OSF@Duke: By the Numbers and Beyond

The Open Science Framework (OSF) is a data and project management platform developed by the Center for Open Science that is designed to support the entire research lifecycle. OSF has a variety of features including file management and versioning, integration with third-party tools, granular permissions and sharing capabilities, and communication functionalities. It also supports growing scholarly communication formats including preprints and preregistrations, which enable more open and reproducible research practices.

In early 2017, Duke University became a partner institution with the OSF. As a partner institution, Duke researchers can sign into the OSF using their NetID and affiliate a project with Duke, which allows it to be displayed on the Duke OSF page. After 2 years of supporting OSF for Institutions here at Duke, the Research Data Management (RDM) team wanted to gain a better perspective surrounding how our community was using the tool and their perceptions. 

As of March 10, 2019, Duke has 202 users that have signed into the system using their Duke credentials (and there are possibly more users that are authenticating using personal email accounts). Of these users, 177 total projects have been created and affiliated with Duke. Forty-six of these projects are public and 132 remain private. Duke users have also registered 80 Duke affiliated projects, 62 of which are public and 18 are embargoed. A registration is a time-stamped read-only copy of an OSF project that can be used to preregister a research design, to create registered reports for journals, or at the conclusion of a project to formally record the authoritative copy of materials.

But what do OSF users think of the tool and how are they using it within their workflows? A few power users shared their thoughts:

Optimizing research workflows: A number of researchers noted how the OSF has helped streamline their workflows through creating a “central place that everyone has access to.” OSF has helped “keeping track of the ‘right’ version of things” and “bypassing the situation of having different versioned documents in different places.” Additionally, the OSF has supported “documenting workflow pipelines.”

Facilitating collaboration: One of the key features of the OSF is that researchers, regardless of institutional affiliation, can contribute to a project and integrate the tools they already use. Matt Makel, Director of Research at TIP, explains how OSF supports his research – “I collaborate with many colleagues at other institutions. OSF solves the problem of negotiating which tools to use to share documents. Rather than switching platforms across (or worse, within) projects, OSF is a great hub for our productivity.”

Offering an end-to-end data management solution: Some research groups are also using OSF in multiple stages of their projects and for multiple purposes. As one researcher expressed – “My research group uses OSF for every project. That includes preregistration and archiving research materials, data, data management and analysis syntax, and supplemental materials associated with publications. We also use it to post preprints to PsyArXiv.”

It also surfaced that OSF supported an ideological perception regarding a shift in the norms of scholarly communication. As Elika Bergelson, Crandall Family Assistant Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience, aptly put it “Open science is the way of the future.” Here within Duke University Libraries, we aim to continue to support these shifting norms and the growing benefits of openness through services, platforms, and training.

To learn more about how the OSF might support your research, join us on April 3 from 10-11 am for hands-on OSF workshop. Register here: https://duke.libcal.com/event/4803444

If you have other questions about using the OSF in a project, the RDM team is available for consultations or targeted demonstrations or trainings for research teams. We also have an OSF project that can help you understand the basic features of the tool.

Contact askdata@duke.edu to learn more or request an OSF demonstration.

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