Open Sourcing my fellowship app

The call for the second class of Mozilla Fellows for Science is open! I thought it might be helpful to the community if I opened up the application I sent in last year. Richard, a fellow fellow (HA! this will never get old)  already did this– you can see we have different styles.

Without further ado- the headers I’ve included are the ones that were on the application call last year, and the word counts were the constraints on the text boxes. Here you go!

Mozilla fellows app- Christie Bahlai

Research fields (up to 10 words)

Entomology, applied ecology, population and community ecology, invasive species, agriculture

Research focus (up to 50 words)

I study long-term trends in the population and community ecology of insects that are important in agricultural systems, like pollinators, pests, and biological control agents.  My goal is to use our understanding of these interactions to help develop healthy, better functioning, and more sustainable agricultural landscapes.

Current research team (50 words)

I’m currently working as a senior postdoctoral research associate in a moderately sized, highly productive Landscape Entomology lab. The team includes the Principal Investigator, one additional postdoc, a full-time technician, two PhD students, three MS students, seven undergraduates, and numerous collaborators in the US and around the globe.

Cover letter (up to 250 words)

To the selection committee,

I am an ideal candidate for a Mozilla Fellowship for Open Science. I’m an early career ecologist who is passionate about open science, both for improving the efficiency of my own work, and for the advancement of science as a whole. I’m positioned in a field where there is a tremendous need for open science for open science advocacy and training, and I am embedded in several well-respected, large scale projects, giving me the audience and credibility which would allow me to do so effectively.

The open science movement has critical implications in most disciplines, but particularly in the applied sciences. In my subfield of agricultural entomology, research often has direct implications on both environmental health and human livelihoods. It is essential for stakeholders to have access to all the available information when making recommendations. However, the entomological community tends to be fairly conservative in regards to the adoption of new practices and is, in general, wary of open science.  I’ve made significant inroads by advocating a ‘baby steps’ approach,  encouraging my established colleagues to make small, meaningful changes in practice towards open science.   I believe there is an even greater opportunity in promoting open science in a formal, structured way to graduate students, establishing open practice as the default as they start their careers, and this fellowship would give me the tools to develop just such a training program.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing from you!

-Christie Bahlai


(attachment)- if you really want to see it, let me know, but I am no pro at making *resumes,* I’ve been in the academic bubble for so long and I cannot understand why not everyone wants to know the precise titles of my two dozen papers. Because they’re awesome papers, yo.

Letter of support from supervisor (500 word max)

Not included here- confidential.

Describe to us how open science advances your research (100 words)

Open science practices have been both headache-saving (though increased reproducibility)  and network-building (through increased visibility and access) for me, but probably is most apparent in my work through open data. My research program relies on long-term, collaboratively generated databases of insect observations.  Data sharing (often through informal networks) is usually how I initially obtain data, and these data often come in a format that requires a significant amount of processing before it is usable.  Truly open data greatly improves the efficiency of my work because it comes in a well-documented, well formatted package- saving headaches.

What work are you currently involved in that’s relevant to becoming an open science leader? (100 words)

  • I write a blog about data management and open science that’s designed to be a friendly introduction for the beginner- targeted at the organismal ecology community.
  • I sit on the Open Science Advisory Panel for the International Network of Next Generation Ecologists
  • I am an instructor for both Software and Data Carpentry,  and played a large role in developing the teaching materials for Data Carpentry.
  • I am affiliated with NSF’s  Long Term Ecological Research network, a major research initiative with 26 permanent research stations in the US. I sit on the Information Management Committee at my home site of Kellogg Biological Station.

How would this fellowship accelerate your work? (50 words)

This fellowship would provide me with the means to focus more time on the open science activities I’m already actively involved in, and allow me to expand and formalize my work within my institution and my network. Specifically, I am interested in developing an open science course for graduate students.

What do you see as the opportunities for open research at your university? (up to 50 words)

The LTER network generates numerous underused, open datasets, and network-affiliated students are required to be trained in Responsible Conduct of Research.  An open science course that takes students through the process, from data to analysis to publication, using these data, would meet both institutional needs and open science training goals.

What do you think needs to change most immediately in the system? (50 words)

Training. Despite rapidly changing open science requirements currently unfolding at the federal level (see NSF’s “Public Access Plan” 3/2015) graduate programs almost never offer formal training in open science or reproducible research.  Proper training will help researchers cope with changing requirements- making training appealing even to ‘closed’ scientists.
What project in the field do you find most inspiring to further science and the web? (50 words)

Software Carpentry (+ Data Carpentry)- this project is fantastic. When I encountered software development in undergrad, I was put off by the insular, competitive culture. SC fosters a community with a spirit of “Hey, let’s learn to get better at programming and reproducibility together!” which allows even novices to contribute.

Why is the open web important to you? (100 words).

Even without the benefits I’ve directly received from open science (access to data, a wider network of collaborators, a platform for promoting my own research), I believe that opening up our practices is just morally right. It democratizes access to information and allows people outside western academia to participate.  I work with conservation biologists at NGOs and scientists from developing countries – these are people who work on the front lines to improve environmental sustainability, protect endangered species, and feed the poor- they NEED access to the science so they can make the best decisions.



About cbahlai

Hi! I'm Christie and I'm an applied quantitative ecologist and new professor. I am an #otherpeoplesdata wrangler, stats enthusiast, and, of course, a bug counter. I cohabitate with five other vertebrates: one spouse, one third grader, one preschooler and two cats.
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6 Responses to Open Sourcing my fellowship app

  1. Pingback: Reflections: My ride on the Mozilla Fellow Ship | Practical Data Management for Bug Counters

  2. HannahEBirge says:

    I’m not applying to this -but I think it’s so awesome and helpful that you shared this! Thanks for pushing for more open science.

  3. Pingback: Some Mozilla Science Fellowship FAQ | Practical Data Management for Bug Counters

  4. Linah Ab says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Christie 🙂

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