UBDC students review the reproducibility of their research at AGILE PhD School
Three of our PhD students recently participated in the AGILE PhD School - a forum for the next generation of scientists and research leaders to develop their networks and exchange ideas.
The Urban Big Data Centre joined the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe (AGILE) in November 2019 to represent the University of Glasgow in the European GIScience academic community, along with the University of St Andrews, University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. A full list of AGILE members appears on their website.
AGILE was established in 1998 with a mission to promote the geographic information teaching and research community and ensure that the community’s views are fully represented at the European level. They organise initiatives on specific topics to influence the future European geographic information research agenda.
The 6th AGILE PhD School took place in June in Castellón, Spain, with the theme make your work more open and reproducible. There were training sessions on academic writing and presenting/pitching skills and introductions to open science and reproducibility/replicability in GIScience. The students also participated in discussions about what open science means for their work, which aimed to address their concerns and barriers to openness.
This was the first time I had participated in this type of academic activity, which enabled me to connect with other PhD students from Europe. We not only presented our research to date, exchanged ideas, and acquired and improved skills related to Geoscience, but also made friendships and developed our network with each other.
Specifically, the three-minute thesis presentation exposed us to the diversity of fields and common features of our domain and provided the opportunity to exchange ideas about the PhD process. Also, organising our research into a short presentation allowed us to better understand the research objectives. Meanwhile, as a person with Glossophobia, I always fear public speaking, and the three-minute presentation offered me a good opportunity to overcome it.
In addition, we had a group debate on open science and reproducibility's impact on early-stage researchers, which encouraged me to improve my research reproducibility in the future.
Overall, I was fortunate to participate in the PhD school and to meet a very kind and passionate group of people from different countries. I would like to thank UBDC and AGILE, and I hope to participate in more interesting academic events like this in the future.
I took away several lessons directly applicable to my PhD experience and overall work.
After a clear exposition of the situation in the field by the hosts, we evaluated published scientific work from the lens of reproducibility. This exercise is relevant to thinking about our research too. In fact, we developed a plan aimed at improving the level of reproducibility of our ongoing PhD work. This was reviewed by the experienced organisers, and I am currently implementing this plan.
Furthermore, the review of the principles for Open Science and reproducibility was useful for the improvement of a UBDC project about Accessibility Indicators for Great Britain, which was recently published. All the inputs, processes, and outputs are published as open and reproducible as possible, including open code, an open access technical report, and open access to the main indicators via the UBDC data repository.
Lastly, the networking, discussion, and friendships established with my European peers are invaluable for widening my perspective of academic work.
This is certainly a must for any doctoral student researching topics related to GIS.
Dr Qunshan Zhao's feedback
I think the AGILE PhD School is a great opportunity for all the PhD students in Europe to connect and collaborate in a friendly and open-minded environment. After almost 2.5 years of the pandemic, PhD students need to resume these offline activities to build up their academic networks and receive training from these events. I also believe the topics this year were timely and useful. Soft skills, such as academic writing and presentation, are vital for every aspect of academic life, while open science (reproducibility and replicability) practices are widely encouraged by all the research funders and academic institutions. The AGILE PhD school provides initial training for our early career researchers that will benefit them significantly in their future careers in academia.
This is a unique benefit for the AGILE membership institution, and I would strongly encourage all the PhD students in the AGILE community to consider applying to this PhD school (all fees waived with travel support!). I also hope that more academic institutions in the UK will join the AGILE community in the future.
Dr Jing Yao's feedback
The AGILE PhD School provides a perfect platform for PhD students within the AGILE community. It offers them a unique opportunity for exchanging research ideas and discussing geospatial methods with their peers from universities across Europe, as well as developing personal networks. There is no doubt that this will benefit their PhD studies and future career. Such experience often cannot be obtained from students’ own universities/institutions. Also, the AGILE PhD School has a particular theme every year which relates to an emerging topic of wide concern in geoinformatics. The theme of this year was reproducibility and replicability, which was welcomed by many scholars. However, there are still many barriers to this. Group debate on this theme can help students better understand the advantages of open science and reproducibility and the related concerns.
I am glad to see three of our PhD students attend the AGILE PhD School this year, and Yue and Rafa agreed that the experience is invaluable to their PhD studies and future career development. I would encourage PhD students from AGILE membership institutions to attend the PhD School in the future and hope they all can benefit from it.