Teaching: 5 min
Exercises: 5 min
  • How can version control help me make my work more open?

  • Explain how a version control system can be leveraged as an electronic lab notebook for computational work.

The opposite of “open” isn’t “closed”. The opposite of “open” is “broken”.

— John Wilbanks

Free sharing of information might be the ideal in science, but the reality is often more complicated. Normal practice today looks something like this:

For a growing number of scientists, though, the process looks like this:

This open model accelerates discovery: the more open work is, the more widely it is cited and re-used. However, people who want to work this way need to make some decisions about what exactly “open” means and how to do it. You can find more on the different aspects of Open Science in this book.

This is one of the (many) reasons we teach version control. When used diligently, it answers the “how” question by acting as a shareable electronic lab notebook for computational work:

Making Code Citable

This short guide from GitHub explains how to create a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for your code, your papers, or anything else hosted in a version control repository.

How Reproducible Is My Work?

Ask one of your labmates to reproduce a result you recently obtained using only what they can find in your papers or on the web. Try to do the same for one of their results, then try to do it for a result from a lab you work with.

How to Find an Appropriate Data Repository?

Surf the internet for a couple of minutes and check out the data repositories mentioned above: Figshare, Zenodo, Dryad. Depending on your field of research, you might find community-recognized repositories that are well-known in your field. You might also find useful these data repositories recommended by Nature. Discuss with your neighbor which data repository you might want to approach for your current project and explain why.

Can I Also Publish Code?

There are many new ways to publish code and to make it citable. One way is described on the homepage of GitHub itself. Basically it’s a combination of GitHub (where the code is) and Zenodo (the repository creating the DOI). Read through this page while being aware that this is only one of many ways to making your code citable.

Key Points