We’re beginning a series highlighting researchers who use Dryad to openly publish their research data. We ask them about their current projects, why they believe in open science, and why they choose Dryad.
For our first researcher profile, we talked with Dr. Zach Gompert, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Utah State University, about how his work ties in with open science:
Dryad: What is your area of research and what’s your current focus?
Gompert: The overarching goal in my lab is to advance understanding of the extent, organization, causes, and consequences of variation in nature. Some of the issues were are investigating are:
- What are the evolutionary consequences of hybridization?
- How does the evolution of novel ecological interactions affect biodiversity?
- Is temporal variation in natural selection a key determinant of genetic diversity levels in natural populations?
We address these questions through population genomic analyses of natural and experimental populations, and through development of new theory and statistical methods. Our work on Lycaenid butterflies shows that hybridization can be a key creative force in animal evolution and that evolutionary histories are not always well represented by the ‘evolutionary tree’ metaphor. In other words, lineages don’t just split, they come back together.
We have quite a few datasets in Dryad now, including partial genome sequences from over a thousand butterflies.
Dryad: What do you think about open science in general? What are advantages of open science?
Gompert: Science has always been a communal endeavor. Large-scale collaboration is vital now for a number of reasons:
- Diverse expertise. Many key questions require a diverse group of investigators. This results in big, multifaceted datasets and necessitates rapid sharing of data, methods, and findings.
- Re-purposing data. It’s common now for data and methods to have applications beyond those that they were originally collected or developed for. Open science allows these to be used by other investigators, accelerating the rate of discovery.
- Data integrity. Openness ensures a higher level of quality and integrity. When data and methods are available for scrutiny, possible errors are more likely to be identified and corrected. This is particularly relevant for large-scale, multi-investigator projects.
- Public funding and access. Since much of science is funded by the public, I think scientists have an ethical duty to make the products of research available to everyone.
Dryad: In your opinion, what are disadvantages or concerns about open science?
Gompert: There are two common concerns:
- Getting scooped. Researchers can be scooped if another group analyzes and publishes the data they generated. While this has some validity, sufficient safeguards and community standards are in place to minimize this problem, and it’s minor compared to the advantages of openness.
- Poor documentation. I think data archiving is in better shape than it once was, but much of archived data or code are not sufficiently documented to truly be useful to others. Enhancing documentation of data is a big area where we as a community need to do more.
Dryad: You have over 20 datasets archived in Dryad. What do you see as the benefits of data sharing in Dryad?
Gompert: The primary strength of Dryad is its flexibility, specifically the ability to archive diverse types of data (and computer code) in a single location and to link to other more specialized databases such as NCBI. With Dryad, researchers have a central location where they can find all of the data associated with a publication.