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Oct. 12, 2015

MSU entomologist Christie Bahlai selected as an inaugural Mozilla Fellows for Science

MSU advanced its influence in the growing area of open science with the announcement of Christie Bahlai being selected as one of the first Mozilla Fellows for Science.

The four fellows selected represent a change in the process of scientific research, championing openness, collaboration and mentorship. More than 130 researchers applied for the 10-month paid fellowships that will engage local communities to advance open data and open source software, and teach colleagues skills to do the same. Mozilla will support the fellows with training aimed at sharpening their expertise around open source, participatory learning and data sharing.

As an insect ecologist and postdoctoral research associate in entomology, Bahlai works with the NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research network based at the Kellogg Biological Station. Her research focuses on how using large ecological data and open science approaches can help build sustainable agricultural systems.

Bahlai describes open science as a set of practices that improves access to research for other researchers and the general public. Open science starts with transparency in experimental methods and ensuring public availability of raw experimental data over the Internet, and includes publishing results in open access journals available online at no cost.

Through open source approaches to scientific research and methods, other people can find what you did at every step of your process. It’s important that science can be reproducible and that others are able to verify and build on the results of previous work, according to Bahlai.

“I’m looking forward to applying this directly to my work with the Long-Term Ecological Research program where we are producing more data than we can meaningfully handle,” Bahlai said. “Technology has moved quickly in the past decade, and we aren’t necessarily using it to take full advantage of sharing our science as widely as we’d like.”

The fellowship will provide Bahlai with resources to develop a training program for graduate students to start their own programs with an open source framework. Open science is not taught in conventional graduate programs, and very little open science educational resources exist.

Bahlai will interact with the other fellows and Mozilla’s resources throughout the year, including the Mozilla Festival in London. The fellowship program is funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.