’ve made a simple web page that lists all the notebooks so that the students can follow the other notebooks and comment and such. Check them all out here. There is a variety of platforms being used. Some students have elected to use the wiki on GitHub (since they already have to use Github for class), others are using Google Docs, and a few are using self-hosted (by me) WordPress sites.

I’m eager to see what happens and I’ll be posting thoughts and updates on here as things happen.